An internationally celebrated composer, singer-songwriter and educator – whose music has even orbited earth – is inspiring the next generation of musicians at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS).
Multi-award-winning artist Errollyn Wallen CBE has taken up a new role of Visiting Professor of Composition, where she will help nurture students of Scotland’s national conservatoire, one of the world’s top destinations to study the performing arts.
The role will include one-to-one teaching, seminars and workshops, and Errollyn will work with composition students on PLUG, the annual festival of contemporary music at RCS.
Born in Belize, Errollyn gave up her training at the Dance Theater of Harlem, New York to study composition at the universities of London and Cambridge. She founded Ensemble X with its motto ‘We don’t break down barriers in music… we don’t see any’, which reflects her free-spirited approach and eclectic musicianship.
From classical to contemporary, Errollyn’s prolific cross-genre output spans everything from opera and dance to film and television. She has been commissioned by institutions including the BBC and the Royal Opera House and has performed her songs across the globe.
Her music, including her solo album Errollyn, travelled 7.84 million kilometres and completed 186 orbits around the Earth on NASA’s STS 115 mission. In September, Errollyn made a new arrangement of Jerusalem for Last Night of the Proms, dedicated to the Windrush generation.
Her work Mighty River features in the new digital season from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO). The piece is dedicated to her great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, who was likely to have been a slave. The concert, on 15 January, will be conducted by award-winning RCS graduate Ryan Bancroft, who is Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Errollyn, who was awarded a CBE for services to music in 2019 and received an MBE in June 2007, said: “I’m very excited about this new role of Visiting Professor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I take it with a great sense of responsibility because when I was a student, I would have liked to have gone up to a professional composer to ask them all kinds of questions. Instead, I was really quite scared and wouldn’t have dreamed of asking. I would like to think my role is to be approachable, helpful, share insights and give back.”
Errollyn is in residence at RCS this week to rehearse her cello concerto with the RCS String Orchestra and Teresa Riveiro Böhm, RCS Leverhulme Conducting Fellow. She is also spending time with composition students: “It’s fantastic to work with the students of RCS, it’s like working with professionals. Their work ethic is tremendous, the talent is extraordinary and also the depth of thinking. I’m having a wonderful time.”
Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Errollyn Wallen is an outstanding, original and distinguished musical force who has touched the lives of so many with her work. We are honoured to have Errollyn as part of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland community in her new role of Visiting Professor of Composition, where she will bring a wealth of experience, artistry and insight to our students.
“It’s a pleasure to have her here this week to share her passion and knowledge, which has created a special energy in our concert hall and practice rooms. Errollyn’s talent and energy combine with her warmth and teaching expertise in a unique way and she will be a tremendous inspiration to our students.”
Find out more at errollynwallen.com