We chatted to the talented cellist and all-round good egg, Lucy Samuels about opportunities, her love for Brum and giving back
This year, for the first time, Birmingham Royal Ballet offered a student in residence position open to musicians from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire that included opportunities such as playing with the Birmingham Sinfonia – the orchestra of BRB as well sitting in on rehearsals and performances mentored by the orchestra’s principal conductor, Paul Murphy and members of the orchestra. We caught up with the scheme’s inaugural student, cellist Lucy Samuels.
Picked from hundreds of students at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Lucy was genuinely surprised to be selected and utterly delighted. It has been a year of opportunity and growth that Lucy has relished. The audition process was in two rounds – first an internal audition at the Conservatoire in front of a panel of teachers who chose one student from each instrument to go through to round two which was in front of Birmingham Symphonia’s principal conductor and one of the musicians.
Lucy says she hadn’t even expected to be chosen to represent her instrument let alone be selected to take on the role. She says: “This year has been an exciting time to be involved as the programme is so varied and exciting. In some years, there would be a long run of the same production, but this year, not so.” She adds: “I get to play with a proper orchestra at a much higher level than I’m used to and to meet some brilliant professionals. I’d never considered a career in an orchestra before leaning towards becoming a freelance musician alongside teaching, but now I know it’s possible.”
Lucy has been lucky enough to watch some of the productions and sit in on ballet rehearsals and as someone who trained in dance from age three to her mid-teens, that has been thrilling. “I’d actually never watched a fully staged ballet before so I’m very lucky.” Lucy can see that ballet is a good way of broadening classical music’s appeal too. She explains: “The visual storytelling is family oriented. There are so many little girls dressed up in tutus. You wouldn’t get that at a classical concert.”
Lucy’s taking a masters part time which allows enough space to devote to the Symphonia but also to outreach programmes and teaching which is hugely important to her. “I wouldn’t have got into music without teachers coming into my school and I want to give that back. Outreach programmes break down barriers. The Conservatoire is doing lots of good work and is keen to show that it’s a hub for music making rather than an elitist organisation – which it absolutely isn’t.”
Lucy is involved in providing music education to people who might have barriers ordinarily – such as financial or social. She says: “We ask the kids what they want to do – it could be beats, producing, working in a band and we introduce them to instruments.” Lucy is also involved in an ensemble that makes orchestra relevant for young people, playing Billie Eilish and Disney for instance. She says the cello isn’t that visible in pop other than perhaps Clean Bandit, so it’s great to introduce young people to it.
Unlike lots of musicians, Lucy didn’t start with something small and manageable like the recorder or violin. She went straight for the cello aged seven thanks to music education services in her area that came into her primary school. She took to it straight away and was excited to play. “I genuinely loved playing – obviously I put in the hard work too, but I was just so excited about it.”
Despite growing up near Reading, Lucy calls Birmingham home now and is passionate about banging the drum for the city. She says: “The arts can be London-centric and people think that to be successful you have to move there. I don’t buy it. We have amazing theatre and arts generally. It’s definitely home for me.”