We chat to Music alumnus Craig Lawton (BA Music, 2007) about his time at the University of Southampton, and what he has been up to since graduation. Read about his journey from Turner Sims to Romsey Abbey and beyond!
“The campus is what first attracted me to the University of Southampton. I’d visited some urban campuses but I loved the feel of the open green spaces whilst I was here. Being from Southampton, I was quite anxious about leaving so it worked really well for me. I also had the added advantage of being able to use my contacts and relationships I had already built from growing up in the city! The varied syllabus and overall package of the University was fantastic, and I certainly was not disappointed when I arrived.
University required me to grow up quickly. Of course you can have fun, but if you are doing a public performance and you’re carrying the University’s name you have to be respectful of that. The department and fellow students and lecturers were extremely helpful and supportive throughout my studies.
Having the Turner Sims on campus to put on our projects and performances was so beneficial to our learning and studies. The diversity of the department wasn’t solely academic either. There was a real mixture of expertise available to students. Staff at Turner Sims were there to help chat things through when we needed them. My course made me realise you can achieve whatever you want to if you put your mind to it.
Since graduating, I have kept up to date with all the University news through the regular newsletters that are sent out. I worked for 7 years at Southampton City Council whilst I progressed my Music career in my spare time. I’ve also kept in contact with other alumni and still help current students who are undergoing a Music degree. I try to be involved as much as possible and let the Department know about projects that I am involved with so that current students can be signposted on and gain valuable experience.
I have been able to continue my relationship with Turner Sims, and have worked to put on two concerts over the years. It is great to have a level of trust that allowed us to pitch an idea and be given the go ahead. It’s a really important step as an alumnus to know you still have a relationship with the University.
The most exciting thing I’ve done so far in my career was conducting the Alpine Symphony in Romsey Abbey with an orchestra of over 150 people including alumni, friends and colleagues. It was a culmination of over 10 years work since graduation and is the best project and performance I’ve been involved with to date – it was absolutely brilliant!
I’ve also been heavily involved with the Oncology Choir; a group of medical professionals that have come together in memory of Helen Barron and in aid of the Centre for Cancer Immunology; the University’s biggest fundraising campaign to date, aiming to build a dedicated Immunology centre at Southampton General Hospital, the first of its kind in the country.
As an alumnus I’m proud of the University’s medical research and the developments of the Centre for Cancer Immunology, so the chance to be involved with something that will have such a tangible impact to the city and wider community is fantastic.
The Oncology Choir started with us getting the word out and finding members, and we were overwhelmed when nearly 50 people signed up to take part. The first thing for us to do was meet the group and find out if there was any musicality or experience of performing in public. As soon as I met them, it was clear that they were all highly intelligent people, used to dealing with high-pressure situations that would make performing easy for them.
I was also very confident that it would be possible with a medical group of people because of my experience at the University; medical students formed most of the orchestras and choirs during my time at University. Indeed, it turned out some of them had previously been choristers in a church and I recognised a few people that had played in other orchestras.
The group’s commitment to it was outstanding from the very beginning because it is a project of such critical importance both from a clinical and research aspect. The Oncology Choir first performed at the For Helen Dinner in November and it was a huge success.
The biggest challenge for me so far in my career has been getting podium time as a conductor – and there has been some resistance to me being left handed, believe it or not! It is a hard industry to break into and people quite rightly are protective of their work and their ensembles. Attending the University of Southampton put me in a great position for progressing my work, both through studies and also relationships with fellow alumni offering opportunities.”
Craig Lawton and fellow alumnus Paul Ingram will be conducting The Orchestral Decathlon at the Turner Sim on 25th March 2017. This is the pairs third marathon project for Comic Relief.
Find out more about Craig’s work with the Oncology Choir.
It’s a really important step as an alumnus; to know you still have a relationship with the University.