Adrian Spillett is Head of the Percussion Department at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Discover more about his role, his career highlights and his thoughts on what makes a successful musician.
What is your ethos for the department?
Work hard, play hard... be a team player and get the most out of your time here.
What do you look for in musicians auditioning to join your department?
Potential. We’re not interested in applicants being the finished article, show us your enthusiasm and desire for being a percussionist... show us some confidence and flare, tell us why Birmingham? Why our department? Prove to us you really want to study here.
Do you perform outside of teaching?
Yes, I’m the Section Leader Percussionist at the CBSO as well as a member of the Colin Currie Group and Graham Fitkin Band. I also performed this year with the World Orchestra for Peace.
What are your main responsibilities as Head of Department?
I tutor much of the snare drum and tuned orchestral repertoire in addition to running the department’s percussion ensemble, Millennial Percussion. Aside from that I run the rest of the department looking after the course, tutors, personnel, international travel etc.
What have been your career highlights so far?
I won the BBC Young Musician competition in 1998 which led to me forming the percussion quartet, 4-MALITY which I was part of for 15 years. Other highlights include performing Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony and Bolero at the Proms, I made my debut at Glastonbury Festival with London Sinfonietta, touring with Colin’s group including Tokyo’s Opera City numerous times and closely working with Steve Reich.
How did you come to your current role, what have you done before Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC)?
I got encouraged to apply for my job here some five years ago. Before this I was a professor of percussion at GSMD and continue to be the percussion tutor at National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
How would you describe your team in the department?
Well-connected and inspirational...our tutors are still at the peak of their playing careers and will support their hard working students with their professional development.
What is your favourite thing about working at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire?
The amazing new facilities. We have a luxury penthouse percussion suite!
What do you think sets RBC apart from other conservatoires?
Having so many more tutors than other colleges, I like to thing we are in a better position to find the right path for each individual. With this flexibility and our unique, extensive and bespoke syllabus we can help each student in the best route to employment. Whether it be symphonic, ballet, opera, folk, world music, outreach, west end shows... we’ve got it covered.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing new music students?
Responsibility, some new students take longer than others to adapt to looking after themselves and their diaries. All percussionists need to be super organised, we help students through this of course.
What do you think makes a successful musician in your field?
Versatility, reliability, flare and great social skills. Being a percussionist relies on team work and everybody likes to have fun at work, these aspects sometimes get forgotten.
What can prospective students look forward to the most when they join your department/Royal Birmingham Conservatoire?
Opportunities. Those students who work hard get rewarded with professional schemes, external work and international travel... but most of all, they’ll have a great time!