String Experience: Sarah Quinn

19 May
Sarah Quinn (photo © Alberto Venzago)

Sarah Quinn (photo © Alberto Venzago)

I auditoned for the LSO string experience scheme in 1996 while I was a student at the Royal College of Music. Given my poor attempt to sight-read the finale of Brahms Second Symphony no one was more surprised than I was when my name appeared on the list of successful candidates.

Having always wanted to play in a professional orchestra, this was a dream come true but this feeling was quickly replaced by crippling anxiety. How on earth was I going to be able to perform on stage with LSO? What if I was hopeless and made a mess of it? I decided to go to a concert at the Barbican in the hope that this would calm my nerves.

So off I went to hear the LSO performing Bartok with Sir George Solti. Oh dear. This amazing concert did nothing to reassure me that this was all going to be wonderful. A bag of nerves, I hurried home to practice.

My first rehearsal was the following week. The programme of Benjamin Britten’s Frank Bridge Variations and Bartok The Miraculous Mandarin was a demanding one and I had been preparing for weeks. I was so worried about being late that I arrived three hours early for the rehearsal. I headed backstage to throw myself in at the deep end.

I needn’t have worried.I heard someone ask if I was “the student”. I am not sure what gave me away – my terrified expression or my ripped jeans and trainers. Everyone was so welcoming and once the rehearsal had started my nerves vanished and I was on cloud nine. The first concert went by in a blur to be honest but I couldn’t wait for my next patch of work – I wished that I could join the orchestra there and then. However … my final concert was playing Stravinsky Rite of Spring with Raphael Frubeck de Burgos. The performance was electrifying – orchestra and audience on the edge of their seats, and then disaster! I came crashing in on my own during a bar’s rest. My worst nightmare – strong and wrong. Everyone was very kind. They told me not to worry and that it happens to everyone at some point. This was no consolation – I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. However it may have been the best mistake that I ever made.

When I turned up to audition for a position in the orchestra a year later I was greeted with “oh it’s you!you are the student who came crashing in during the Rite of Spring!!!” Well at least they remembered

I have been a member of the LSO for almost twelve years now. I help to run the LSO string scheme and I have never forgotten the amazing experience that I had as a student. From the moment I sat down for that first rehearsal fourteen years ago I knew that I wanted to join the LSO. It is the best job in the world.

Sarah Quinn, Sub-Principal Second Violin

Find out more about the String Experience and Wind, Brass & Percussion schemes on the LSO website:


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