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Young Ross leading the way

W hile most students are coasting gently towards the end of term, recovering from the stresses and strains of the recent exam period, Ross Gunning is preparing to lead his own orchestra in a gala concert.

MAKING A BIG NOISE: Ross Gunning is conductor of Glasgow Philharmonia, where all the musicians are teenagers or in their early 20s. Picture: Mark Gibson
MAKING A BIG NOISE: Ross Gunning is conductor of Glasgow Philharmonia, where all the musicians are teenagers or in their early 20s. Picture: Mark Gibson

The 19-year-old set up Glasgow Philharmonia 18 months ago, as a favour for his mother, who was fundraising for Malawi. All the musicians were fellow students or friends, and all were aged 16 to 25. It was so successful that everyone - especially Gunning, who had dreamed of conducting his own orchestra since childhood - wanted to do it again.

As a result, Glasgow Philharmonia has quickly become a respected part of the city's music scene, performing at the Commonwealth Games medal-unveiling ceremony and at the Royal Concert Hall's Remembrance Day Stars On Parade event.

Its gala concerts in March drew capacity crowds and celebrity fans. Tennis coach Judy Murray retweeted videos of River City star Tom Urie singing Mother Glasgow accompanied by the orchestra. "It's been a busy few months," says Gunning, , of Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.

He is delighted this week, after securing high-profile patrons in the shape of Dan and Laura Curtis, a husband and wife composer duo celebrated by Nancy Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

"They were really excited about the work we have been doing and it is fantastic to have them on board as patrons," he says. "Dan and Laura can help us spread the word beyond Glasgow and Scotland. People have been incredibly supportive here in Glasgow, but we really want to reach other parts of the UK and the rest of the world."

There is talk of a London debut, although Gunning is saying nothing about the possibility until everything is confirmed. For their part, Dan and Laura Curtis, whose recent projects include a BBC Children In Need album featuring Broadway's biggest stars and a charity single with Aled Jones, are excited about being part of Glasgow's first student orchestra.

"We heard the orchestra online and were just blown away by the standard of these young musicians - they are world class," says Dan Curtis. "Ross bowled us over with his enthusiasm and his passion for giving these kinds of opportunities to young people."

Percussion and conducting student Gunning has just completed his second year exams at the Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland. Before the gala concert at the RCS, he is inspiring young musicians, working with the Glasgow Schools Symphony Orchestra.

"I enjoy it, although it has been difficult finding time to study," he says. "We have done such a diverse mix of things recently, from Scottish music and West End hits to classical music and movie tunes. The medal ceremony was amazing - to get the chance to be part of something like that was a real highlight."

The summer concert, their second at RCS, comprises a challenging programme.

"We have Bernstein - the Candide Overture - Vaughn Williams's London Symphony and Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No 1," says Gunning. "I wanted to go around the world -America, Russia, and back to the UK. The London Symphony is appealing for audiences because it tells a story and I think the programme is a good mix.

"They are all new pieces for us, but the orchestra is 'bulking up' a bit, with new faces coming on board and a wealth of talent, including violinist Daniel Rainey, who is the soloist for the Shostakovich Violin Concerto."

Rainey studied violin at the Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland with Andrea Gajic and is studying with Remus Azoieti at the Royal Academy Of Music.

He led the National Youth Orchestra Of Scotland for its 2012 Summer Tour culminating in a performance at the BBC Proms, where he performed an encore with Nicola Benedetti broadcast live on Radio 3.

"Conducting this orchestra is a privilege and the standard of players is incredible," he says. "But funding is a bit of a problem."

Covering costs is becoming difficult and Gunning is keen to attract sponsors through an innovative crowd-funding project called Kickstarter Project Summer.

"It is hard but we are hoping people will come on board and pledge some money to help us cover things such as venue costs, hiring music, instruments and professional tutors," he says. "We want to keep growing the orchestra but we need support to do it. I feel we really are up and running it would be a shame to see it all come to an end."

Glasgow Philharmonia's summer concert is at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on June 29 (tickets from the box office on 0141 332 5057 or boxoffice.rcs.ac.uk). The orchestra will also make an appearance at the BBC At The Quay Commonwealth Games Festival on July 20. For more information on the concerts and how you can support the orchestra, see: www.glasgowphilharmonia.com

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