Clarinettist John Cushing, who last year retired after a 35-year stint as principal clarinet of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, has been awarded the 2014 RPS/ABO Salomon Prize. The prize celebrates the outstanding contribution of British orchestral players to the UK’s musical life.
The award citation highlighted not only Cushing’s performing ability, but also his work as a player representative on the orchestra’s board and his commitment to music education.
He was presented with the award on 27 February at an RSNO concert conducted by Roger Norrington. The citation reads:
“The players of the RSNO describe John Cushing as a powerful communicator, a natural leader and an incredible musician and colleague. He has shown outstanding service to the RSNO, joining in 1978 and has provided support, commitment and a generosity of character that is second to none. Whether serving on the RSNO Board as the player director, in education work or as a soloist, he constantly seeks to share his passion for music. He has been a touchstone of the orchestra and the Salomon jury wishes him all the best on his retirement.”
Cushing was appointed principal clarinet of the RSNO in 1978, but has also performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician, giving several premieres. James MacMillan’s clarinet concerto Ninian was written for him, and he is a member of the Phoenix wind trio and the Primi wind quintet. He also continues to work as a clarinet tutor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where he has also served since 1978.
He and the RSNO revived the MacMillan concerto in spring 2014, an event which, he told the Herald newspaper, had been a factor in his decision to retire. ‘If you’d told me in 1997 that I’d be playing it again when I was 64 I’d not have believed you. That was a box ticked. I am not just agnostic, I’m an atheist, but that piece has a spirituality you can’t help but grasp. The humanity of it is engrossing.’
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