Inside Southbank Sinfonia

An orchestra like no other, based in the heart of London

The 6 Month Report

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David Cousins | Southbank Sinfonia(and why you should think about applying for Southbank Sinfonia!)

As Southbank Sinfonia 2014 reaches its 6 month mark, double bassist David Cousins takes stock of his year so far, with one eye on the future…

I think my experience of music college was fairly typical: I had a wonderful teacher, and was involved with some memorable orchestral projects, but it still felt like something was missing ahead of setting out on a career in the profession. I craved orchestral playing, chances to play side-by-side with top professional players and opportunities to delve into repertoire.

I decided against post-graduate studies and bravely set out into the ‘real world’. The first few months were fabulous, but when – half a year later – a January barren of musical satisfaction appeared, followed by too many other months the same, my resolve was tested and I started to feel lost. I like to assess each gig by three ‘R’s (and I was rather pleased to hear that Sir Neville Marriner does too): Repertoire, Reputation and Remuneration. If you are ticking two of the three of these off, then things are probably going well. But if you are not, you start to look away from performing. Perhaps teaching beckons, or, as in my case, another profession altogether.

For a while it was admittedly quite nice not having to drag my double bass with me everywhere; to be able to navigate the Underground without strange looks and questions, or to go for a quick pint without the shadow of my instrument looming was refreshing. But giving up so soon on your ambition is nothing short of boring.

Southbank Sinfonia came at the perfect time for me. Having heard about all the opportunities and challenges that a year with the orchestra offers, I felt that it would really put in place what I need to progress in my career as a musician. In many ways, it’s like being at music college but with the professional performance I craved: side-by-side projects with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and the Royal Opera House, playing together as an ensemble with regular and visiting conductors (most recently including John Wilson), alongside countless other fabulous experiences.

Side-by-Side with Teresa Carreno Youth Orchestra | Southbank Sinfonia

Rehearsing Scheherazade side-by-side with the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela earlier in June

There are so many times I’ve felt amazed by my involvement with Southbank Sinfonia as well as completely challenged by what it is I need to do to progress further in the future. But I am in no doubt that when I think of it in terms of the three ‘R’s that it’s absolutely worth being involved. And the R’s don’t even take into account all the fun and friendships to be made along the way!

As the orchestra gears up to recruit its players for next year, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I feel re-inspired and excited about pursuing a career in the profession once again, and have been gaining the tools and contacts required to move forward once my time with Southbank Sinfonia is over. It’s an unequalled opportunity to feel involved in your own professional orchestra for ten months, and I’m sure will be an unforgettable life experience!

Find out more about David here.

Find out more about applying for Southbank Sinfonia here.


Author: southbanksinfonia

Every year, Southbank Sinfonia brings together 33 young musicians for an experience that will change their lives. Find out about our upcoming concerts, including our Free Rush Hour Series, at

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