Time spent directing opera and musical theatre as an undergraduate has led to a career in the arts for medical graduate Michael Richardson.
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Your time at the University
On leaving school I was set to study medicine, so naturally I wanted to come to Edinburgh with its excellent reputation; and after a visit during my final year at school, I was determined to come to the city. I felt totally at home here and still do: I stayed on after graduation and despite moving to the Midlands for a few years, I always wanted to return.
Undergraduate life was an incredible experience. It was soon clear to me, however, that being a doctor wasn’t a great career choice, for me at least. Fortunately life as a student in Edinburgh presented so many opportunities that I was able to explore other career options, and build on them for my future life. I sang in choirs, played in orchestras, and after directing the annual third year medics show (in our case, Don’t Die of Ignorance) I started to direct for various university societies. A particular highlight was working with friends in the EU Music Society to present the Scottish premiere of Britten’s War Requiem in the Usher Hall; and later with EU Opera I directed the Scottish premiere’s of Britten’s Paul Bunyan and Bernstein’s Mass.
I spent a little time working in medicine, as a junior hospital doctor, but in my own mind my destination was the arts, and the time spent directing opera and musical theatre as an undergraduate lead me to a work placement as an assistant director at the Royal Opera in Covent Garden.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
I’ve had a varied career since graduation. I spent a little time working in medicine, as a junior hospital doctor, but in my own mind my destination was the arts, and the time spent directing opera and musical theatre as an undergraduate lead me to a work placement as an assistant director at the Royal Opera in Covent Garden.
Since then my career has been varied and full, each step creating opportunities for the next. A few years as an opera staff director lead me into opera education, most notable at Glyndebourne and then setting up a significant education programme for Mid Wales Opera. Work with young people, both in and out of school, lead me into youth theatre, where I established Shrewsbury Youth Theatre and later became Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Firefly Arts in Scotland. I have also been Chair of Promote-YT, the national development agency for youth theatre in Scotland; and my experiences ultimately resulted in the publication of my book Youth Theatre – Drama for Life by Routledge. Youth theatre has also given me opportunities to be involved in youth worker training, both in Scotland and across the EU.
More recently I have learned British Sign Language and spend a lot of time working in the Deaf community, partly in capacities involving communication and language, but also exploring ways in which theatre can be made more accessible to Deaf people.
Together with another Edinburgh graduate, Neil Metcalfe, I also run Green Room, a small musical theatre company presenting and touring small-scale work from the 21st century New York school of musical theatre.
Use every minute of your time while you are at Edinburgh and make the most of all the opportunities that are available to you. You can get a good degree from a great University, and at the same time have life-changing experiences that will you set you up for decades to come. Don’t waste it.