Our Conductors

The Edinburgh University Music Society, with its three hundred plus members and regular schedule of performances, is no small ensemble. Combining quality of music with a wide repertoire, EUMS requires commitment at all levels. The Society continues to grow in strength, and this is in no small part due to the dedication of our team of conductors.

Neil Metcalfe – Chorus

Headshot Neil MetcalfeNumbering around 200, the EUMS Chorus requires a conductor with a considerable amount of skill and dedication, not to mention a lot of patience. Thankfully, our conductor is more than capable of guiding the talents of the Chorus to bigger and better things year on year.

Neil Metcalfe read music at the University of Edinburgh before taking-up a scholarship in the opera school of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where he trained as a répétiteur, vocal coach, pianist, continuo player and conductor. He worked for a number of years on the music staff of Scottish Opera, in opera houses in Australia (Sydney), Germany (Dortmund), the United States (Pittsburgh), Northern Ireland (Belfast), and also with many touring companies including Bolshoi Opera, Kirov Opera, Catalan National Theatre, and Deutsche Oper am Rhein.

As a performer he has recorded for the BBC (most recently with National Girls’ Choir of Scotland) and on the Linn Records label (most recently with Dunedin Consort in JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor) and enjoys a busy career as a solo artist, accompanist, MD and conductor. He has appeared in venues as far afield as Greenland and Australia in a wide number of genres from musical theatre to chamber music.

He is also a keen supporter of young people in music; he is chairman of the Scottish Schools Orchestra, a trustee of Edinburgh Young Musicians, and works as an examiner and adjudicator. Neil currently holds the posts of musical director of Edinburgh Grand Opera, Edinburgh Music Theatre Company, Balerno Theatre Company, our very own EUMS Chorus, Edinburgh Studio Opera, the Maltings Theatre and Opening Night Productions. He is also lecturer in Performance Studies at Stevenson College, Edinburgh.

Russell Cowieson – Symphony Orchestra

Headshot Russell Cowieson

Russell Cowieson studied on a McFarlane scholarship at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (winning the premier performance prize, the ‘Governors Recital prize’) and the Guildhall School of Music in London. As a performer he has appeared with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the RSNO Wind Ensemble, Carol Kidd, Carla Bley and the Stan Tracey Quartet. His conducting studies were undertaken with Timothy Reynish, Baldur Brönnimann and George Hurst.

He is currently Musical Director of our very own Symphony Orchestra. His work with EUMS has gained much praise. Our concerts regularly sell out and have seen Symphony Orchestra tackle a wide range of challenging repertoire. Future plans include the commencement of work on an exciting new project which will see them perform James Macmillan’s The Confession of Isobel Gowdie in Dundee’s Caird Hall, to a specially created choreography for over 200 young dancers.

Deeply committed to education, Russell was the first recipient of the ‘Yamaha Instrumental Teacher of the Year’ award. In 2007 Russell was appointed Artistic Director of the International Wind Festival held at the RSAMD. Since 2008 he has served regularly on the faculty of the Royal Northern College of Music, Conductor Training Weekend and since 2009 he has been a member of faculty at the internationally renowned Canford Summer School of Music as teacher of conducting. Russell has worked with Young Sinfonia, the RNCM Junior School Orchestra, RSAMD Wind Orchestra, RSAMD Junior School, as a visiting specialist, adjudicator and examiner to the RSAMD, with the Scottish Schools Orchestra Trust, John Currie Singers and Orchestra, Cambridge Holiday Orchestra, Cambridgeshire Youth Wind Orchestra and Dundee Schools Symphony Orchestra.

Samuel McLellan – Sinfonia (2020 - present)

Sam McLellan is a BMus music student at the University of Edinburgh and was appointed as conductor of Sinfonia at the beginning of last season where he has greatly enjoyed working with the orchestra’s fantastic musicians, supporters as well as his fellow EUMS conductors. Sam previously served as the associate conductor of Perth Youth Orchestra where he led performances in Perth Concert Hall and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and following a year as a Young Ambassador for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted the orchestra in the summer of 2018 in a programme of Grieg, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky. An experience which led him to be subsequently invited to observe the orchestra’s rehearsals and shadow conductors Thomas Søndergård, Sir Andrew Davis and Elim Chan.

In addition to his work with EUMS, Sam is a Conducting Fellow with Edinburgh Royal Choral Union where he is fortunate to work under the tutelage of Michael Bawtree; he is the conductor of Edinburgh University’s Composers’ Orchestra – an orchestra dedicated to the performance of new music by students and Edinburgh-based composers; and musical director of the Edinburgh University Renaissance Singers – one of the three auditioned University choirs. Sam has studied under a number of internationally renowned conductors including Peter Evans (Meadows Chamber Orchestra), Nigel Boddice MBE (Royal Conservatoire Wind), Holly Mathieson (Royal Scottish National, National Youth) and most recently Prof. Kenneth Kiesler (Illinois Symphony) on a virtual ‘lockdown’ conducting retreat. He now studies full-time under Jonathan Brett (English Classical Players), a former student himself of legendary Russian maestro Yuri Simonov.  

Sam studies the piano under Peter Evans and relishes all accompaniment opportunities, previously performing with various choirs and soloists – culminating in performances at The City of Derry International Choral Festival, as well achieving success as a soloist in the Edinburgh Competition Festival. He has musically directed a number of productions alongside companies including Perth City Operatic and considers himself a Gilbert and Sullivan activist, with five productions under his belt (and counting…). 

Outside of the music world, Sam is an international fencing referee, recovering international fencer, keen film-watcher, and well trained slave to his beagle, Brubeck.

Ondřej Soukup – Sinfonia (2018 - 2020)

Conductor and composer Ondřej Soukup is a graduate of The University of Edinburgh and currently holds principal conductorship with Edinburgh University Music Society (EUMS) Sinfonia.

He is also principal guest conductor of VoiceArc, an Edinburgh-based opera company, and musical director of Edinburgh University Brass Band (EUBB). He has lead and worked with a substantial number of choirs, ensembles and orchestras including Edinburgh University String (EUSO), and Chamber Orchestras. Most recently, Ondrej has been appointed musical director of Thomas Coats Memorial Choral Society, who regularly work with the RCS Symphony Orchestra.

As assistant to conductor Lutz de Veer (Nürnberg) and director Marcin Lakomicki (Staatsoper Berlin) at the Berlin Opera Academy, he performed Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel at the OpernFest in Berlin. Other conductors he has assisted include Will Conway (Chamber Orchestra of Europe) and Gregory Batsleer (SCO and RSNO Chorus). To the present day, he has been given several prizes and bursaries for conducting, most recently the Roderick Brydon memorial award; and has given concerts in Scotland, England, Spain, Latvia, Germany as well as his native Czech Republic. There, Neil Metcalfe and Ondřej took EUMS for its 150th anniversary tour. Ondřej made his Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut with Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos directed by Nell Drew in the festival’s 70th edition.

As composer, he was a finalist in the Maurice Ravel International Composition Competition with his Reverie for Solo Trumpet. With EUBB, he premiered and CD recorded his A Balkanic Eruption alongside other works. His Pitch Black was premiered at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Interconnect event. Ondřej is an avid supporter of new music written by fellow composers. He has been extensively involved in organising and conducting composition competitions for EUBB (3x) and EUSO (2x). Besides conducting and composition, he has won prizes and recorded CDs as a trumpeter, and has been heavily involved in the Edinburgh music scene.

In 2019, he will be assisting conductor Jamison Livsey (Deutsche Oper Berlin) and director Gidon Saks (Staatsoper Berlin) on a Berlin production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena.