David O’Connell – Artistic Director, West String Orchestra


David O’Connell studied cello with Moray Welsh and Hannah Roberts at the Royal Northern College of Music, where he won the Sir John Barbirolli prize for cello. Further studies continued in Berlin with Ludwig Quandt. His professional playing included working in many internationally acclaimed orchestras including the BBC Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Berliner Symphoniker. He was appointed as a tutor in cello at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2003. His passion for orchestral music and playing forms a central role within his numerous roles as a teacher and conductor, drawing upon his wide experience playing under internationally acclaimed conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Daniele Gatti, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Mark Elder. David is in the final stages of research for a Ph.D exploring the use of orchestration as a poetic signifier in the orchestral music of Claude Debussy, at the University of Glasgow. He is in growing demand as an adjudicator. David lives with his wife, Fiona and two young children, Rory and Maeve in rural Ayrshire where he enjoys teaching for the South Ayrshire Music Service. He also enjoys sneaking off somewhere with a fishing rod in his spare time, usually without success.

David was delighted to be appointed Artistic Director to the West String Orchestra in December 2014.

“With continuing threats to instrumental education in schools, the forum for large ensemble participation is facing increasing challenges, and the West String Orchestra not only gives younger, and often less experienced players, the chance to develop their confidence and skills before auditioning for the WSSO Symphony orchestra, but also provides another vital platform for younger players to develop their skills within a wholly supportive environment at a critical time within their own development. Our members will often be at the start of secondary school when the pressures of growing commitments can lead to pupils discontinuing lessons, or losing their way with their playing.

This is often a challenging time for string teachers as well. David’s eclectic interests in music, which have led him to collaborations with pop, folk and rock musicians within his own career, inform his vision for the future of string teaching and ensemble coaching, with a view to keeping younger players motivated and committed. This approach incorporates a deeply held view that the use of music already familiar to younger string players, be it pop or movie soundtracks, helps to alleviate some of the anxieties connected with using the bow with the right energy, speed and contact, not to mention helping with tuning problems. Complex rhythmic patterns can often be played more intuitively, whilst having a lot of fun doing it. There is such a wealth of excellent arrangements of great string masterpieces that allow younger players access to this marvellous (and often highly challenging) music, challenging them without overwhelming them. Our programmes are picked with a view to incorporating these trends, where traditional masterpieces stand alongside music that will already have been well incorporated into the sound world of our young string players before playing it. We hope you enjoy!”