15 of 50

2019 is our 50th anniversary and we are championing some of the people who help make Scottish Ballet a great place to work. Each week we will introduce you to a different career at Scottish Ballet and the person behind it. 

Justine Watts is the leader of the Scottish Ballet Orchestra and studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London. We spoke to Justine about her career highlights and her 18 years playing with our Orchestra. 

What instrument do you play? 

The violin. I started playing when I was six years old after being inspired by my father who played the oboe and my Grandfather who also played the violin. 

How long have you been playing for Scottish Ballet? 

Since 2001. I was invited to play and stayed, I love being part of the Company – the thing that is bigger than the orchestra alone. If I had to name one highlight, it has to be playing for David Dawson’s Swan Lake, it was a life dream of mine to play those iconic violin solos.  

What’s the difference between playing for a concert orchestra and the ballet? 

When you play for a concert orchestra you are the whole product. In the ballet, the sound comes up from the pit to join the action on the stage - it’s a marriage between dance and music. 

What’s it like performing on the stage with the dancers in Elite Syncopations? 

‘'The spotlights are dazzling. I love being close to the dancers, it’s very different from being in the orchestra pit.'’

I’m lucky where I get to sit in the pit, I can see a little bit of the dancers, other members of the orchestra can’t see any of what is happening on the stage.  

Any tips for aspiring musicians who would like to play for the ballet? 

Go to the ballet as much as you can. Once you are playing for it you sadly don’t get to see so much of it.
What are the challenges of playing for a ballet orchestra? 

One of our biggest challenges is one of my favourite things – having different conductors to follow. In one run of a production you could have four different conductors, all with their own styles and variations. It keeps you involved in the music. On the long winter season of nearly 60 performances, you really get to know the music, I like that feeling of accomplishment, you don’t always get that opportunity in a symphony orchestra.
What’s the best thing about playing for Scottish Ballet?

The variety. We play for traditional ballets and new choreography, like Sophie Laplane’s  Dextera. 

What’s your ‘get up and go’ song?

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