GUEST POST: Interning with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Diljeet Bhachu is a PhD research candidate in Music at the University of Edinburgh, funded by the AHRC through the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities. She has kindly shared with us her experiences of the last 8 months as an intern with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

I haven’t really posted much about my internship on my own blog, aside from this little introduction so when Marianne invited me to share my experience with you here I jumped at the chance…

Why I applied for an internship…

Jumping at chances is something I often do, and is really how I ended up doing this internship. Call it FOMO or just being keen, I have had a habit during my PhD (and life?!) of taking on every opportunity thrown at me. In this post, I’ll share with you some secrets of how I balance, or try to balance, fitting in an internship alongside my PhD and many other projects and commitments.

The project, in a nutshell…

My internship is with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (SSO), looking at how people in Scotland are engaging with the BBC Ten Pieces Initiative, which is led by BBC Learning. The topic ties in nicely with my research interests in music education and widening access to participation in music.

Unlike a lot of internships, mine has been rather flexible – I’ve been working on it for 8 months now, on a part-time basis, but without a regular structure. In part this is because when I first sat down with my internship mentor, Douglas, to discuss the project and what I wanted to do, it became apparent to both of us that the original plan required a lot of background work first, so it became much broader. It’s also helped to be able to work around my ever-changing PhD schedule, and go with the flow as things developed within the internship project too.

Being a fly on the wall…

Ten Pieces is just a very small part of the SSO’s activity, but because my mentor is the main person involved with it, I’ve been able to work from the BBC’s offices at City Halls in Glasgow, being a fly on the wall to the inner workings of a professional orchestra. As a musician from a vaguely classical background, this has been really interesting and insightful. I’ve also learned about how general education and outreach work is organised and developed, which is something I’ve always been interested in outside of academic work.

The first of many Ten Pieces concerts I saw in City Halls over the course of the internship…

The BBC team also have a really good sense of humour, so it’s always a fun day in the office! I only wish I could share some stories with you…

Living the dream…

One of the real highlights of the internship has been getting out and about, travelling around Scotland, jetting off to London for a meeting at the BBC (in my head, making this day trip was the ultimate sign of being a busy person, life goals…) and getting to see some new places. I’ve found myself in the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Elphinstone Hall on the old Aberdeen uni campus, New Broadcasting House in London, and many schools across Scotland.

A really exciting concert with Drake Music Scotland and Edinburgh Schools Jazz Ensembles:

Here I am in London:

Checking out some creative responses in Aberdeen:

I’ve also managed to get other bits of work done on some of these trips, whether catching up with a fellow activist in Aberdeen, or making myself known to organisations I’d like to work with in future, or just fitting in a reunion with my siblings in London!

An unexpected opportunity…

One of the more surprising turns of events during this internship was being invited by Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society to present their concert featuring some Ten Pieces repertoire. The last time I did this was in 1999 for Calderwood Primary School’s Jubilee concert! Thankfully I’ve seen several BBC SSO Ten Pieces concerts with presenters, so I was able to draw on them as good examples of how it should be done. I had great fun writing my script and I’ve learned a lot about concert programming from looking at how the director of the orchestra wanted me to provide more or less talking at certain points in the evening.

This was also an opportunity to finally meet another flute player who I’ve known via twitter, but we’d never actually met!

Earlier this year I also attended a music education conference in Glasgow where there was a Ten Pieces session happening – I got to meet some of the people I’ve been emailing from BBC Learning, and Julian Joseph, one of the celebrity ambassadors for Ten Pieces!


Some reflections…

As I near the end of the internship, I’ve been reflecting on the different and new things I’ve had the chance to experience. If I was to do it again, I’d probably try to be a little more structured, but actually having flexibility has been a real chance for me to improve my self-management skills.

A final highlight has to be this epic tote bag!

If you’d like to share any of your experiences as a PhD student in Scotland with us, we’d love to hear from you! Email the team: And as always you can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and visit our website

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