Samuel Draper was born in London into a family with a continental refugee background (his mother is the grand-daughter of the Jewish-German philosopher Walter Benjamin). He trained as a doctor, reading medicine, physiology, and the history and philosophy of science at University College, Oxford, where he was also Organ Scholar.
Whilst at Oxford, Samuel was first able to indulge his developing passion for conducting, which had arisen out of his orchestral experiences as a horn player, and was appointed conductor of the Oxford University Philharmonia from 2005-2006, directed a performance of Mozart’s ‘Great’ C minor Mass, and founded the Oxford Sinfonia Eroica, with whom he has performed a series of concerts centering on the symphonies of Beethoven.
Unable to resist the lure of music, after completing his medical studies Samuel went on to study as a post-graduate scholar with the HR Taylor Trust Award for Conducting at the Royal College of Music in London with Robin O’Neill and Peter Stark, graduating with distinction in his final performance. He has acted as assistant on projects with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Vladimir Jurowski and John Wilson, and studied historical performance practice with Sir Roger Norrington.
Samuel was awarded the Bob Harding Bursary for Young Conductors, working with the Havant Orchestras from 2009-2011, and was a prize-winner in the International Conductors’ Competition 2009 with the Kammerphilharmonie Graz at Weiz, Austria.
Samuel is conductor and founding member of the Oberon Symphony Orchestra in London. In April 2017 he gave with them the UK première of George Enescu’s Fourth Symphony, as realized by Pascal Bentoiu, to much critical acclaim, and has also given the UK première of Rued Langgaard’s long-neglected Fourth Symphony. He made his Portuguese debut with the Orquestra Clássica do Sul and joined the music staff at Grange Park Opera in 2016 as assistant conductor for Verdi’s Don Carlo, working with Gianluca Marcianò and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Other orchestras that Samuel has conducted include the Nürnberger Symphoniker, Oxford Philomusica, Berlin Sinfonietta, Suffolk Sinfonia, Corinthian Chamber Players, New Professionals, Croydon Youth Orchestra, English Schools’ Orchestra and BBC Ariel Orchestra. Samuel is also organist at St Mary’s Church, Rotherhithe, where he plays the beautiful historic organ built by John Byfield in 1764-5.
Samuel has performed in the Philharmonia Orchestra’s City of Dreams, Vienna 1900-1935 series, assisted on a production of Die Zauberflöte at the Britten Theatre and conducted in the pit for contemporary dance at the Oxford Playhouse. Championing new music as well as old, he has given premières of works of several composers, including Charlotte Bray, Rachel Lockwood, and Luís Soldado. Samuel has organized many occasional orchestral and chamber projects, including the SATOROTAS Project commemorating the 125th birthday of Anton Webern, performances of Mahler’s First Symphony at the Amaryllis Fleming Hall, RCM, and an evening of string works at Wotton House.
Samuel is grateful for the generous musical advice of Gerhard Markson, the late Sir Charles Mackerras, and Bernard Haitink, with whom he has studied the music of Mahler, one of his great passions.