Oscar winner shares success on return to St Andrews school

Oscar-winning sound engineer Chris Burdon returned to his old school in Fife earlier this week, inspiring pupils to reach for the skies as they embark on their own career paths.

Chris was part of the team that scooped the Academy Award for Best Sound in March this year thanks to their work on Tom Cruise blockbuster ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, which grossed almost $1.5 billion at the box office in 2022.


Despite the high-flying action movie making him the toast of Tinseltown, however, Chris has never forgotten his roots and took time out of his busy schedule to go back to where it all began at Madras College to talk to S1 pupils and Media Studies class.

More than 200 pupils and staff heard Chris talk about the path that took him from the Fife coast to rubbing shoulders with Hollywood greats on the red carpet. And the assembled audience were also treated to clips from ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ where Chris was able to explain just how much work goes on behind the scenes to make one of highest-grossing movies of all time sound pitch perfect.

“St Andrews was a lovely place to grow up as a kid, so meeting all the kids today was really great,” he said.

“It’s brilliant to come back to Madras College – it’s been almost 40 years since I’ve been here and of course this is an amazing new school.

“It’s been a pleasure to talk about my time at Madras, explaining what I do and how lucky I’ve been in my career.

“I hope everyone found it interesting and what I tried to get across more than anything is that it’s all down to effort and enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter if you are shy or a bit quiet, if you are enthusiastic then you can do pretty much anything you want to.”


Chris attended Canongate and Lawhead Primary Schools in the early 70s before moving on to Madras at Kilrymont and South Street.

Although he wanted to be a musician as he grew up, and even studied chemistry at university, Chris ended up working in TV with the BBC and on well-known programmes including Spender, Casualty and Holby City to name but a few.

However, he soon made the transition to film and has worked on countless movies over the years, going on to earn his first Oscar nomination for Best Sound for the 2013 film Captain Phillips.

Although he emerged empty-handed that night, it was second time lucky a decade later as his team’s work on ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ was recognised ahead of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, which had actually pipped ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ to the BAFTA in the same category a few weeks prior, ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, ‘The Batman’, and ‘Elvis’.


Vicki Birmingham, English teacher and Developing the Young Workforce Coordinator, said: “The whole school has been very excited to welcome Chris back to Madras College.

“It’s not every day you get an Oscar winner coming in to school to share their success, so we were delighted that Chris could make it.

“It’s been an excellent opportunity for our pupils to hear from someone at the very top of their field and I’m sure his accomplishments will inspire many of those in the audience to go on to do great things in the world of work.”


Pupils who listened to the talk were also delighted to hear more about Chris’ role as a re-recording mixer on ‘Top Gun: Maverick’.

"It was really interesting to see all the different parts of the sound in the movie and to hear about what it was like to win an Oscar," explained Joanna Drage (S1).

"I thought it was really fun and inspiring," added Jude Holsteen (S1).

And S4 pupil Maisie McKidd concluded: "I was very inspired by the talk, especially because he went to Madras and he's from a fairly small town.

“It's amazing to see how far you can go from such a small school."

Picture captions:

Top picture is Chris Burdon on his return to Madras.

Second picture (left to right) features Aneesa Faizi, Kacper Gradecki, Chris Burdon, Arthur Urbaniak, Biu Masala.

Third picture (left to right) are Tiago Wiff Marshall, Reuben Januschke, Chris Burdon, Arthur Urbaniak, Sam Cutler.

Fourth picture: English teacher Vicki Birmingham and Chris.