Skip to main content
Josh is smiling at the camera. He is wearing glasses.

Joshua Dickson

Head of Traditional Music

Born and raised in Alaska, Joshua arrived in Scotland in 1992 to study Scottish Gaelic at the University of Aberdeen (MA, 1996). He then undertook doctoral research in the history of the piping tradition of the southern Outer Hebrides at the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh (PhD, 2001), now published under the title When Piping Was Strong: Tradition, Change and the Bagpipe in South Uist (John Donald, 2006).

Joshua has performed publicly in the contemporary Gaelic music scene with Na Trì Seudan and in Allan MacDonald’s award-winning 2004 Edinburgh Festival recital series, From Battlelines to Barlines. He has also taught at Ceòlas and for Feis Arrainn. His ground-breaking anthology of piping studies, The Highland Bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition, is published by Ashgate under its Popular & Folk Music imprint (2009).  He has also highlighted the role of women in the inheritance and transmission of traditional Gaelic canntaireachd in Hebridean life via the journal Scottish Studies and Review of Scottish Culture (2013).

Joshua is concerned with leading curricular reform and innovative assessment practices that have helped position Scotland’s national conservatoire as distinctive in the UK and wider Europe in tertiary-level traditional/folk music education. This has been enacted through curricular enhancement at the Conservatoire, an honorary lectureship at the University of St Andrews, the publication of research findings in McKerrell and West (eds) Understanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition and Policy (2018) and through the founding of the international conference series Pedagogies, Practices and the Future of Folk Music in Higher Education.

Selected publications and papers read

2017 ‘Further Evidence of the Pibroch Echo Beat’s Basis in Gaelic Song’ in Graham Hair and Morag Grant (eds) Proceedings of the Musica Scotica Conference 2015. Edinburgh: Musica Scotica Trust.
2018 ‘The changing nature of conceptualisation and authenticity among Scottish traditional musicians: traditional music, conservatoire education and the case for post-revivalism’ in Simon McKerrell and Gary West (eds), Understanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition, Modernity. Aldershot: Informa (forthcoming).
2013 ‘Piping Sung: Women, Canntaireachd and the Role of Tradition-Bearer’ in Scottish Studies 36: 45-65.
2013 ‘Music Will Out: the Canntaireachd of Mary Ann Lindsay’ in Review of Scottish Culture 25: 146-54.
2012 Pipe Music of the Clan MacLean by Lieutenant Colonel Donald MacLean and James Beaton’. Review, Piping Today 61: 29.
2012 ‘Orality and Literacy as Interdependent Cultures: Remarks on the Development of Graded and Tertiary Syllabuses in Scottish Traditional Music’. Paper presented to the Symposium on Cross-Cultural Musical Encounters, Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, available on
2012 With Celia Duffy: ‘Take it in, not to heart: making expectations of collaborative learning explicit’ in Helena Gaunt (ed) Collaborative Learning in Higher Education: Why, What and How?. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 205-11.
2009 The Highland Bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition
(ed.). Aldershot: Ashgate.
2009 ‘Tullochgorm transformed: a case study in revivalism and the Highland pipe’ in J. Dickson (ed) The Highland Bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 191-219.
2009 ‘Canntaireachd’ in Tocher 59, Edinburgh: Dept of Celtic and Scottish Studies.
2007 With J Decker Forrest: ‘Piping in South Uist and Benbecula: a research journal, 21-27 November 2006’ in three parts, Piping Today 28-30.
2007 ‘Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping: 1745 1945 by John G Gibson’. Review,Scottish Studies 34.
2006 When Piping Was Strong: Tradition, Change and the Bagpipe in South Uist. Edinburgh: John


Honorary appointments

2016-2017 External Advisor on the design of undergraduate studies in folk music, Leeds College of Music
2015-2017 External Examiner, MA Traditional Music, Dundalk Institute of Technology
2015-2016 External Examiner, FdA in Music Production and Popular Music, Newcastle College and University of Newcastle
2014-2019 Honorary Lecturership, School of Philosophical, Social Anthropological and Film Studies, University of St Andrews
2013-2016 External Examiner for BA in Irish Music and Dance, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick
2012-2015 External Examiner for Undergraduate Music Degrees, Centre for International Music Studies, University of Newcastle.
2003-2008 Assistant Editor, Scottish Studies (Edinburgh: Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh)
2002-2008 Honorary Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh


Doctoral examination and supervision

Convener of Examination Committee for PhD candidate Bethany Whiteside, ‘The Hidden Dancers: a Sociological Analysis of Participatory Dance Activity and Practice in Glasgow’, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 2015.

Specialist External Examiner for PhD candidate Éamonn Costello, ‘Sean-nos singing and Oireachtas na Gaeilge: Identity, Romantic Nationalism and the Agency of the Gaeltacht Community Nexus’, University of Limerick, 2015.

Overseas Specialist External Examiner for PhD candidate Daniel Milosavljevic, ‘Piobaireachd in New Zealand: Culture, Authenticity and Localisation’, University of Otago, 2014.

External Examiner of doctoral studies in progress: PhD candidate Nollaig O Fionghaile, ‘Sunesis: Investigations on an Evolving Aesthetic in Traditional Music’, Dublin Institute of Technology, 2013.

Convener of Examination Committee for PhD candidate Lori Watson, ‘The New Traditional School in Scotland: Innovation, Beyond-Tune Composition and a Traditional Musician’s Creative Practice’, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 2013.

PhD and DPerf candidates supervised:

Andrew Bova (Competition Light Music in Highland Piping, 1947-2015)

Steven Graham (Pipe Band Snare Drumming)

Mohammed Amin Kashmiri (Revival of Persian Traditional Music)

Emma Tomlinson (The Viola in Scottish Traditional Music)