An Overview

This is the UK’s only Bachelor of Music degree dedicated to traditional and folk music. Aspiring performers on this course explore Scotland’s unique and dynamic musical traditions as a conceptual, critical and creative framework within which to achieve a distinctively personal voice as an artist. This is interwoven with a solid basis in contemporary and eclectic performance practice.

Our curriculum recognises that the innovative nature of Scottish traditional music today must be embraced, and that the creative development of the individual is the most important way to ensure traditional music flourishes from one generation to another.

You can expect to learn in a busy department where your musical roots and creative artistry will be nurtured and developed through one-to-one tuition, academic context, performance opportunities, masterclasses and lots of ensemble work, all aimed at helping you fulfil your potential.

The programme offers the following Principal Studies:

  • Accordion
  • Cello
  • Fiddle
  • Flute/Whistle
  • Gaelic song
  • Guitar
  • Percussion (pipe band snare drum, drumkit, bodhran)
  • Piano
  • Scots song
  • Scottish Harp (normally gut-strung)

You will work closely with some of the world’s top solo and collaborative teachers and performers to consolidate your performance technique, repertoire and personal style as a traditional musician, interwoven with development as a critical, creative, entrepreneurial and/or teaching artist. This includes exploring both the established parameters of folk and traditional music and the shared technical vocabulary that links folk to classical and jazz worlds. External learning opportunities include an Isle of Skye residency, touring, teaching placements and work placements in Scotland and overseas, as well as appearances at high-profile events, including Glasgow’s renowned Celtic Connections festival, Piping Live!, international occasions of state and a range of UK, European and North American festivals.

The BMus with Honours (Traditional Music) places emphasis on the creative development of the individual and allows the curriculum to be relevant to aspiring musicians from anywhere in the world. We have welcomed students from as far afield as Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Institution Code:

R58

Programme Code:

250F

UK Deadline:

3 October 2022

International Deadline:

1 December 2022

Programme Structure

In your first year, you will consolidate and enhance your technique and your grounding in traditional repertoire in your principal study instrument or voice, interwoven with development as a critical and creative artist, able to connect and engage critically with your own experience as a traditional or folk musician.

You will receive an introduction to music theory and website design, as you not only begin to construct your identity as a musician, but interpret it to the world. This year also features a grounding for all students in Scots and Gaelic song, sources and folklore so as to instill a shared foundation in the roots of Scottish music and its relationship to language and culture.

Year 1 has a total of 120 credits across the modules below.

 

Principal Study Exam Requirements

Year 1 Performance A (Recital):

Internal recital, 30 minutes in duration, consisting of a varied programme of traditional (e.g. non-copyright or no later than 1960s) repertoire developed over the course of the academic year and drawn from key collections/sources fundamental to your Principal Study discipline.

Year 1 Performance B (Recital Audition):

Two in-lesson recitals (Last week of T1 and of T2) in which you should prepare a programme of 10-15 minutes duration, demonstrating evidence of progress in performing traditional repertoire from collections/sources fundamental to your Principal Study discipline. In your programme you should articulate how they are informing your own personal stylistic approach.

Material demonstrated in these lessons may be performed formally on the occasion of Performance A.

Performance 1

Principal Study lessons

Supporting Studies
• Performance Class
• Technique & Healthy Practice Workshops
• Scottish Traditional Repertoire 1
• Folk Ensemble Level 1
• Traditional Music Theory
• Accompanying Song
• Scots Language & Song OR Introduction to Gaelic Song

Critical Commentary

Credits: 60

Discourses in Traditional Music

ePortfolio of research tasks

Pecha Kucha presentation

Credits: 20

Creative Skills in Traditional Music 1

Composition folio of tunes

Continuous observation

Credits: 20

Introduction to Professional Skills for Musicians

ePortfolio

Credits: 10

Learning to Collaborate

Written proposal or vlog

Sharing of collaborative work

Credits: 10

In your second year, you will continue to nurture and extend your knowledge and practical skills as a solo and collaborative traditional musician through a broadening exploration of technique, repertoire and style relative to your instrument or vocal tradition.

You will extend your skills in group Scots and Gaelic singing and in programming, performing and calling a ceilidh. You will expand outwards as a musician-researcher, exploring historic and social contexts and concepts, and draw relationships between practice, perception and context.

You will further nurture your composition and arrangement skills and expand your entrepreneurial skillset with reference to multiple audiences, licensing issues, intellectual property, marketing and digital music distribution.

Year 2 has a total of 120 credits across the modules below.

 

Principal Study Exam Requirements

Year 2 Performance A (Recital):

Internal recital, 30 minutes in duration, consisting of a varied programme of repertoire drawn from different regional, national, period or other styles/repertoires (or similar), drawn from appropriate sources (both traditional and contemporary), developed over the course of the academic year and open to observation by other students and staff.

Year 2 Performance B (Recital Audition):

Two in-lesson recitals (Last week of T1 and of T2) in which you should prepare a programme of 10-15 minutes duration, demonstrating evidence of progress in performing different regional, national, period or other styles/repertoires fundamental to your Principal Study discipline, drawn from appropriate sources (both traditional and contemporary).  In your programme you should articulate how they inform your own personal stylistic approach.

Material demonstrated in these lessons may be performed formally on the occasion of Performance A.

Performance 2

Principal Study lessons

Supporting Studies
• Performance Class
• Technique and Healthy Practice workshops
• Scottish Traditional Repertoire 2
• Folk Ensemble Level 2
• Sang Scuil | Sgoil nan Òran
• Ceilidh Skills
• Scots Language & Song OR Introduction to Gaelic Song
Electives

Critical Commentary

Credits: 60

Traditional Music Research Portfolio

ePortfolio of research tasks

Presentation

Credits: 20

Creative Skills in Traditional Music 2

Composition folio of multi-instrumental pieces

Continuous Observation

 

Credits: 10

Music Leadership

ePortfolio

 

Credits: 10

Options

Various

 

Credits: 20

Year three will see you develop a solid musical persona through fluent knowledge and expertise informed by your principal study and a consolidation of your critical artistry in research and reflection. You will do this whilst developing your pedagogical knowledge and your practical skills in teaching traditional music in a range of environments.

You will address essential vocational issues in greater detail, such as self-assessed taxation, contract negotiation, creative arts funding and administration and the option of a formal work placement, in addition to an ongoing array of elective opportunities to be found in the department, the Royal Conservatoire and beyond; thereby continuing to nurture your own distinct artistic specialisms in a traditional, folk, or broader arts context.

Year 3 has a total of 120 credits across the modules below.

 

Principal Study Exam Requirements

Year 3 Performance A (Public Recital):

Public recital, 45 minutes in duration, that articulates a specific theme developed over the course of the academic year. Your theme may be soloist in nature or may involve collaboration with other singers or instrumentalists, accompaniment and (if appropriate) improvisation. Your programme may include, or indeed emphasise, your own compositions and arrangements so long as this is in alignment with your recital’s theme and your tutor’s approval.

You may involve a maximum of two accompanists in your public recital.

 

Year 3 Performance B (Recital Auditions):

Two in-lesson recitals (Last week of T1 and of T2) in which you should prepare a programme of 15 minutes duration, demonstrating evidence of progress in performing project material being developed to date that contribute to the theme of the final public recital.

Material demonstrated in these lessons may be performed formally on the occasion of Performance A.

Performance 3

Principal Study lessons

Supporting Studies
• Performance Class
• Technique & Healthy Practice Workshops
• Scottish Traditional Repertoire 3
• Folk Ensemble Level 3
Electives

Critical Commentary

Credits: 60

Traditional Music Research Project

ePortfolio of project

Presentation

 

Credits: 10

The Teaching Musician

Portfolio

 

Credits: 10

The Freelance Musician

ePortfolio

 

Credits: 10

Core Option

Any level, School of Music)

 

Credits: 10

Options Module

From Music/Drama/Dance, any level

 

Credits: 20

Year four — the Honours year — occasions a synthesis of your critical, technical and creative development as a traditional musician or piper. In addition to engaging in your own substantial project work, deeply rooted in both tradition and innovation, toward an independent and original contribution to the field, you will continue to take advantage of the array of elective opportunities to be found in the department, the Royal Conservatoire and beyond. The Honours year is student-centred: working to achieve a distinct identity and musical voice within your own established parameters, culminating in a themed final public recital.

Year 4 has a total of 120 credits across the modules below.

 

Principal Study Exam Requirements

Year 4 Performance A (Public Recital):

Public recital, 45 minutes in duration, that articulates your distinct idiomatic voice through a specific theme or project developed over the course of the academic year in collaboration with your tutor(s) and, if appropriate, your peers, making explicit your depth of learning in one or more specialisms. Your programme may focus on, for example, composition, arrangement, improvisation, historical period styles, contemporary cross-genre, exploration of particular canons of repertoire, innovative collaborations, etc (you are free to choose).

You may involve a maximum of two accompanists in your public recital.

Year 4 Performance B (Recital Audition) Indicative content:

Two in-lesson recitals (Last week of T1 and of T2) in which you should prepare a programme of 15 minutes duration, demonstrating evidence of progress in performing project material being developed to date that contribute to the theme of the final public recital.

Material demonstrated in these lessons may be performed formally on the occasion of Performance A.

Year 4 Research Paper (20%)
A paper of c. 4,000 words analysing a chosen topic relevant to your performance
practice and professional/artistic aspirations.

Year 4 Viva examination (10%)

A 20-minute viva examination to discuss your learning and forward planning.

 

Performance 4

Principal Study lessons

Supporting Studies

• Performance
• Technique & Healthy Practice
Electives

Research Paper

Viva examination

 

Credits: 80

Core Option

Must be level 10, School of Music

 

Credits: 10

Option Modules

From Music/Drama/Dance, any level

 

Credits: 30

Meet the Staff

Teaching Staff

Accordion

John Somerville
Paddy Callaghan
Djordje Gajic

Bagpipes

John Mulhearn (Head of Piping Studies)
Willie McCallum
Ross Ainslie

Frequent visiting tutors for piping include Barnaby Brown, Iain MacInnes, Fred Morrison, Hugh Cheape, Mike Katz and many more.

Cello

Bespoke arrangements available

Flutes and Whistles

Anna Friel
Marc Duff 
Steph Geremia
Philippe Barnes

Gaelic Song

Iseabail T NicDhomhnaill
Màiri MacInnes

Guitar

Kevin MacKenzie
Ali Hutton
Jenn Butterworth 
Innes White

Percussion

David Henderson
Fraser Stone
Martin O’Neill

Piano

James Ross BA 
Alistair Paterson

Creative and Contextual Studies

Professor Margaret Bennett DCE BA MA PhD, Folklore

Prof Fred Freeman, Scots Language & Song, Scottish Music in Context

Dr Ailie Robertson, Research and Composition

James Ross, Creative Skills in Traditional Music 1

Dave Milligan, Creative Skills in Traditional Music 2

Masterclasses

Fiddle
  • Chris Stout
  • Allan Henderson
  • Aidan O’Rourke
  • Douglas Lawrence
  • Aaron Lewis
  • Jamie Laval
  • Aonghas Grant Sr
  • Adam Sutherland
  • Liz Carroll
  • Nordic Fiddlers Bloc
Accordion
  • Angus Lyon
  • Sandy Brechin
  • Iain MacPhail
  • John Somerville
  • Kathleen Boyle
  • Luke Daniels
Clarsach
  • Mary MacMaster
  • Simon Chadwick
  • Corrina Hewat
  • Lily Neill
  • Maeve Gilchrist
  • Siobhán Armstrong
  • Bill Taylor
  • The Duplets (Freya Thompson and Gillian Fleetwood)



 

 

Gaelic Song
  • Anne Lorne Gillies
  • Griogor Labhraidh
  • Margaret Stewart
  • Rona Lightfoot
Piping
  • Roddy J MacLeod
  • Fraser Fifield
  • John Wilson
  • Rona Lightfoot
  • Fred Morrison
Scots Song
  • Sheila Stewart
  • Elizabeth Stewart
  • Alison McMorland
  • Sara Grey
  • Tom Spiers
  • Mick West
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Alistair Roberts
Other
  • Brendan Taaffe (American folksong
  • Rannock (Danish fiddle and keyboard duet)
  • Fraser Fifield (whistles)
  • Findlay Napier (songwriting)
  • Violet Tulloch (Shetland piano accompaniment)
  • Nic Gareiss (traditional and extemporised dance)
  • Tigerstyle (Sikh dubstep)
  • Skip Gorman (American folksong and fiddling)
  • Pete Coe (Repertoire development, performance and presentation)
  • Dave Francis (Musical innovation)
  • Simon Thoumire
  • Dave Milligan
  • Anna Massie
  • Mairearad Green
  • Brian McAlpine
  • Ian Carr

The Traditional Music department offers masterclasses led by world-famous tradition-bearers, teachers and professional musicians from a broad range of traditional music.

Graduate Destinations

The Traditional Music programme has an excellent track record of graduate employment or self-employment within six months of graduation — upward of 90%. The programme prepares students for a wide and varied range of careers in traditional music; not all related to performance. Our graduates have gone on to establish their own recording labels, agencies or other entrepeneurial ventures; to tour extensively around the world; to become noted composers, producers and broadcasters; and to earn teaching qualifications to become classroom teachers; even to go on to further study in psychology and law.

Some noted alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Department of Traditional Music include:

  • Finlay MacDonald (Principal of the National Piping Centre; The Finlay MacDonald Band)
  • Findlay Napier (Back of the Moon; Findlay Napier and the Bar-Room Mountaineers)
  • Emily Smith
  • Paul McKenna and Ruairidh MacMillan (The Paul McKenna Band)
  • Daniel Thorpe (The Daniel Thorpe Trio)
  • Cameron Drummond (Highland Society of London Double Silver Medallist; Strathallan School)
  • Calum MacCrimmon (Man’s Ruin; Seudan; Breabach)
  • Siobhan Miller and Jean Leslie
  • Gillian Frame (Back of the Moon, Glasgow Fiddle Workshop)
  • Simon McKerrell (Reader in Music and Society, University of Newcastle)
  • Angus MacPhail (Skippinish)
  • Jenna Reid
  • Stuart Cassells (Red Hot Chilli Pipers)
  • Kathleen MacInnes
  • Deirdre Graham
  • James Graham
  • Jack Smedley, David Foley and Steven Blake (Rura)
  • Robyn Stapleton (BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2014)
  • Ainsley Hamill (Barluath)
  • Gordon Bruce (Highland Society of London Double Silver Medallist)
  • Grant McFarlane (CherryGrove)
  • Iona Fyfe, Scots traditional singer
  • Connor Sinclair, Gold medallist piper and whistle player
  • The Canny Band: Sam Mabbett, Calum Convoy, Michael Biggins (Trad Awards 2021)

The Wayfarers

Guitars, mandolins, fiddles and other instruments that make up a contemporary traditional band resonate with historical associations. The Wayfarers project explores how music can aid the teaching of controversial histories in secondary schools.

Working together, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music (Plockton), and the University of Glasgow showcase teaching packs being piloted in a Scottish secondary school to teach pupils about the musical migration of Scots to Appalachia, Eastern United States, and the challenging historical factors (such as forced migration, slavery, and segregation) that they encountered.

Visit The Wayfarers website to learn more.

Why Choose Us?

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is in the World Top 10 for performing arts education 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022 (QS World Rankings)

We are uniquely placed in the UK to deliver the BMus (Hons) Traditional Music programme, working alongside professionals partners such as the National Piping Centre to really ensure our students get the very best from their education.

In addition to our position as educators and our reputation for having expert staff renowned in the field of Scottish traditional music, this programme offers additional benefits you won’t get studying anywhere else.

  • Unparalleled one-to-one tuition
  • Sang Scuil / Sgoil nan Òran
  • Technique and Healthy Practice
  • Performance Class 
  • Folk Ensemble
  • Groove Studio

A Campus Built For The Performing Arts

Explore the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in our 360 virtual tour. You’ll be able to see our rehearsal and practice rooms, professional performance venues, production workshops, editing suite, ballet studios and more.

Entry Requirements

General Academic Entrance Requirements
  • Scottish Highers — 3 passes (grade C or above)
  • A Levels — 2 passes
  • International Baccalaureate — minimum score of 24 with 3 subjects at Higher Level
  • Recognised equivalences (EU and International Entry Requirements)

We welcome the Scottish Baccalaureate and will accept combinations of Highers and Advanced Highers.

We offer a flexible approach to students taking Higher over more than one academic year and/or who achieve their qualifications in more than one sitting.

Subjects recommended

Within the minimum academic entrance requirements listed above, the subject recommended are:

  • Music at Higher, Advanced Higher or Advanced level or equivalent
  • English at Higher, Advanced Higher or Advanced level or equivalent
Other Standards

A strong indication of potential is sought at the entrance audition for this programme. Successful applicants will normally be of a standard at least equivalent to Grade 8 with Distinction of the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music in their Principal Study. You can apply and audition without having obtained Grade 8 with distinction, however as an indication only, applicants are normally expected to have reached this standard in their performance.

Language of Study

The language of study is English. Applicants who first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of proficiency in English. We accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Level 6.0 (with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component) is required of applicants to the School of Music.

Direct Entry

Applications for direct entry beyond Year 1 will be considered on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the Royal Conservatoire’s Recognition of Prior (Experiential) Learning policy. If you wish to apply for direct entry, please mark the point of entry on UCAS Conservatoires application as 2 or 3.

Non-Standard Entry

We welcome applications from individuals whose academic qualifications or English language qualifications do not match (in terms of equivalence) or fall short of the normal entrance requirements, where specified*. Having satisfied the Audition Panel that they meet the selection criteria and demonstrated that they have the capacity to pursue the proposed course of study, such applicants will be considered through examination of contextualised data provided in accordance with the Non-Standard Entry Policy. The appropriate Head of Department/ Programme will make a case in support of the applicant for consideration by the Directors of the Schools and Convener of the Quality and Standards Committee.

*Note that UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) imposes minimum English Language qualifications in respect of international (non-EU) applicants who require a Tier 4 Visa to study in the UK.

Mature Students

RCS welcomes applications from mature students, i.e. students over the age of 21 at entry to the programme. Whilst the selection procedures will still be applied, consideration will be given to appropriate artistic experience not normally expected in school leavers, which is deemed to compensate for any lack of traditional entrance qualifications. Successful mature applicants, as for all other applicants, must convince auditioning panels that they have the ability and potential to cope with the demands of the programme. Their progress, especially in the early stages of the programme, will be closely monitored and appropriate advice and support given.

How to Apply

Apply via UCAS Conservatoires

Applications are made through UCAS Conservatoires website. The UCAS Conservatoires application system is separate from the main UCAS undergraduate application system. If you wish to apply to conservatoires and universities within UCAS, you will need to register for both services. There is a UCAS application fee of £26.50 to register to use UCAS Conservatoires.

To begin a new UCAS Conservatoires application, you will need to register. You can read the UCAS Conservatoires’ advice on completing the UCAS Conservatoires application. If you need assistance with your application, you can contact UCAS Conservatoires team by telephoning (Monday to Friday, 8.30 — 18.00). Phone 0371 468 0470 from within the UK or +44 330 3330 232 if you are calling from overseas.

Application deadline date

The deadline dates to apply and submit your audition recording can be found in the table below –

  UCAS Conservatoires Application Deadline  Audition Recording Deadline
UK Applicants 3rd October 2022 17th October 2022 (for applicants unable to attend an in-person audition)
International Applicants 1st December 2022 1st December 2022

International student applicants

We are aware that international students, particularly those coming from the USA, may struggle with the UCAS deadline. As a consequence, we have set an additional deadline of 1st December 2022 for international students.

If you submit your application after this date, we cannot guarantee that your application/audition recording will be reviewed by the audition panel. If you do want to submit a late application, you must contact admissions@rcs.ac.uk in the first instance to check we are accepting late applications. Late applications will be considered on a case by case basis and may not be considered in the first round of scholarship allocation.

We do not offer deferred entry. If you wish to commence in 2024, you must apply next year.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland institution code is R58.

BMus (Hons) Performance: 300F

Joint Principal Study (Hons): 301F

Book an advice lesson with one of our Music tutors

An advice lesson gives you the chance to experience having a lesson at the Conservatoire and provides a great opportunity for you to gain some expert advice and insight. Advice lessons normally take place from late August to early October and are dependent on staff availability. Book your advice lesson here or e-mail our team for further information at hello@rcs.ac.uk.

Application Fee

There is a UCAS Conservatoires application fee of £26.50. In addition to the application fee, each conservatoire charges an audition assessment administration fee. For RCS, the audition assessment administration fee is £65 per programme applied for. Fees are not refundable. The fees are paid via the UCAS Conservatoires website and not directly to RCS.

Audition Assessment Administration fee

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland charges an audition assessment administration fee of £65 per course.

We recognise that auditioning and interviewing for conservatoires, drama and ballet schools can be costly. The audition assessment administration fee charge allows us to offer a thorough and positive experience to all applicants and we encourage you to get in touch to ask the panel questions and find out more about the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to see if it is the best place for you.

We are committed to ensuring fair access to a conservatoire education for students who have the talent and potential to benefit from it, regardless of their background. In support of this, audition fee waivers are offered to applicants whom financial hardship may be a barrier to auditioning. Please see the audition fee waivers document for more information.

References

It is your responsibility to ask two separate referees to write references and ensure that these are sent to RCS.

The references must be written by two different people and we will not accept references from family, other relatives or close friends. You can submit your UCAS Conservatoires application form and send your references at a later date, but they must be received prior to your audition date.

UCAS Conservatoires provides reference forms for you to download and send to your referees for completion.

Selection Process

The Joint Principal Study pathway is intended to cater for the needs of individuals who are equally accomplished in two Principal Study disciplines (e.g. Flute and Composition, or Trumpet and Conducting, etc.) and who wish to maintain this intense level of dedication in their musical studies. Please note that Conducting is only available as a Joint Principal Study and Jazz Performance is only available in conjunction with Conducting or Composition.

The selection process for applicants applying for Joint Principal Study is the same as that for other applicants; please prepare for two separate in-person auditions, or, for International applicants, please submit your audition recordings via Acceptd for each principal study. Applicants to the Joint Principal Study pathway who are successful in only one of their Principal Studies may be offered a place on the relevant ‘single-study’ pathway (i.e. Performance, Composition or Jazz).

Audition

All auditions are planned to take place in-person at our campus in Glasgow in November 2022.  Should you apply on time, you will be e-mailed directly with details of your audition date and time, and your UCAS Conservatoires track will be updated with this information.

International applicants are welcome to submit a recorded submission via Acceptd. For those submitting a recording, the deadline da