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Traditional Music

Introduction

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.

The programme offers the following Principal Studies:

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

You will perform in a variety of contexts. Learning opportunities outside of RCS include an Isle of Skye residency, touring, teaching placements and work placements and appearances at high-profile events, including Glasgow’s internationally-renowned Celtic Connections festival, Piping Live!, international occasions of state and a range of UK, European and North American festivals.

Supporting these performing opportunities is a solid basis in business skills; practical, theoretical and complementary musicianship; Scots and Gaelic singing; composition; stagecraft; and scholarly, artistic and practice-based research.

There’s a great atmosphere in the department and RCS as a whole; it’s a close-knit community where you end up performing and gigging with other students and staff, and making friends for life.

As for professional and institutional collaborations, we work closely with the National Piping Centre, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Celtic Connections festival in delivering a varied and vocationally robust experience for its students. We also possess longstanding exchange agreements with a host of European and North American universities, allowing you to study for a term or year abroad – including East Tennessee State University’s world-famous bluegrass and old-time music programme, Sibelius Academy (Finland) and the Irish Music and Dance department of the University of Limerick, among many others.

 

Introduction

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.

The programme offers the following Principal Studies:

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

You will perform in a variety of contexts. Learning opportunities outside of RCS include an Isle of Skye residency, touring, teaching placements and work placements and appearances at high-profile events, including Glasgow’s internationally-renowned Celtic Connections festival, Piping Live!, international occasions of state and a range of UK, European and North American festivals.

Supporting these performing opportunities is a solid basis in business skills; practical, theoretical and complementary musicianship; Scots and Gaelic singing; composition; stagecraft; and scholarly, artistic and practice-based research.

There’s a great atmosphere in the department and RCS as a whole; it’s a close-knit community where you end up performing and gigging with other students and staff, and making friends for life.

As for professional and institutional collaborations, we work closely with the National Piping Centre, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Celtic Connections festival in delivering a varied and vocationally robust experience for its students. We also possess longstanding exchange agreements with a host of European and North American universities, allowing you to study for a term or year abroad – including East Tennessee State University’s world-famous bluegrass and old-time music programme, Sibelius Academy (Finland) and the Irish Music and Dance department of the University of Limerick, among many others.

 

Programme structure

Year 1

In your first year, you will consolidate and enhance your performance technique, repertoire and personal style 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 musician or piper. An introduction to digital literacy and website design features, as you not only begin to construct your identity as a musician, but interpret it to the world. At the same time, broaden your collaborative musical experience in both a discipline-specific and cross-disciplinary bedrock of practical supporting studies, including group singing, folk ensembles, music theory, studio recording and the consolidation of your skills in programming, performing and calling a ceilidh.

Year 2

In second year, you will continue to nurture and extend your knowledge and practical skills as a soloist and collaborative traditional musician through a broadening exploration of technique, repertoire and style relative to your instrument or vocal tradition. You will expand outwards, exploring historic and social contexts and concepts, and draw relationships between practice, perception and context. You will further nurture your soloist and collaborative composition, arrangement and performance skills and expand your entrepreneurial skillset with reference to licencing issues, intellectual property, marketing, digital music distribution and the option of organising your own tour. You will also begin to tap into the wider array of elective opportunities to be found in the department, the Royal Conservatoire and beyond.

Year 3

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 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, piping or broader arts context.

Year 4

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.

The piping degree follows the same structure and range of contextual curriculum as in the main Traditional Music department, though its range of performance tuition is specifically dedicated to the well-rounded and in-depth development of the contemporary exponent of the Scottish Highland Bagpipe – in both folk and competition contexts. This includes core elements dedicated to solo piping, piobaireachd, pipe band work and piping in a folk ensemble context, in addition to optional tuition in bellows-blown piping and other piping-specific electives, such as piping for dancing.

Staff and masterclasses

Our staff are professional performers, composers, and scholars of traditional music with active careers. They understand the challenges that you’ll face in your own career, and can provide help and advice as you progress. As well as working with our expert staff, you’ll get the opportunity to learn from visiting artists and academics from all over the world.

Head of Traditional Music
Joshua Dickson MA PhD

Artistic Director
Prof Phil Cunningham Hon DUniv Hon DLitt MBE

Lecturer in Practical Studies
Jenn Butterworth BA Hons PG Cert

Lecturer (Traditional Music)
Lori Watson BA Hons PG Cert PhD

Accordions
Ian Muir
John Somerville
Luke Daniels

Bagpipes
Finlay MacDonald BA (Head of Piping Studies, National Piping Centre)
Finlay Johnston
Margaret Dunn
Willie McCallum
Ross Ainslie

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

Cello
Ron Shaw
Wendy Weatherby

Folk Ensemble
Jenn Butterworth BA Hons PG Cert
Marc Duff
John Somerville

Fiddle
Alistair McCulloch
Marie Fielding
Greg Lawson

Flutes/Whistles
Hamish Napier
Marc Duff

Gaelic Song
Iseabail T NicDhomhnaill
Màiri MacInnes

Guitar
Kevin MacKenzie
Innes Watson
Jenn Butterworth

Percussion
Steven Nelson

Piano
Mary McCarthy
James Ross BA
Hamish Napier
Alistair Paterson

Scottish Harp
Corrina Hewat
Heather Downie

Scots Song
Fiona Hunter
Rod Patterson
Lori Watson

Creative and Contextual Studies
Margaret Bennett DCE BA MA PhD
Calum Ross
Hamish Napier
Rachel Drury
Lori Watson
Findlay Napier
Ian Muir
Duncan Lyall

Visiting Professor
Fred Freeman

Other teaching staff

Past visiting tutors in contextual studies include Mats Melin, Sheena Wellington, Ewan McVicar, Kat Davidson, Alison Kinnaird, Stuart Eydmann, Margaret Callan, Margaret Stewart and many more.

Masterclasses

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

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)

Piping
Roddy J MacLeod
Fraser Fifield
John Wilson
Finlay MacDonald
Rona Lightfoot
Fred Morrison


Scots song

Sheila Stewart
Elizabeth Stewart
Alison McMorland
Sara Grey
Tom Spiers
Mick West
Tom McCarthy
Alistair Roberts

Gaelic song
Anne Lorne Gillies
Griogor Labhraidh
Margaret Stewart
Rona Lightfoot

Guitar
Innes Watson

Other
Brendan Taaffe (American folksong)
Rannock (Danish fiddle and keyboard duet)
Fraser Fifield (whistles)
Findlay Napier (songwriting)
Violet Tulloch (Shetland piano accompaniment)
Nick Gareiss (traditional and extemporised dance)
Tigerstyle (Sikh dubstep)
Skip Gorman (American folksong and fiddling)
Pete Coe (Repertoire development, performanceand& presentation)
Dave Francis (Musical innovation)
Simon Thoumire
Dave Milligan
Anna Massie
Mairearad Green
Brian McAlpine
Ian Carr

Why choose us?

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 with formidable reputations in the traditional music field, this programme offers additional benefits you won’t get studying anywhere else:

Unparalleled one-to-one tuition

Students receive 90-minute principal study lessons and additional 30-minute lessons are available by audition on a related instrument or second study of choice. This adds up to more one to one study time with your tutor than any other UK conservatoire.

Sang Scuil / Sgoil nan Òran

The title of this Supporting Study translates as ‘Song School’ is a singing group involving all students in the department. As such, it is your primary opportunity for encountering Scots and Scottish Gaelic language in the curriculum, as well as the song traditions of related cultures. Through Sang Scuil students will develop vocal musicianship and collaborative music-making, build a common canon of traditional Scottish song repertoire and develop language skills through performance. Normally one or two songs are performed at all major departmental performances.

Technique and healthy practice

These workshops survey technical/postural/anatomical aspects to idiomatic performance practice and link them explicitly to physical and mental wellbeing (e.g. wrist issues among fiddlers, vocal control and development among singers, effective and safe practice strategies). This includes comparing and contrasting with technique in related genres such as jazz or classical music, where applicable and possible, in order to inform personal artistic development.

Folk ensemble

These sessions are the primary locus for developing contemporary folk and traditional repertoire and musicianship in a group context vis-à-vis a wide range of sub-genres: from the informal session, scratch band or pipe quartet to the professional ceilidh band or orchestrated and PA-supported ensemble.

Folk improvisation

These elective sessions build students’ creative musicianship (not to be confused with composition) through the construction of a community of practice in a secure, non-judgmental space in which to take risks and transgress ‘comfort zones’ without fear of penalty or disapproval. As such it is chiefly intended as a laboratory for the making sense of traditional parameters of performance and the individual artist’s ultimate control over them. The nature of improvisatory and variational practices in Scottish traditional music are explored as a foundation but skills for unlocking creativity are drawn from a range of fields.

How to apply

Students travel from across the world to study Traditional Music at the RCS School of Music. Wherever you are in the world, if you feel you have the necessary talent, dedication and ambition, we encourage you to apply.

Before applying we recommend that you follow our Applicant Guide journey which provides all the essential information regarding entry requirements, and the full application and audition process.

Begin your Applicant Journey here.

 

Making your application

Applications for the BMus programme should be made through the UCAS Conservatoires website. There is a UCAS application fee of £25 (which is in addition to the audition fee) which allows you up to six choices of programme of study.

Preparing for an interview

The audition/interview panel will take account of all aspects of the applicant’s profile i.e.:

  • performance at audition/interview
  • commitment to the particular programme
  • potential to benefit from the programme
  • academic qualifications
  • personal statement
  • performance qualifications
  • performance/practical experience
  • references
  • contextualised data

Applicants are selected first and foremost on the basis of merit and potential. However, due attention is also paid to the range of Principal Studies accepted in order to ensure the optimum experience for each student and to sustain the critical mass required for curricular activities, such as the symphony orchestra and choral activities.

Entry 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

Subject recommended

  • Music at Higher, Advanced Higher or A level or equivalent
  • English at Higher, Advanced Higher or A 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 Schools of Music in their Principal Study.

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

Entrance to the Conservatoire is based on talent, potential and ability, therefore consideration will be given to relevant experience which is deemed to compensate for any traditional education. We accept a wide range of qualification, including international qualifications. If you wish to check the suitability of your qualification/experience, please contact us (admissions@rcs.ac.uk ).

English language

The language of study is English. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of proficiency in English. We accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Other equivalent English Language qualifications may be considered, please contact us for more information. (admissions@rcs.ac.uk)

  • IELTS – 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component

 

Fees & scholarships

Tuition fees for academic year 2017-18

  • Scottish/EU Students – £1,820
  • Rest of UK (RUK) Students – £9,250
  • International (Non EU) – £15,513

Scottish/EU students

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) will pay tuition fees for all eligible full-time Scottish-based and other non-UK undergraduate EU students, who are studying in Scotland at degree level for the first time. Students should apply to SAAS for payment of tuition fees even if they are not applying for any other means of support. Eligible students can also apply for student loans through SAAS . For further advice and to check eligibility contact SAAS directly on 0300 555 0505 or visit their website .

Rest of UK students

Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland studying in Scotland will be eligible for the same funding/loan package that they would benefit from if they attended an institution in their home country. For further advice please visit student finance England , student finance Wales , or student finance Northern Ireland as appropriate.

International students

Students from outside the EU typically fund higher education by a variety of resources, depending on the home country. More specific information on funding options relevant to specific countries can be found here .

Scholarships

Any potential student who auditions for a place at the Royal Conservatoire will automatically be considered for a scholarship. They are awarded on a combination of talent, potential and financial need. More information about Scholarships is available here

Sources of external funding

For more information about alternative funding sources, including external scholarships and bursaries, please visit here.

The Royal Conservatoire’s International and Student Experience team are available to advise and assist applicants and current students in respect of queries about funding your studies. Please email or telephone +44 (0)141 270 8281/ +44 (0)141 270 8223 for further information.

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 (Head of Piping Studies at 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 (Lecturer, Newcastle University)
  • 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)


Recent alumni news
Congratulations to the Mischa MacPherson Trio for winning BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award 2014 and to 2011 graduate Claire Hastings for winning BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2015!