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Jazz (ages 12-17)

Summer School for Children and Young People


This five-day summer school aims to inspire young musicians to focus on creativity, performance and composition whilst offering specific instrumental guidance on the fundamentals of improvisation.

This course will benefit young musicians between the ages of 12 and 17 who are beginning to develop their skills in spontaneous composition and improvisation in a jazz context and want to take their playing to the next level.

This intensive summer school aims to inspire young musicians to focus on group performance whilst offering specific instrumental guidance on key elements of improvisation and performance.

Participants receive instrumental masterclasses, jazz theory classes, and much more, plus concerts by the all-star tutors: Rachel Lightbody (voice), Laura Macdonald (sax), Alyn Cosker (drums), Mario Caribe (bass), Tom MacNiven (trumpet), Pete Johnstone (piano), and Kevin Mackenzie (guitar).

At the end of the week, you will participate in a live public group sharing performance in a Royal Conservatoire venue for your family and friends.

If you have any questions in advance of booking, please contact us at


The important details



Course Dates:
29 July - 2 August 2024

Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 100 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, G2 3DB

Course Information

During the summer jazz course you will:

  • gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of improvisation including jazz scales, modes, harmony, form and rhythm
  • learn how to improvise more creatively and fluently, utilising concepts of thematic development and collective ensemble interplay
  • learn how to practice more efficiently towards a goal of becoming a confident and fluent improviser
  • become more familiar with specific jazz repertoire
  • perform during an informal concert where the focus will be on ensemble playing and improvisation
  • attend jazz instrumental master classes
  • participate in a studio recording experience
  • study jazz theory and composition

The specialist focus on improvisation and ensemble experience will offer you a chance to gain intensive amounts of jazz ensemble playing practice whilst being offered professional guidance and support in the improvisation and techniques that are unique to jazz.

The history of each instrument and the effect of that history on the development of each instrument and its repertory will also be explored.

Please note this is an indication of the schedule for the week and subject to change.

Day 1

  • 9:45am: Welcome Meeting with Short Courses
  • 10am: Meet, Greet & RCS Tour
  • 10:30am: Tutor Concert ‘Standards’
  • 11:30am: Break
  • 12pm: Instrumental Lessons
  • 1pm: Break
  • 2:15pm: Workshop – How to Practise
  • 2:45pm: Break
  • 3pm: Workshop — Transcription
  • 3:30pm: Break
  • 3:45pm: Latin Ensemble/Rhythm Theory Workshop
  • 5pm: Finish

Day 2

  • 10am: Warm Up
  • 11am: Original Composition Groups
  • 11:30am: Break
  • 12pm: Tutor Concert ‘Originals’
  • 1pm: Break
  • 2:15pm: Standard Repertoire Groups
  • 3:30pm: Break
  • 3:45pm: Group Breakout (Drum Lessons, Piano Lessons and Studio Recording)
  • 5pm: Finish

Day 3

  • 10am: Warm Up
  • 11am: Original Composition Groups
  • 11:30am: Break
  • 12pm: Instrumental Lessons
  • 1pm: Break
  • 2:15pm: Standard Repertoire Groups
  • 3:30pm: Break
  • 3:45pm: Group Breakout (Drum Lessons, Piano Lessons and Studio Recording)
  • 5pm: Finish

Day 4

  • 10am: Warm Up
  • 11am: Original Composition Groups
  • 11:30am: Break
  • 12pm: New Orleans Workshop
  • 1pm: Break
  • 2:15pm: Standard Repertoire Groups
  • 3:30pm: Break
  • 3:45pm: Group Breakout (Drum Lessons, Piano Lessons and Studio Recording)
  • 5pm: Finish

Day 5

  • 10am: Warm Up
  • 10:30am: Ensemble Repertoire/Original Rehearsals
  • 11:30am: Break
  • 12pm: Instrumental Lessons
  • 1pm: Break
  • 2pm: Set Up & Sound Check
  • 3pm: Sharing for friends and family
  • 4:30pm: Feedback
  • 5pm: Finish

This summer school is an open access course for aspiring jazz musicians and improvisers aged 12-17.

This course will primarily benefit those who can already improvise to some degree and play jazz with some confidence but are looking to take this development opportunity to perform to the next level.

This course will also favour those with some experience of group and ensemble playing in live settings and a reasonable understanding of jazz chords, scales, harmony and repertoire.

If you’re looking to begin working on some of the tunes you’ll play and hear frequently at the summer jazz course, below is the best place to start:

  • Blues in Bb & F Concert
  • Maiden Voyage
  • Blue Bossa
  • St. Thomas
  • So What
  • Cantaloupe Island
  • Oleo
  • Green Dolphin Street

Applicants to this summer school must be able to:

  • tune their instruments and determine whether their intonation is flat or sharp in relation to the other instruments in the ensemble and be able to adapt and blend in
  • play a two-octave range on their instrument
  • play some major, pentatonic, blues, melodic and harmonic minor scales
  • play some Dorian, Mixolydian and Lydian modes
  • read music well enough to perform a new piece of medium difficulty within 24 hours
  • read and improvise over simple chord symbols
  • have a reasonable understanding of jazz rhythm and form
  • improvise at a basic level on a blues in F and Bb concert


Students should dress informally and comfortably for ensemble playing and lessons.

Please bring your instrument (with the exception of pianists), blank manuscript paper, pens or pencils for writing examples as well as any expendable items relative to your instrument, i.e. reeds for saxophone players, drum sticks and cymbals for drummers, spare strings for guitarists, etc.

For the final summer school concert, please bring smart/casual attire in which you will perform.

Additional Preparation

Students are asked to prepare a 12-bar blues in preparation for the course.

Practise with Aebersold Play-a-longs:

  • Vol. 1 How to Play and Improvise
  • Vol. 2 Nothin’ But Blues
  • Vol. 3. The II/V7/I Progression
  • Vol. 16. Turnaraounds & Cycles
  • Vol. 54. Maiden Voyage

The course runs Monday, 29 July – Friday, 2 August, from 10am to 5pm.

There will be a short sharing of the work students have been engaging with on the Friday afternoon for invited family and friends.

Tommy Smith: Born in Edinburgh, Smith grew up in the housing schemes and began his prolific career at 14 when his quartet won Best Band, and he received Best Musician Trophy at the 1981 Edinburgh Jazz Festival. A year later, he was invited to appear on the TV show ‘Jazz at the Gateway’ with Niels Henning Ørsted Petersen and Jon Christensen; toured with the European Youth Jazz Orchestra, and recorded his quintet for BBC Radio. At 16, he released his first two albums, Giant Strides and Taking Off! and studied at Berklee with financial assistance from Sean Connery.

He joined Gary Burton’s quintet after a recommendation from Chick Corea at 18, toured worldwide, and recorded on ECM’s album Whiz Kids. Smith has documented over thirty solo albums for Blue Note, Linn, ECM and his own Spartacus Record label; toured 50+ countries, composed over 300 works, and collaborated with musicians, poets, and visual artists, including Arild AndersenScofieldMacCaigAlan DavieKenny MunroJacoWheelerDeJohnetteLiz LochheadChristine de LucaTrilok, and poet Edwin Morgan who he developed a unique artistic relationship in 1996 collaborating on 55 works of poetry and music.

In 1995 he established the SNJO and ensured its progress until funding began in 1998. He founded the TSYJO in 2002 to provide an educational opportunity for the country’s best young jazz musicians and fought to establish the first full-time jazz course in Scotland. In 2009 Smith was appointed head of Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and became Professor in 2010.

Smith holds numerous jazz accolades: 2 BBC, 2 British, 2 UK Parliamentary and 9 Scottish – Jazz Awards. His contributions to Jazz were recognised nationally when in 1998, he became the youngest-ever recipient of an honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in recognition of his extraordinary artistic achievement. He subsequently received honorary doctorates from Glasgow Caledonian and Edinburgh Universities. In 2019 he was given an OBE for services to Jazz from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


Alyn Cosker:

Born in Irvine, Scotland, Alyn began studying drums at the age of thirteen. In 1995 Alyn won a scholarship to study at Berklee College of Music, but instead opted to remain in Scotland, studying music at Strathclyde University.

Alyn’s approach to music, technical capability and stylistic diversity has allowed him to become one of the UK’s most versatile and in-demand drummers. He has performed with such artists as Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Gary Burton, Seamus Blake, Kurt Elling, Bobby Wellins, Eric Alexander, Gunther Schuller, Bill Evans, Arild Andersen, Laurence Cottle, Marti Pellow, Justin Currie, Isobel Campbell, Mark Lanegan, Karen Matheson, Eddi Reader, Sandi Thom, Wolfstone, Phil Cunningham, Tommy Smith, Paul Towndrow and many more.

In 2009 Alyn recorded his debut album for Linn Records, ‘Lyn’s Une’. Comprising entirely original compositions, it featured outstanding contributions from Tommy Smith, Jason Rebello, Paul Towndrow, Ryan Quigley, David Dunsmuir, Ross Hamilton and Maureen McMullan.


Mario Caribe:

Born in Sao Paulo-Brazil, Mario moved to Scotland for studies, where was invited to join the Tommy Smith Sextet Beasts of Scotland, and later, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. He has played with many of the leading jazz musicians in the U.K such as: Tommy Smith, Kenny Wheeler, Carol Kidd, Norma Winston, Louise Gibson, Suzanne Bonnar, Phil Bancroft, Andy Panaiy, Tom Bancroft, Jamie Anderson, Brian Kellock, Steve Hamilton, John Rae, Clark Tracey, Tom Gordon, Jason Rebello, Gene Calderazzo, Kevin McKenzie, Alex Yellowlees, Nigel Clark, Malcom MacFarlane, Paul Harrison, Paddy Flaherty, Dave Milligan, Guy Barker, Eddie Severn, Gerard Presencer, Colin Steele, Andor Jensen, Claude Deppa, Dominic Alldis and Adam Glasser among others. He has also played with leading North American artists such as Bobby Watson, Scott Hamilton, Joe Locke, Valery Ponomarev and Madeline Eastman.

Mario is also involved in Jazz Education, having done several workshops about Latin American Music throughout Scotland. He also taught at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland Summer Course 1999, The Napier Jazz Summer Course 1999 and Dundee Play Jazz. He is currently involved with the The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, John Rae’s ‘Celtic Feet‘, the Paul Harrison Trio, the John Burgess Quartet, Carlos Pena Y Sus Muchachos, Brazilliance, Laura McDonald Quartet, Eddie Severn Quintet, Martin Kershaw Quartet, Tom McNiven Quartet as well as working on his own projects.


Kevin Mackenzie lives in Scotland. He has toured extensively and has recorded on many albums in a variety of styles from Jenna Reid and the Finlay MacDonald Band to Trio AAB and Hue and Cry. 
In 2001 Kevin received the prestigious ‘Creative Scotland Award’, which he used to write and record music for his nine-piece band ‘Kevin Mackenzie’s Vital Signs’. The CD gathered great reviews including album of the month in The Observer and CD of the week in The Guardian newspaper.



Kevin has several CD releases under his own name featuring internationally renowned musicians such as Donny McCaslin, Ben Perowsky and Loren Stillman.

Tom MacNiven was born in Glasgow and began playing music at age 8. As well as recording an album with the legendary Bobby Wellins in 1997, Tom is a much-in-demand session player and has recorded with a variety of musicians, including Silicone Soul, The DT6, Sharleen Spiteri and Eddi Reader. His live work encompasses acts including Anton and Erin, Niki King, Hue & Cry, Tam White & Boz Burrel and Josh Groban.

Tom is a tutor in Jazz trumpet at the Royal Conservatoire.


Peter Johnstone: Peter was part of the first cohort to graduate from the RCS Jazz Course. He continued to a masters in Classical keyboard and is currently completing his Doctoral degree. Peter performs with Tommy Smith in his quartet and duo regularly and also with his own piano trio. Peter received the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year award in 2012, a Yamaha Jazz scholarship in 2013 and recently a Gleneagles scholarship.


Laura Margaret Macdonald (born 17 July 1974, Glasgow) is a Scottish alto and soprano saxophonist, composer and teacher, specialising in jazz.

She attended Prestwick Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, before moving to Boston, Massachusetts to study at the Berklee College of Music. She began to play the saxophone at the relatively late age of 16, after disowning the violin. She graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1998, and is now based in Scotland, working as a music instructor for South Lanarkshire Council.

She has worked with many jazz musicians including Tommy Smith (to whom she was once married), drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, bassist James Genus, pianist David Budway, Guy Barker and Jason Rebello, and has made many appearances at notable jazz events, including the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe. In addition, she is a prominent player within the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Moreover, she has worked alongside legendary non-jazz specialist John McCrory.

Her recordings include the eponymous Laura in 2001 featuring David Budway (piano), James Genus (bass) and Jeff “Tain” Watts (drums); and Awakenings in 2003 with the Laura Macdonald Sextet: Steve Hamilton (piano), Donny McCaslin (tenor saxophone and flute), Gildas Boclé (bass), Claus Stoetter (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Antonio Sanchez (drums).


Rachel Lightbody has forged a path for herself in the Scottish music scene. Her ears and influences are immersed in a broad range of styles and sounds, creating her genre hopping and fluid approach to writing and interpreting music. She has been sought out for many different collaborations (Mezcla, The Elusive Tree, Alyn Cosker) which allows her to challenge her instrument, as well as explore what it means to be a vocalist.

Recent notable achievements include: her nominations for Best Vocalist in the 2018 – 2021 Jazz Awards; the featured vocalist in sold-out performances of Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark (featured on BBC Radio Scotland, 2018), and Carole King’s Tapestry with Start-to-End at Celtic Connections; and her work as a backing vocalist for folk singer Siobhan Miller (featured on BBC Quay sessions 2019) and Kris Drever (Where the World is Thin 2020).

Rachel has a busy session-schedule working with artists such as Kris Drever (2020 release), Alyn Cosker (KPF, 2018), Siobhan Miller (Mercury, 2018), Fat-Suit (Equinox Sessions), Tom McGuire & the Brassholes, Mezcla, The Elusive Tree Ensemble, Angus Munro (Mirror Man, 2019), as well as her vocal trio Little Acres.

Summer Accommodation

We are pleased to welcome students from across the world to our Summer Schools. Our course fees do not include accommodation or food, and these should be organised by the student. Our campus is located in Glasgow city centre, and you can find the addresses below.

We recommend Base Glasgow, as purpose-built accommodation for Conservatoire students, with Rehearsal Rooms, Practice spaces and Dance Studios. Base Glasgow is perfectly suited for our summer school students; both safe and secure, with 24/7 staff presence and only 3 mins walk from our main Renfrew Street building, keeping travel costs to a minimum.

Classic En-Suite rooms come with a 3/4 bed, en-suite bathroom, ample storage, mirror, study desk and chair. The shared area includes a spacious lounge and kitchen area.

Please note that Short Courses staff are not affiliated with BASE or on site outwith the summer school teaching hours, and therefore cannot take responsibility for students outside of these hours.

For more information about booking accommodation at BASE Glasgow you can contact them directly via website BASE – Student Accommodation in Glasgow or email

Alternatively, there are plenty of hotels, hostels, and b’n’b options available. We are located close to transport links should you wish to stay outside the city centre. If you are travelling to Glasgow for a course, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance that covers course fees, travel, accommodation, and cancellations due to COVID-19 – as RCS will not refund in this circumstance. You can view the Cancellations and Refund policy for full information.

For students under 18 years old, we strongly advise travelling with a responsible adult should any emergency situations arise during class. Students are only monitored by staff during class times.

Renfrew Street Campus: 100 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, G2 3DB
Wallace Studios Campus: 210 Garscube Road, Glasgow, G4 9RR

Further Information

We want to ensure as many children, young people and adult learners as possible can access the performing and production arts education that is offered through Short Courses at RCS. Financial support options available for Short Courses include:

Agnes Allan Bursary

Agnes Allan was a teacher, passionate about inclusion, and this bursary scheme exists to offer support to students to participate in the performing or production arts.

The Agnes Allan Bursary provides some support to students who may require financial assistance to take part in a short course in dance, drama, music, production or screen.

Anyone who wishes to take part in our Short Courses and faces a financial barrier can apply for bursary support to help meet the cost of tuition fees.

James McAvoy Drama Scholarships

BAFTA-winning and Golden Globe nominated actor James McAvoy is committed to nurturing the creative potential of young Scots who experience barriers to access and participate in drama at RCS Short Courses.

James is a graduate of the BA Acting programme at RCS and Patron of the Junior Conservatoire of Drama. The Glasgow-born actor has funded the new James McAvoy Drama Scholarships to enable young people to experience the world-class drama training at RCS as he did.

The scholarship aims to support applicants who would otherwise find meeting the cost of tuition fees at RCS a barrier to accessing pre-Higher Education drama training at the Royal Conservatoire.

You can find more information about these funds on our Financial Support page.

We run various promotional offers for our Short Courses and Summer Schools. You can view our current offers on our Promotional Offers page.

You should contact us at to request your discount code before booking a course.

Please note, only one promotional offer can be applied per course and should be used at the time of booking as we are unable to apply a discounts retrospectively.

Please see our Short Course FAQs for more information about all aspects of choosing, booking and attending your course.

Please see our Short Courses – Terms and Conditions for more information about your contract with Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Cancellation and Refund policies.

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