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MMus/MA Traditional Music

Welcome to the Traditional Music department at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where we hope you can find out all you need to know about our MMus/MA Traditional Music programme.

Overview

You begin your postgraduate studies with the core of your musical personality – the skills, understandings and attitudes that define you as a traditional musician or piper – already established. Your postgraduate studies should nurture that existing artistic personality so that you can make a difference in the fields in which you choose to work.  

The programme offers advanced training to talented traditional musicians from diverse undergraduate degrees or their equivalent. We have designed the programme so that you take ownership of the learning process throughout the degree and beyond, whether in the professional world or further studies (such as a PhD).  

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

There’s a great atmosphere in the department and the Conservatoire as a whole. We have a close-knit community where you will perform and gig with other students and staff, 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 and Piping Live festivals in delivering a varied and vocationally robust experience for its students.  

Piping tuition on the MMus is delivered in collaboration with the National Piping Centre — an internationally recognised centre of excellence in Highland Bagpipe teaching. 

The important details

UK Applicant Deadline:
2 October 2023

International (including EU) Applicant Deadline:
1 December 2023

Institution Code:
R58

Programme Code:
MMus: 806F / MA: 805F

Audition Fee:
£65

Application Fee:
£27.50


Why Study Traditional Music at RCS?

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 

One-to-One Tuition


As part of your studies, you will receive unparalleled one-to-one tuition. We offer 40.5 hours of principal study tuition and supporting studies classes each academic year. With an outstanding faculty and high staff-to-student ratio, you’ll have close contact with our expert teachers who are all prolific in the academic and performing industries.

Professional Connections


Performance opportunities for our students include the world-famous Celtic Connections and other festivals. You’ll also have the chance to collaborate and connect with other institutions include the National Piping Centre, the Centre for Contemporary Arts, and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, allowing you to develop invaluable industry contacts.

Exclusive Classes


You will study contextual and professional skills classes that are exclusive to the Masters cohort, as well as our other regular departmental supporting classes that are practical in nature. This includes Folk Ensembles, instrument-specific Performance Classes, Technique & Healthy Practice classes, and concert rehearsals, which involve students from all levels of the department to enrich the creative critical mass from which all students benefit.

Performance & Healthy Technique Classes


You’ll take part in regular Performance Class and Technique & Healthy Practice sessions, which focus on performance and technical skills in a tutor- and peer-led context and are divided according to specific instruments.

Dedicated Facilities


Our Traditional Music department has a dedicated recording and rehearsal studio, located at the heart of RCS, which provides rehearsal, recording, PA, and storage facilities and acts as the living hub for our Trad students.

Folk Ensemble


You’ll develop your performance and collaboration skills through taking part in Folk Ensemble sessions, which are the primary place for developing contemporary folk and traditional repertoire and musicianship in a group context.

Meet the Staff

Heather is looking at the camera. The photo is black & white.

Heather Downie

Lecturer in Scottish Harp

Teaching Staff

  • Accordion

    John Somerville
    Paddy Callaghan
    Djordje Gajic
  • Bagpipes*

    John Mulhearn

    Willie McCallum

    Ross Ainslie

  • Folk Ensemble

    Jenn Butterworth
    Marc Duff
    John Somerville
  • Fiddle

    Alistair McCulloch
    Marie Fielding
    Greg Lawson
  • Flutes and Whistles

    Anna Friel
    Marc Duff

    David Foley

  • Gaelic Song

    Iseabail T NicDhomhnaill
    Màiri MacInnes
  • Guitar

    Kevin MacKenzie
    Jenn Butterworth
    Innes White
  • Percussion

    David Henderson
    Martin O’Neill
  • Scots Song

    Fiona Hunter
    Rod Patterson

    Siobhan Miller

  • Piano

    James Ross
    Alistair Paterson
  • Scottish Harp

    Heather Downie

  • Cello

    Bespoke arrangements available

  • Creative and Contextual Studies

    Margaret Bennett
    Fred Freeman
    Ailie Robertson
    James Ross

    Lee Holland

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

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) 
  • Lucie Hendry Trio 
  • Keziah Thomas 
  • Diego Laverde  

Gaelic Song

  • Anne Lorne Gillies 
  • Griogor Labhraidh 
  • Margaret Stewart 
  • Rona Lightfoot 
  • Mary Ann Kennedy  

Piping

  • Roddy J MacLeod
  • Fraser Fifield
  • John Wilson
  • Rona Lightfoot
  • Fred Morrison
  • Erwan Keravec (Sonneurs)

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
  • Steph Geremia (flute, whistle)

Facilities

Traditional Music is at the heart of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, occupying its centrally-located Studio C recording, rehearsal and teaching area. Studio C is a large yet intimate space at the heart of the Renfrew Street campus, functioning as the living hub of Traditional Music activity at RCS (including band studies, group projects, masterclasses and informal sessions) and providing rehearsal, recording, PA and storage facilities. 

Practice accommodation in the Renfrew Street campus has increased  in recent years, accommodating all types of musical activity, from solo to band, singing to piping. The National Piping Centre offers further purpose-designed practice space for Highland piping students.  

IT provision in the Whittaker Library has also increased with the total open-access student PC provision totalling 52 machines with Sibelius 7. Students also have access to the Digital Training Unit and Language Lab facilities. 

Students can review over 70 relevant e-journals and 14 electronic databases and online archives, including Tobar and Dualchais / Kist o Riches, HOTBED, Oxford Music Online, IPA Source, JStor and Naxos. The Whittaker Library continues to support Traditional Music students via a dedicated full-time Music Librarian and a full-time Performance Librarian. 

With RCS being situated in the centre of Glasgow, a UNESCO City of Music, students can take advantage of our close proximity to the National Piping Centre, the Scottish Music Centre at City Halls, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and a teeming network of folk music sessions at pubs throughout the city. 

A student in formal clothing is playing a Scottish Harp

Graduate Destinations

The Royal Conservatoire’s MMus and MA graduates work professionally in orchestras, ensembles and opera houses in the UK and abroad. Many build portfolio careers, combining part-time and freelance performance with teaching, community engagement, and work in allied areas such as music administration. 

Some noted alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MMus Trad programme include Hayley Hewitt (class of 2013), who went on to win the Scottish Harp Society of America’s 2013 National Championship, and William Woodson, noted American piper, pipe-maker and innovator. 

Alumni include: 

  • 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) 
  • 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 
  • 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 
  • Paul McKenna and Ruairidh MacMillan (The Paul McKenna Band) 

Programme Structure

Principal Study 1 – 80 Credits 

  • Individual instrumental/vocal lessons
  • Two negotiated performance assessments 

 Supporting Studies 1 – 30/20/10 Credits 

  • Negotiated departmental activities, such as performance and technique classes, ensembles, professional skills and contextual studies 

Practice Research – 10 Credits 

  • Research Project 

Options – 0/10/20 Credits 

  • Range of optional classes drawn from the School of Music, School of Drama, Dance, Production and Film 
  • Folk Ensemble Level 1  

  • Sang Scuil | Sgoil nan Oran 

  • Rhythmic Awareness

  • Critical Programme Notes 

Concepts in Traditional Music: 10 Credits 

  • ePortfolio of Research Tasks 

  • Pecha Kucha Presentation 

Creative Skills in Traditional Music 1: 10 Credits 

  • Traditional Music Theory Exam 

  • Composition Folio of Tunes  

Scottish Traditional Repertoire 1: 10 Credits 

  • Performance 

  • Programme Notes  

Introduction to Professional Skills for Musicians: 10 Credits 

  • ePortfolio 

Music Leadership: 10 Credits 

  • Group Delivery of Activity and Supporting Reflection 

Creative Citizenship: 10 Credits 

  • Collaborative Creative Presentation 

Negotiated Study – 60 Credits 

  • Autonomous and independent composition, performance or academic project  

Principal Study 2 – 90 Credits 

  • Individual instrumental/vocal lessons
  • Two negotiated performance assessments 

Supporting Studies 2 – 30/20/10 Credits 

  • Negotiated departmental activities, such as performance and technique classes, ensembles, professional skills and contextual studies 

Options – 0/10/20 Credits 

  • Range of optional classes drawn from the School of Music, School of Drama, Dance Production and Film 

The MMus is the standard two-year programme undertaken by most students. 

The MA is a shortened programme version for students who wish to get a Master’s degree in a single year of study. 

The first three terms of the MMus and MA are identical. MA students complete an independent study project over the following summer to complete the degree in a single calendar year. There is no difference in the degrees: both concentrate mainly on performance rather than academic/contextual work. 


Entry Requirements

Academic Requirements

Candidates for both the MMus and MA are normally expected to hold a good honours (at least 2:2) degree, or its overseas equivalent, in a subject area relevant to the demands of the programme. 

English Language Requirements

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). 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 following 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 the UCAS Conservatoires application as 2.


Fees & Funding

Tuition fees

UK:

MMus:

  • Full-time: £12,870
  • Part-time: £6,435

MA:

  • £17,875

International (including EU):

MMus:

  • Full-time: £27,467
  • Part-time: £13,734

MA:

  • £35,090

Funding & Scholarships

You can find out about the funding and scholarships available for studying at RCS by visiting our dedicated page:

Funding & Scholarships

 

Cost of Living & Programme Costs

In addition to tuition fees, it is estimated that you will need between £11,200 and £15,300 per year to live in Glasgow, plus programme costs. Much will depend on your lifestyle and whether your course runs for three or four terms. 

Programmes within the School of Music have a range of associated costs related to the specific activities required and advised by the programme team. You can find an indication of these costs below: 

School of Music Programme Costs 


How to Apply

Apply via UCAS Conservatoires

Applications are made through the 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.

You can read our guidance about using UCAS Conservatoires on our dedicated how-to-apply page.

We do not offer deferred entry. If you wish to commence in 2025, you must apply next year.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland institution code is R58. You will also require the following programme codes to apply: MMus – 806F / MA- 805F

The closing date for on-time BMus Traditional Music applications for UK students is 2 October 2023 and for International students is 1 December 2023. If you submit your application after this date, we cannot guarantee that your application 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 

Application/Audition fees

There is a UCAS Conservatoires application fee of £27.50. In addition to the application fee, each conservatoire charges an audition assessment administration fee. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland charges an audition assessment administration fee of £65 for this programme.

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 whose financial hardship may be a barrier to auditioning. Please see the audition fee waiver document for more information.

Policy

We have a number of policies and statements which you should read when applying to study at the Royal Conservatoire.

Please select the links below to read each policy.

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

Applicants are selected first and foremost based on merit and potential. However, due attention is also paid to the range of Principal Studies accepted 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.  

Please note that the Conservatoire is obliged to offer one audition date per application. If you are unable to submit your application/audition recording by the deadline date above, you must email us immediately stating the reason. We have a specific period allocation to audition and all on-time applications will receive a decision before Christmas. If your audition recording is delayed, there is a risk that places will already have been taken and your application may not be considered in the first round of scholarship allocation.  

Audition Information

All auditions are planned to take place in person at our campus in Glasgow in November 2023.  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. 

Recording Guidelines: 

  • When setting up for your video recording, your body (typically, from about the waist up) and instrument should be the focal point of the frame. The committee wants to be able to see not just your face but how well you navigate your instrument. 
  • The video recording should be provided in ONE continuous shot without separate tracks for different musical pieces. 
  • Please begin the recording by introducing yourself to the camera and stating what you will be performing. You can take a little time between pieces so long as your body must remain in the frame. 
  • For any pieces that were written for your instrument and piano accompaniment, you are encouraged to perform with piano accompaniment (whether live or pre-recorded) if practical for you. Be assured, however, that if this is not possible for you, then you will not be disadvantaged in any way. 

For more information on recording a video audition, Guitar Lecturer Matthew McCallister reveals his top tips on recording your music audition online:

Details of the repertoire requested for your in-person audition/recorded submission can be found below: 

  • Performance of a programme of approximately 15 minutes on the principal study.
  • Applicants are asked to give brief spoken introductions to each item performed and their compositions may be included. 

Through audition, applicants will be required to demonstrate: 

  • A high degree of technical competency in the instrument or voice in the service of a specific repertoire 
  • An ability to demonstrate a considerable degree of understanding of the repertoire performed 
  • An ability to perform specific repertoire convincingly 
  • A considerable degree of self-confidence and creativity with respect to the repertoire performed 
  • A degree of self-sufficiency, initiative and independence in selecting, preparing and performing a particular programme 
  • A developing musical personality 

More from the Traditional Music Department

Why RCS?

We are the only place in Europe where you can study all of the performing arts on the one campus. There is a distinctive creative energy at RCS and you’ll be made to feel part of our inclusive and diverse environment from the very beginning of your studies.

Our graduates are resourceful, highly employable and members of a dynamic community of artists who make a significant impact across the globe.

At RCS, students develop not just their art but their power to use it.

Find out more 

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World Top Ten


We were voted one of the world’s Top Ten destinations to study the performing arts (QS Rankings) in 2024, the eighth time we have been placed in the top ten since the ranking was established in 2016.