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Timpani and Percussion (Postgraduate)

This programme will prepare you for the technical challenges of professional performance, help you broaden your stylistic range and give you the opportunity to work with national professional orchestras and world-renowned, respected musicians.


The Timpani and Percussion department offers an extensive curriculum to allow students to experience and study as much related material as possible.

A carefully balanced curriculum of one-to-one lessons and repertoire classes, playing in various ensembles, and frequent visits from our distinguished roster of international clinicians produce a structure and foundation for student learning and engagement. Additionally, students gain lots of practical performing experience through a variety of opportunities: symphonic, chamber, opera, and wind and brass ensembles.

You will have one-to-one lessons on your principal study with our highly acclaimed staff, supplemented by regular three-hour orchestral repertoire classes. To further equip you for the profession, we offer specialist tuition from leading performers and educators featuring Drum Kit, Latin American and ethnic percussion, and Marimba.

We are fortunate to have Eric Sammut (Orchestre de Paris and Conservatoire de Paris) as our International Marimba Consultant. Eric visits four times each academic year, for two days at a time, allowing Marimba students lots of opportunities to learn from his expertise.

Dave Hassell, session musician and renowned clinician, also makes six visits per academic year, for two days at a time. RCS offers successful mentoring schemes with Scotland’s leading orchestras where students experience the realities of the professional environment.

You will also benefit from three large fully equipped studios for the sole use of timpani and percussion students. Additionally, you will receive regular performance opportunities in the Royal Conservatoire’s professional venues, as well as in some of Scotland’s major concert halls.

The important details

UK Applicant Deadline:
2 October 2024

International Applicant Deadline:
1 December 2024

Institution Code:

Programme Code:
MMUS: 890F/MA: 801F

Audition Fee:

Application Fee:

Why Study Timpani & Percussion With Us?


Dedicated Staff & Small Class Sizes

You will learn from teaching staff who play at the highest level and toured internationally as members of orchestras. Our small class sizes offer you maximal access to practice facilities and ensembles. 



Focused Learning Experiences

You will receive 40.5 hours of principal study tuition and supporting studies classes each academic year. Staff will provide bespoke feedback to improve your percussion and timpani skills. In addition, weekly orchestral repertoire classes and regular performance classes prepare you to collaborate and learn from your peers. 


Collaborative Performances

The programme offers collaborative activities such as performing in the RCS Plug Festival. You will work directly with musicians and composers across the RCS community to create new solo music and play in musical theatre productions, ensembles, symphonic, chamber, opera, wind orchestra and brass groups. 


Professional Connections & Practice Spaces

International percussion artists will deliver masterclasses to you and throughout your studies. You will connect with professionals in a supportive environment through our  side-by-side schemes with Scotland’s leading orchestras. Further,  our three dedicated timpani and percussion studios and collection of high-quality instruments provide you with the space and tools to hone your craft.  

Meet the Staff

Additional Teaching Staff by Instrument

  • Timpani

    Paul Philbert
    Louise Lewis Goodwin
  • Percussion

    Tom Hunter
    Alasdair Kelly
    Simon Lowdon ARAM
  • Special Consultants

    Eric Sammut
    Dave Hassell
    Colin Currie


As part of our Timpani and Percussion course you will take part in different clinics, workshops, and masterclasses with visiting lecturers we welcome from around the world.

Some of these Masterclasses include:

  • Colin Currie – International Percussion Soloist and Clinician
  • Sam Walton – Eminent Percussionist
  • Birger Sulsbrück – Internationally Renowned Cuban Percussion Expert
  • Leigh Howard Stevens – Internationally Famous Marimbist and Clinician
  • Yasmin Kolberg – Internationally celebrated Marimbist and Clinician
  • Kroumata – long established Swedish percussion ensemble
  • Dame Evelyn Glennie – International Percussion Soloist
  • Joe Locke – World -renowned Jazz Vibraphonist
  • David Searcy – Principal Timpanist La Scala Milan and International Clinician
  • Simon Carrington – Principal Timpanist The London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Keith Aleo – Avedis Zildjian Company
  • Neil Grover – Boston Symphony orchestra
  • Neil Percy – Principal Percussion London Symphony Orchestra
  • Louise Goodwin – Principal Timpanist Scottish Chamber Orchestra


The timpani and percussion department comprises three large studios for exclusive use by timpani and percussion students, equipped with a huge collection of timpani and percussion instruments. We can accommodate the practice of all percussion disciplines with ease within these rooms, from snare drum solos to complex multi-percussion setups The imminent arrival of two sets of Lefima pedal timpani with calf skins will add to our collection of baroque, classical and modern timpani, matching the wide range of instruments encountered in professional orchestras in Scotland and beyond – this is also increasingly important when preparing for timpani auditions worldwide.

The RCS has excellent performance spaces, where you will gain experience performing with RCS orchestras and ensembles in addition to solo and chamber music performances in percussion concerts and recital examinations. The RCS has excellent recording facilities and a superb music library.  

The front of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland building during a sunny day.

Graduate Destinations

The Timpani and Percussion department has a long-established tradition of producing graduates who hold prominent positions both in the UK and abroad. 

Alumni include: 

  • Louis Abbott – Admiral Fallow 
  • June Binnie – Sinfonia Finlandia 
  • Richard Buckley – Orquestra Sinfonica Portuguesa 
  • Ruari Donaldson – Scottish Opera 
  • Alan Emslie – Baroque specialist 
  • James Gorman – Freelance, currently on the UK tour of Evita 
  • John Poulter – Royal Scottish National Orchestra 
  • Gordon Rigby – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 
  • Philip Hague – Admiral Fallow 
  • Calum Huggan – First British student accepted onto the Advanced Solo Marimba course at the Royal College of Music 
  • Tom Hunter – Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra 
  • Alasdair Kelly – Bologna Opera 
  • David Lyons – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 
  • Kate Openshaw – Camerata Ireland 
  • Louise Paterson – Real Orquesta Sinfonica de Sevilla 
  • Martin Willis – Scottish Ballet 

Programme Structure

The programme structure for your studies will depend on whether you choose to undertake Timpani and Percussion principal study as part of an MMus or an MA in Performance. Further information is available on the MMus/MA Performance page:

MMus/MA Performance

How to Apply

More information about how to apply, including entry requirements and tuition fee & funding information, is available on the MMus/MA Performance page. The specific audition requirements for this principal study are detailed below:

Audition Information


Specific audition dates and locations will be updated here when available. 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 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: 

Through audition, applicants will be required to demonstrate: 

  • A high degree of technical competency on the instrument or voice in the service of 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 

Once you submit your recording, this may be followed up with a live online interview.

The interview will be held by members of the audition panel. It will explore your understanding of the demands of the programme, knowledge of repertoire, aspects of performance practice, performance experience and attitudes, and professional aspirations. You may also be invited to talk about the recording you have submitted. You may also be given a sight reading as part of this process, depending on your principal study department(s).

Successful candidates will show potential to develop their beliefs and skills through the programme.

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

  • Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, the Intermezzo (available in Test Pieces for Orchestral Auditions, Schott) 
  • Bartok Violin Concerto Nr.2, slow movement from upbeat to figure 12 to 3rd bar of figure 16 
  • Strauss Der Rosenkavalier (‘Big Waltz’) (Available in Test Pieces for Orchestral Auditions, Schott) 
  • Hindemith Sinfonische Metamorphosen (‘Turandot Scherzo’) (Available in Test Pieces for Orchestral Auditions, Schott) 
  • Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky (Available in the Goldenberg Book) 
  • Gershwin Porgy and Bess (Available in Test Pieces for Orchestral Auditions, Schott) 
  • Hindemith Kammermusik, ‘Movements 1 and 4’ (Available in Test Pieces for Orchestral Auditions, Schott) 
  • Bernstein ‘Cool’, West Side Story (Available in Test Pieces for Orchestral Auditions, Schott) 
  • Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade, ‘Movements 3 and 4’ (Available in Test Pieces for Orchestral Auditions, Schott) 
  • Ravel Rhapsodie Espagnol ‘Movements 3 and 4’ (available in Hathaway Snare Drum Book) 
  • Rimsky-Korsakov Capriccio Espagnol (available in the Goldenberg Book) 
  • Suppé Pique Dame (available in the Goldenberg Book) 

More from the Timpani & Percussion 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.