New international conference exploring the future of traditional music education

Published: June 20, 2017


A conference exploring the teaching and learning of traditional music in higher education on an international scale will be staged in 2018 as part of one of world’s foremost festivals of Celtic music.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Celtic Connections and Glasgow UNESCO City of Music have joined forces to host the three-day conference during the annual winter festival of folk, roots and world music in Glasgow.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Celtic Connections are world-renowned organisations which share a passion for excellence and distinctiveness as national and international ambassadors for traditional music in Scotland.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which is celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2017, is one of the world’s top three institutions for performing arts education. Scotland’s national conservatoire is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of its ground-breaking BA Scottish Music degree, recently transformed as the BMus Traditional Music – the only Bachelor of Music programme dedicated to traditional and folk music in the UK.
The programme, which has a highly regarded international reputation, is led by Head of Traditional Music, Professor Joshua Dickson. Professor Dickson’s recent professorial appointment recognises his contribution to traditional music and research in the field of Scottish Highland piping. The programme’s Artistic Director is Professor Phil Cunningham.

The Traditional Music programme gives students the opportunity to work with the world’s top solo and collaborative teachers and performers with many going on to win major competitions. Third year student and fiddler, Charlie Stewart, is the current BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year. Previous winners include Robyn Stapleton (2014), Stuart Cassells (2005) and the inaugural winner, Gillian Frame (2001).
Students have also been recipients of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award including the Mischa Macpherson Trio, Talisk and the 2017 winners, duo Josie Duncan – a third year student at the Royal Conservatoire studying Gaelic Song, Scots Song and Clarsach – and guitarist and fiddler Pablo Lafuente from Spain via Stirling.

The Traditional Music department in partnership with the National Piping Centre also counts a number of silver medal-winning soloists among piping students and alumni, including Cameron Drummond, Gordon Bruce, Alasdair Henderson and Connor Sinclair, as well as many pipers who have performed at the very pinnacle of world pipe band championship competition.

Celtic Connections celebrates Celtic music and its connections to cultures across the globe. The 2017 festival brought together more than 2,300 musicians from 50 countries to perform across 26 stages throughout Glasgow for 18 incredible days of concerts, ceilidhs, talks, workshops and free events.

Celtic Connections 2018, which runs from Thursday 18 January to Sunday 4 February, will be the 25th anniversary of the festival, and the 20th year of its award-winning education programme where 11,000 school children attend free workshops, morning concerts and tutorials dedicated to nurturing an awareness of traditional Scottish music during the festival.

Celtic Connections is programmed by its Artistic Director (and founding member of Celtic supergroup Capercaillie) Donald Shaw. The festival is supported by Glasgow City Council and Creative Scotland, and delivered by Glasgow Life.

Delegates and top musicians from many countries are expected to attend the Pedagogies, Practices and the Future of Folk Music in Higher Education conference between January 18-20 during Celtic Connections 2018. The conference will also feature performances from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland students, staff and international artists and will include agenda-setting creative conversations open to public audiences.
The conference will take stock of developments in folk and traditional music in higher education across the UK, Europe and beyond, in the 21st century and will feature keynote addresses from industry and academic experts, peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange. Delegates will also be able to participate in a Creative Conversation, featuring a panel of industry leaders, and a ceilidh at the National Piping Centre. The conference will close with an opportunity to attend the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) Trad Student Showcase at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, hosted by RCS Traditional Music Artistic Director, Professor Phil Cunningham.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Scotland’s national conservatoire is proud to deliver the UK’s only conservatoire-based Bachelor of Music programme in traditional and folk music. It is a perfect match to partner with the world-renowned Celtic Connections festival to stage our first international conference on the future of traditional music education.
“This new collaboration is a celebration of our shared goals and values – to embrace and nurture the next generation of traditional and folk music artists and to showcase their talents on a global scale.”

Professor Joshua Dickson, Head of Traditional Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is a world leader in traditional music education and our 20th anniversary of degree-level traditional music studies presents us with a timely opportunity for colleagues across the sector to come together.
“Issues including digitization, commodification, transitions to and from higher education and evolving concepts of performance practice are all providing fresh contexts, within which fresh approaches to pedagogy and curriculum are needed if folk and traditional music education at the tertiary level, particularly in the performance-based conservatoire context, is to continue to flourish.
“Our Pedagogies, Practices and the Future of Folk Music in Higher Education conference will discuss and take stock of those issues and how they relate to teaching and learning. It’s also an opportunity to share good practices in assessment, inclusion and transition; it’s a chance for delegates to learn from each other.”

Donald Shaw, Artistic Director of Celtic Connections said: “The spirit of every Celtic Connections is to find new ways to work with artists and organisations to keep the music we celebrate vibrant and relevant today and for future generations. Our partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will build on the achievements of our award-winning education programme for schools, which has shared the inspiration of traditional Celtic music with thousands of young people across Scotland. We look forward to this new conference being a fascinating addition to Celtic Connections 2018.”

Councillor David McDonald, Depute Leader Glasgow City Council and Board Member Glasgow Life said: “As a UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow continues to lead the way in the international music sector. This important new cultural opportunity to explore and drive learning and best practice in traditional music in higher education springs from a partnership between two organisations which are at the heart of the city’s success. Celtic Connections and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland bring a wealth of expertise and experience that is unmatched elsewhere, they bring a shared, passionate belief in the importance of learning, to ensure that traditional music continues to play a vital part in the cultural landscape of Scotland and internationally.”