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Hollywood composer Patrick Doyle returns to his RCS roots to inspire next generation

He’s the Hollywood composer who has scored some of the biggest movies in modern cinema history. And last week, he returned to his Royal Conservatoire of Scotland roots to inspire the next generation of musicians.

Lanarkshire-born Patrick Doyle – one of the world’s most successful composers with a stellar 50-year career in film, television and theatre – crowned a milestone year by becoming a Patron of the Junior Conservatoire of Music at Scotland’s national conservatoire, joining violinist Nicola Benedetti CBE.

Patrick Doyle is photographed from the waist up with his hands posed in front of his body. He is smiling with a closed mouth at the camera.

© Robbie McFadzean

The Patron role comes at a pivotal point in Patrick’s life; he celebrated his 70th birthday in April and was commissioned to compose The Coronation March for The Coronation of Their Majesties, The King and The Queen, at Westminster Abbey in May, which was performed to a global audience of nearly a billion viewers.

It was a celebratory homecoming and full circle moment for the multi-award-winning composer who is passionate about giving back to the institution he says has been instrumental in his success.

Patrick credits his Junior Conservatoire studies for opening his eyes to the wider world of music – when he’d hop on the bus from Birkenshaw in North Lanarkshire to Glasgow every Saturday – and setting him on a musical journey that led him to studying piano and singing at undergraduate level at RCS (when it was known as the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) to penning the soundtracks for more than 60 box office hits, including Disney’s Brave, Marvel’s Thor, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Donnie Brasco, Carlito’s Way, Gosford Park and Sense and Sensibility.

Patrick Doyle said: “I became a member of the Juniors course in my late teens. It was one of the most inspiring and exciting experiences of my life. I jumped out of bed every Saturday morning full of joy. I met young like-minded people from all over Scotland, and the social and musical bonds which were forged between us have been the foundation of my life in music and the arts. I will forever be indebted to the former RSAMD, now the RCS, for the opportunities it afforded me and the fond memories it continually conjures up. I am honoured to be asked to be a Patron.”

Patrick Doyle takes part in a Creative Conversation at RCS. He is sitting on a director's chair on a darkened stage, smiling at the camera

Patrick at his Creative Conversation © Robbie McFadzean

Patrick spent a week with students from RCS’s junior and senior schools, kicking off with an hour-long Creative Conversation for students and guests on Monday 11 December, where he discussed his life and work. He also took part in a Composers Forum where he shared his wealth of experience with undergraduate and postgraduate composers.

On Saturday, December 16, Patrick was the guest of honour at the Juniors Symphony Orchestra concert in RCS’s Stevenson Hall, who performed a dazzling celebration of his biggest works.

Patrick Doyle stands on stage with the RCS Junior Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra.

© Martin Shields

“It has been inspiring to spend time with people at the start of their journey in music and composition. The Juniors concert was world class. I found it very emotional hearing my music played by such a talented group of young people who clearly have worked so hard this term. They all have such a bright future ahead of them. I never dreamt that one day I would be invited back to where it all began.”

Francis Cummings, Head of the Junior Conservatoire of Music, said: “Patrick is one of the world’s leading film composers who began his journey in the Junior Conservatoire, and it was a thrill to welcome him back to his roots. Patrick has been extremely generous with his time, resources and expertise and we feel enormously privileged to have this opportunity to work so closely with him.”

RCS Principal Jeffrey Sharkey with composer Patrick Doyle

© Martin Shields

On February 2, Juniors students will join forces with first and second-year undergraduate music students and the RSNO – where Patrick was recently named Composer in Residence – to perform his acclaimed score for the classic 1927 silent film It, starring Clara Bow at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall.

Patrick said: “It is an incredibly unique experience for a young musician, playing a live score to picture. The film originally premiered at the 10th Syracuse Film Festival in upstate New York and the music was performed by seasoned professionals. There are no experience or age-related concessions written in the score.

“For this reason, I am humbled and astonished at the commitment and courage these Junior students have shown in preparing for the forthcoming It performance which will take place in February. I am grateful to the undergrad students who will support them, giving up their precious free time for rehearsals on top of an already packed academic workload! It’s going to be an incredible event. I can’t wait.”

Patrick Doyle on stage following the Junior Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra concert

© Martin Shields

Patrick’s ascent to becoming one of the world’s most successful film composers began in 1975 when he graduated from RSAMD, where he was made a fellow in 2001. It’s also where he met his wife, Lesley, who was studying stage management, and later became a costume designer.

But before the Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations stacked up for his sweeping soundtracks, Patrick enjoyed a ten-year career as a film and television actor, with credits including the premiere of John Byrne’s play The Slab Boys in 1978 and the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire in 1981, playing Jimmie.

In 1987, he joined Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company as composer and musical director and in 1989, he was commissioned to compose the score for the feature film Henry V, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Patrick won an Ivor Novello award for the score, and it was the start of a remarkable 30-year composer/director relationship, during which Patrick has written the music for Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Hamlet, As You Like It, Cinderella and, most recently, both Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.

Throughout his career, Patrick’s prolific contribution to film music has been widely recognised. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from both The World Soundtrack Awards and Scottish BAFTA, the Henry Mancini Award from ASCAP and the PRS Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Music.

Music has been a defining part of Patrick’s life, from his early days playing with Lanarkshire Youth Orchestra and his school’s brass band. He passionately believes that early exposure to the power of music, and the arts in general, is vital.

“My piano teacher, Edith Ferguson, was so enthusiastic about any young person’s musical potential, and she inspired hundreds of young musicians across Lanarkshire. I believe peripatetic teaching and access to music from a young age is vital. A younger person can thrive through music. It encourages creative thinking, healthy expression, and self-discipline.

“Youth orchestras, such as the RCS Juniors, are a fantastic social experience. They offer an opportunity to make new friends, forge important bonds through music and gain exceptional life experience. For me, music was always a source of great joy in my childhood, and I am passionate about supporting this nation’s next generation of musical talent, helping young people be afforded the same opportunities I was.”

Find out more about studying at the Junior Conservatoire of Music or Drama, Dance, Production or Film