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Welcome to June's RCS News

Inaugural BBC Radio Scotland Young Classical Musician of the Year winner announced

Accordionist Mélia Simonot, a fourth-year BMus Performance student, was crowned the inaugural BBC Radio Scotland Young Classical Musician of the Year earlier this month.

The grand final of the competition, in association with RCS, took place in Glasgow’s City Halls on Saturday 8 June, hosted by broadcaster and musician, and RCS alumnus, Jamie MacDougall.

Joining Mélia in the final were fourth-year BMus Performance student and pianist Vita Hofinger Mihelič, alumna and harpist Gina Gallacher and oboist Chris Vettraino, a graduate of the Junior Conservatoire of Music.

The finalists joined the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Martyn Brabbins, Visiting Professor of Conducting at RCS, to compete in front of a live audience for the prestigious title.

“To win the inaugural BBC Radio Scotland Young Classical Musician of the Year award is truly amazing and I would like to thank everyone involved, as well my friends and family, for their support over the years,” said Mélia.

“Having the opportunity to perform with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the City Halls is a dream come true in itself. Classical music is my passion and to have my work recognised by the BBC in this way is fantastic.”

In addition to the title of BBC Radio Scotland Young Classical Musician 2024 and a bespoke trophy designed by Simon Baker, Mélia will receive a recording session with BBC Scotland and a special feature on the station’s Classical Now programme.

Listen to the final on BBC Sounds.

Image: Martin Shields



Student Union celebrates RCS community

The RCS Student Union held its first-ever Student-Led Awards this month to celebrate staff and students who go above and beyond!

More than sixty people were nominated and the winners were announced at a ceremony in the Stevenson Hall.

The SU said the event was an ‘incredible success’: “It was a unique opportunity to thank the staff members and students who’ve had an incredible impact on the RCS community.

“Thank you to them all again and to all the students who submitted the brilliant nominations which made this ceremony possible.”

Congratulations to all the winners!

  • Inclusive Teaching Award: Mark Stevenson, Interim Head of Performance (BSL)
  • Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award: Jenn Butterworth, Lecturer in Practical Studies
  • Outstanding Feedback Award: Mairi Warren, BEd lecturer
  • Outstanding Module Award: Andy Dougan, Filmmaking lecturer
  • Outstanding Professional Service Staff: Gun Lai, CPU electrician
  • Outstanding Research Supervisor: Oliver Searle, Head of Composition
  • Student Life Award: Pauline Smith, BEd Music 2
  • Sustainability and Social Justice Award: Dale Thrupp, CPP 4 and Front of House usher

Photos by @weddingswithwide. See the full gallery on Facebook.


Production hits the headlines

Production students, staff and alumni have been gracing the pages of industry magazines this month.

The Sound department is heavily featured in The Echo, from the Association of Sound Design and Production.

Sound lecturer Clare Hibberd wrote an article ‘Theatre Sound Education: collaboration and community’, which explores how higher education institutions teaching theatre sound are working to move towards programmes that are outward looking. Image shows Clare, on right, with students and staff on the last day of term in 2023.

Graduate Calum Paterson has written a piece with his partner Sarah Miele, a BA Acting graduate. They’re behind The Audio Story Company – established in 2020 – that fuses sound, music, voice and physical performance to create vibrant new ways of telling transformative stories. They share how the company came to life – by making a few short audio stories to entertain their nieces during the pandemic.

In the Future Professionals feature, graduating student Nathan Farndale and Fraser Mackie, from the class of 2023, have collaborated on sound art, with a link to the piece, and talk about the process and what they’re currently working on.

The current issue of Focus Magazine (the magazine published by the Association for Lighting Production and Design) has an interview with graduate Robbie Butler about his lighting design for Punch at Nottingham Playhouse.



Ballet students perform at Gleneagles hotel

RCS ballet students returned to Gleneagles earlier this month for a special weekend to celebrate the iconic hotel’s centenary year.

Students from all three year groups performed excerpts from some of the world’s best-loved ballets, served alongside afternoon tea.

The students performed four shows with a ‘summer garden’ theme – the fairy solos from Sleeping Beauty and the ‘Bluebird’ Pas de Deux and ‘The Waltz of the Flowers’ from The Nutcracker.

“It was a lovely opportunity for the students to perform in such an intimate setting in the beautiful surroundings of Gleneagles,” said Kerry Livingstone, Head of Ballet.

Images: Gleneagles

Jazz department announces annual award winners

Congratulations to the students who have taken home this year’s RCS jazz awards.

Three students – drummer Roan Anderson, bass guitarist Chris Quinn and guitarist Sam Cleary – share the £8,500 Alan McAulay Award for Career Development.

Drummer Dillon Barrie wins the George Duncan Award for Jazz Composition and a cash prize of £1,000 and Sam also wins the award for Jazz Improvisation, which is sponsored by Mark McKergow and comes with a cash prize of £500.

“Dillon’s award for composition and Sam’s for improvisation reflect the high standard of their final recitals, which were judged by trombonist Dennis Rollins MBE and myself,” said RCS Head of Jazz, Tommy Smith.

“I’m extremely proud of this year’s award winners. Looking ahead, we have an incredibly talented and diverse group of musicians, both male and female, coming through the programme. I’m confident many of them will be strong contenders for future awards.”

All four award winners are already experienced musicians. Roan has worked in big bands and smaller ensembles and runs a successful online tuition business. Chris leads his own band, Niche Market, in which he sings as well as playing bass guitar.

Sam has been wowing audiences with his expressive, extrovert guitar playing in the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra over the past two years and Dillon has added work as a producer of hip hop and jazz fusion to his experience in youth orchestras and symphony orchestras, and an appearance with world-leading solo percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie.

“We’re grateful to our sponsors for their invaluable support,” said Tommy. “George and Mark are real jazz enthusiasts, as was Alan, and the awards offer students, not just financial assistance but encouragement and a sense of achievement at this stage in their careers.”

Graduation countdown is on!

We’re inching closer to summer graduation!

We can’t wait to share this special day with our graduands and their loved ones.

For those unable to make the ceremonies on Thursday 4 July, tune in to our livestreams and why not share a celebratory note on our online message board?

Go to the graduation section of our website.

RCS librarian Karen McAulay retires

We bid a fond farewell to Dr Karen McAulay, Performing Arts Librarian, who is retiring after 36 years at RCS.

Karen started when our music stock was “merely a fortuitous collection and nothing more than a beginning”.

For almost thirty of those years, Karen was the sole music specialist and has developed our collection into the world-class resource that it is today.

We asked Karen to share a few thoughts and memories from her time at RCS, which you can read here.

Karen seamlessly combines the roles of librarian, musicologist, researcher & educationalist: her dedication to her field has resulted in her gaining a PhD, a PgCert, Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and, most recently, she was the first holder of the honorary Ketelbey Research Fellowship at the University of St Andrews.

Karen has published innumerable journal articles, created the first-ever library blog in Scotland, published a book (with a second on the way), and all this while raising three boys and supporting thousands of students in their RCS learning journey.

Karen won’t be leaving RCS entirely, as she’ll continue in her role as a part-time doctoral researcher. She’ll also continue writing and her second book will soon hit the shelves.

A Social History of Amateur Music-Making and Scottish National Identity: Scotland’s Printed Music, 1880–1951 will be published by Routledge and is available for pre-order on October 9.

We wish Karen every success and happiness as she pursues the next chapter!

Dr Rachel Drury presents research findings at launch of new campaign for babies and children

As The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is incorporated into domestic law, Starcatchers, Scotland’s Arts and Early Years organisation, launched their research into the voice of the baby, a landmark moment for Scotland’s youngest children.

RCS’s Dr Rachel Drury presented research findings at the launch of Voice of the Baby, a reflective guide and resources for professionals across sectors to use to help elicit the views of children from birth to three years old.

Over two years, Dr Drury worked alongside Dr Cara Blaisdell from Queen Margaret University, supported by RCS researcher Claire Ruckert, to undertake research on how an arts-based approach could be used by those working with babies and young children to enable their views to be included in decision-making.

On 20 June, Starcatchers hosted an event in their Wester Hailes Baby Studio, sharing their findings and learning with senior leaders and decision-makers across early years, health, arts, and voluntary sectors.


News from Composition

Lots going on – as always – from students, staff and graduates from the Composition department.

Strathclyde University Concert Band performed a new work by MMus graduate Siobhan Dyson.

Salzburger Landestheater staged a new production of staff composer Stuart MacRae’s opera, Anthropocene.

Vokalensemble Crescendo (from Germany) performed new works by our composers and graduates, in the West End Festival in Glasgow.

MMus composer David Ford was recording his new work with the RSNO (mentored by alumnus Patrick Doyle), as part of their Composing for Film scheme.

BMus 3 composer Niall Docherty was co-recipient of the Sam Heughan Write Start Award, for a project with film, which also includes new music by BMus 2 composer Nancy Johnstone

BMus 4 composer Connor Bristow created new music for a film about the Covid lockdown at the University of Stirling – An Unusual Period of Unspecified Length. Watch above.

Scottish Ensemble performed a newly commissioned work by staff composer David Fennessy.


RCS in the News

Ros Maddison, Head of Production, is featured in The Stage’s technical theatre special, offering an insight into the Production Technology and Management course.

Holyrood magazine visited RCS for a feature on instrumental music education in schools

Dance Informa magazine interviewed PhD student Emily Davis and Dr Bethany Whiteside about dance health research and internationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer Akram Khan being named as an RCS honorary doctorate recipient at this summer’s graduation.

 It was a five-star review for Earthquakes in London from blogger Lisa in the Theatre and four stars for Sweet Charity.


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