An Overview

Designed for students interested in furthering their development in jazz at postgraduate level, this specialist pathway is led by internationally renowned jazz saxophonist and composer (and Head of the Jazz BMus pathway) Professor Tommy Smith OBE, offering bespoke tuition from some of the best jazz musicians and educators in Scotland.

We offer one-to-one lessons every week on your principal study instrument, allowing you to maximise your instrumental skills and potential.

In addition to this we also offer second study modules should you have an interest in developing a second instrument with an additional session of one-to-one tuition per week.

Our MMus Jazz pathway is designed to accommodate both jazz performers and jazz writer/arrangers. The course is highly bespoke and you will have a large amount of control in the way that your studies are structured.

This programme is tailored to fit individual needs and requirements, allowing the student to focus on preferred areas of interest and specialism.

As the MMus Jazz pathway is still relatively young, there’s a lot of focus on the department and this offers many opportunities for jazz students to perform both inside and outside of the institution and for writer/arrangers to have their compositions and arrangements performed.

The jazz scene in Glasgow and Scotland is thriving and there are many performance opportunities both within the Conservatoire and without – our students have negotiated many external performance opportunities in surrounding venues which means there’s live music happening almost every night of the week.

We also run a regular “Blue Mondays” concert series which features students and tutors or guest performers in the very popular “Ledger Room” public concert space within the RCS which provides excellent exposure and experience for all our students on a regular basis.

Past guest artists that have appeared in Blue Mondays concerts with our students include Randy BreckerBill EvansJacqui DankworthPeter ErskinePaolo Fresu and Arild Andersen. Other masterclasses have featured Courtney PineMakoto OzoneDavid Liebman and Branford Marsalis. Students have seen these great musicians up close, working with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, in the RCS.

Institution Code:


Programme Code:

MMus: 808F / MA: 807F

UK Deadline:

2 October 2023

International Deadline:

1 December 2023

Programme Structure

MMus Stage 1 / MA Stage 1

Principal Study 1 – 80 Credits

  • Individual lessons
  • 2-3 negotiated performance/composition assessments

Supporting Studies 1 – 30/20/10 credits

  • Negotiated departmental activities, such as repertoire classes, ensembles and masterclasses

Practice Research – 10 credits

  • Research projects

Options – 0/10/20 credits

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

MA Stage 2

Negotiated Study – 60 credits

  • Individual composition, performance or academic project

MMus Stage 2

Principal Study 2 – 90 Credits

  • Individual lessons
  • 2-3 negotiated performance/composition assessments

Supporting Studies 2 – 30/20/10 credits

  • Negotiated departmental activities, such as reperoitr classes, ensembles and masterclasses

Options – 0/10/20 credits

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

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

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

The first three terms of the MMus and MA are identical: MA students complete a further module in term 4 in order to complete the degree in a single year. There is no difference in the nature of the degrees: both concentrate mainly on performance rather than academic work.

Head of Jazz – Tommy Smith

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is a dynamic conservatoire bursting with potential and creativity. It’s the place you want to be if you desire to truly be the best musician you can be.”

Born in Edinburgh, Smith grew up in the housing schemes and began his prolific career at 14 when his quartet won Best Band, and he received Best Musician Trophy at the 1981 Edinburgh Jazz Festival. A year later, he was invited to appear on the TV show ‘Jazz at the Gateway’ with Niels Henning Ørsted Petersen and Jon Christensen; toured with the European Youth Jazz Orchestra, and recorded his quintet for BBC Radio. At 16, he released his first two albums, Giant Strides and Taking Off! and studied at Berklee with financial assistance from Sean Connery.

He joined Gary Burton’s quintet after a recommendation from Chick Corea at 18, toured worldwide, and recorded on ECM’s album Whiz Kids. Smith has documented over thirty solo albums for Blue Note, Linn, ECM and his own Spartacus Record label; toured 50+ countries, composed over 300 works, and collaborated with musicians, poets, and visual artists, including Arild Andersen, Scofield, MacCaig, Alan Davie, Kenny Munro, Jaco, Wheeler, DeJohnette, Liz Lochhead, Christine de Luca, Trilok, and poet Edwin Morgan with whom he developed a unique artistic relationship in 1996, collaborating on 55 works of poetry and music.

In 1995 he established the SNJO and ensured its progress until funding began in 1998. He founded the TSYJO in 2002 to provide an educational opportunity for the country’s best young jazz musicians and fought to establish the first full-time jazz course in Scotland. In 2009 Smith was appointed head of Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and became Professor in 2010.

Smith holds numerous jazz accolades: 2 BBC, 2 British, 2 UK Parliamentary and 9 Scottish Jazz Awards. His contributions to Jazz were recognised nationally when in 1998, he became the youngest-ever recipient of an honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in recognition of his extraordinary artistic achievement. He subsequently received honorary doctorates from Glasgow Caledonian and Edinburgh Universities. In 2019 he was given an OBE for services to Jazz from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Masterclasses and international workshops
  • David Liebman
  • Bill Evans
  • Arlid Andersen
  • Makoto Ozone
  • Jacqui Dankworth
  • Kurt Elling
  • Paolo Fresu
  • Peter Erskine & Tommy Smith
  • Randy Brecker

Graduate Destinations

Jazz graduates have been recipients of the prestigious Yamaha Jazz Scholarship, with bassist David Bowden and pianists Peter Johnstone and Utsav Lal obtaining scholarships; Peter and Utsav have also recorded a CD for the cover of Jazzwise magazine, and performed at the Houses of Parliament.

  • Fergus McCreadie Trio (graduates Fergus McCreadie, David Bowden and Stephen Henderson) won a 2019 Scottish Jazz Award for Best Album. Fergus McCreadie has also won a 2022 Scottish Album of the Year Award for his album Forest Floor.
  • Strata (formed of graduates Liam Shortall, Fergus McCreadie, Joe Williamson, Mark Hendry and Graham Costello) have received excellent reviews for their album Obelisk, which was also nominated for Scottish Album of the Year, 2019
  • Utsav Lal performed at the Carnegie Hall in New York City
  • Brodie Jarvie and John Lowrie performed at the London Jazz Festival, as well as presented their own jazz concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • Brodie Jarvie, Michael Butcher and Stephen Henderson performed in Hanover as part of the UNESCO City of Music and Creative City Network
  • Joe Williamson and his group Square One released their debut album in 2017, following their win of the prestigious Peter Whittingham Jazz Award
  • Many graduates and their bands have featured on BBC Jazz at the Quay, including Square One, David Bowden’s Mezcla, , Fat-Suit, Strata and Joe Williamson


“Costello’s Strata has been setting a standard of musicianship that has seasoned observers talking about Glasgow as a jazz hotbed of approaching New York proportions.”

– The Herald on graduate jazz band Strata

Why Choose Us

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is consistently ranked in the World Top 10 for performing arts education (QS World Rankings 2023)

  • Receive one-to-one tuition on your principal study per week
  • Study in Glasgow, home to the Scottish Jazz Festival, with hundreds of jazz gigs, concerts and events taking place each month
  • Work in dedicated jazz rehearsal spaces, and record and mix your own music in our recording studio with a full-time professional sound engineer
  • Learn from the best educators and highly acclaimed jazz performers in the UK
  • Benefit from close links to the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and its international guests, enabling you to attend rehearsals and performances, and observe professionals at work
  • Audition for the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra and perform regular concerts in Scotland, as well as recording for Spartacus Recording Ltd
  • Audition for the Jazz Workshop, a unique opportunity for jazz students to tour across Europe, performing in conservatoires and festivals throughout the continent
  • Perform in Fridays at One and Blue Mondays concerts and masterclass series featuring guest teachers; past clinicians include Jazzmeia Horn, Jacqui Dankworth, Bob Minzter, Mike Stern, Makoto Ozone, Courtney Pine, Branford Marsalis, David Liebman, Peter Erskine, Paolo Fresu, Randy Brecker and Arild Andersen
  • Perform in monthly ‘Jazz at the Chimp’ events featuring student-led projects
  • Undergraduate music students can take advantage of learning within this unique Scottish conservatoire and undertake a module within traditional music, enabling you to broaden your repertoire, musicality and ensemble arrangement practices