An Overview

You begin your postgraduate studies with the core of your musical personality – the skills, understandings and attitudes that define you as a traditional musician or piper – already established. Your postgraduate studies should nurture that existing artistic personality so that you can really make a difference in the fields in which you choose to work.

The programme offers advanced training to talented traditional musicians from a diverse range of undergraduate degrees or their equivalent, allowing you to refine and extend your musicianship in the context of your own aspirations. Most importantly, we have designed it so that you take ownership of the learning process throughout the degree and beyond it, whether in the professional world or in further studies (such as a PhD).

Our staff are professional performers, composers, and scholars of Scottish traditional music (and beyond) with active careers. They understand the challenges that you’ll face in your own career and can provide help and advice as you progress. As well as working with our core staff, you’ll get the opportunity to learn from visiting artists and academics from all over the world.

There’s a great atmosphere in the department and the Conservatoire as a whole; it’s a close-knit community where you end up performing and gigging with other students and staff, and making friends for life.

As for professional and institutional collaborations, we work closely with the National Piping Centre, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Celtic Connections festival in delivering a varied and vocationally robust experience for its students. We also possess long-standing exchange agreements with a host of European and North American universities, allowing you to study for a term abroad, including the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden; the Sibelius Academy, Finland; and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.

Piping tuition on the MMus is delivered in collaboration with the National Piping Centre, which is internationally recognised as a centre of excellence in Highland Bagpipe teaching.

Institution Code:


Programme Code:

MMus: 806F / MA: 805F

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
  • Two negotiated performance assessments

Supporting Studies 1 – 30/20/10 credits

  • Negotiated departmental activities, such as ensembles, performance classes and contextual studies

Practice Research – 10 credits

  • Research project

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
  • Individual project and performance assessment

Supporting Studies 2 – 30/20/10 credits

  • Negotiated departmental activities, such as ensembles, performance classes and contextual studies

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.

Teaching Staff


Ian Muir
John Somerville
Paddy Callaghan
Djordje Gajic


John Mulhearn (Head of Piping Studies)
Willie McCallum
Ross Ainslie

Frequent visiting tutors for piping include Barnaby Brown, Iain MacInnes, Fred Morrison, Hugh Cheape, Mike Katz and many more.


Bespoke arrangements available

Flutes and Whistles

Anna Friel
Marc Duff 
Steph Geremia
Philippe Barnes

Gaelic Song

Iseabail T NicDhomhnaill
Màiri MacInnes


Kevin MacKenzie
Ali Hutton
Jenn Butterworth 
Innes White


David Henderson
Fraser Stone
Martin O’Neill


Mary McCarthy 
James Ross BA 
Alistair Paterson

Creative and Contextual Studies

Professor Margaret Bennett DCE BA MA PhD, Folklore

Prof Fred Freeman, Scots Language & Song, Scottish Music in Context

Dr Ailie Robertson, Research and Composition

James Ross, Creative Skills in Traditional Music 1

Dave Milligan, Creative Skills in Traditional Music 2

Graduate Destinations

The Royal Conservatoire’s MMus and MA graduates work professionally in orchestras, ensembles and opera houses in the UK and abroad. Many build portfolio careers, combining part-time and freelance performance with teaching, community engagement, and work in allied areas such as music administration.

Some noted alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MMus (Scottish Music) programme include Hayley Hewitt (class of 2013), who went on to win the Scottish Harp Society of America’s 2013 National Championship, and William Woodson, noted American piper, pipe-maker and innovator.

Other noted alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Department of Traditional Music include:

  • Finlay MacDonald (Head of Piping Studies at the National Piping Centre; The Finlay MacDonald Band)
  • Findlay Napier (Back of the Moon; Findlay Napier and the Bar-Room Mountaineers)
  • Emily Smith
  • Paul McKenna and Ruairidh MacMillan (The Paul McKenna Band)
  • Daniel Thorpe (The Daniel Thorpe Trio)
  • Cameron Drummond (Highland Society of London Double Silver Medallist; Strathallan School)
  • Calum MacCrimmon (Man’s Ruin; Seudan; Breabach)
  • Siobhan Miller and Jean Leslie
  • Gillian Frame (Back of the Moon, Glasgow Fiddle Workshop)
  • Simon McKerrell (Lecturer, Newcastle University)
  • Angus MacPhail (Skippinish)
  • Jenna Reid
  • Stuart Cassells (Red Hot Chilli Pipers)
  • Kathleen MacInnes
  • Deirdre Graham
  • James Graham
  • Jack Smedley, David Foley and Steven Blake (Rura)
  • Robyn Stapleton (BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2014)
  • Ainsley Hamill (Barluath)
  • Gordon Bruce (Highland Society of London Double Silver Medallist)
  • Grant McFarlane (CherryGrove)

The Wayfarers

Guitars, mandolins, fiddles and other instruments that make up a contemporary traditional band resonate with historical associations. The Wayfarers project explores how music can aid the teaching of controversial histories.

Working together, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, Plockton; and the University of Glasgow, showcases teaching packs for pilot study in a Scottish secondary school to teach pupils about the musical migration of Scots to Appalachia, Eastern United States, and the challenging historical factors (such as forced migration, slavery, and segregation) that they encountered.

Visit The Wayfarers website to learn more 

Why Choose Us?

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

In addition to our position as educators and our reputation for having expert staff renowned in the field of Scottish traditional music with formidable reputations in the traditional music field, this programme offers additional benefits you won’t get studying anywhere else.

  • Opportunity to develop invaluable industry contacts
  • Students receive unparalleled one-to-one principal study tuition
  • High staff-student ratio
  • Excellent teaching staff who are all prolific in the academic and performing industries
  • Benefit from our partnership with the National Piping Centre
  • Dedicated recording and rehearsal studio
  • Performance opportunities include the world-famous Celtic Connections Festival and Celtic Colours Festival
  • Collaborations and connections include the National Piping Centre, the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Fèis Rois, the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at University of Limerick, East Tennessee State University, KMH Royal College of Music (Stockholm) and the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki (Finland)

Virtual Tour

Explore the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in our 360 virtual tour. You’ll be able to see our rehearsal and practice rooms, professional performance venues, production workshops, editing suite, ballet studios and more.

Entry Requirements

Our Admissions Process

Our admissions processes are designed to be fair, transparent and efficient. The audition/interview approach serves the dual nature of allowing the panel to assess first-hand an applicant’s suitability for their chosen programme and it also affords the applicant the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the nature of that programme and the opportunities offered by the RCS.

In arriving at its recommendation, the audition/interview panel will take account of all aspects of the applicant’s profile i.e.:

  • Performance at audition/interview
  • Commitment to the particular programme
  • Potential to benefit from the programme
  • Academic qualifications
  • Personal statement
  • Performance qualifications
  • Performance/practical experience
  • References
  • Contextualised data
Academic Entrance Requirements

Candidates for both the MMus and MA are normally expected to hold a good honours (at least 2:2) degree, or its overseas equivalent, in a subject area relevant to the demands of the programme.

Language of Study

The language of study is English. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of proficiency in English. We accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Level 6.0 (with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component) is required of applicants to the School of Music.

Direct Entry

Applications for direct entry beyond Year 1 will be considered on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the Royal Conservatoire’s Recognition of Prior (Experiential) Learning policy. If you wish to apply for direct entry, please mark the point of entry on UCAS Conservatoires application as 2 or 3.

Non-Standard Entry

We welcome applications from individuals whose academic qualifications or English language qualifications do not match (in terms of equivalence) or fall short of the normal entrance requirements, where specified*. Having satisfied the Audition Panel that they meet the selection criteria and demonstrated that they have the capacity to pursue the proposed course of study, such applicants will be considered through examination of contextualised data provided in accordance with the Non-Standard Entry Policy. The appropriate Head of Department/ Programme will make a case in support of the applicant for consideration by the Directors of the Schools and Convener of the Quality and Standards Committee.

*Note that UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) imposes minimum English Language qualifications in respect of international (non-EU) applicants who require a Tier 4 Visa to study in the UK.

Mature Students

RCS welcomes applications from mature students, i.e. students over the age of 21 at entry to the programme. Whilst the selection procedures will still be applied, consideration will be given to appropriate artistic experience not normally expected in school leavers, which is deemed to compensate for any lack of traditional entrance qualifications. Successful mature applicants, as for all other applicants, must convince auditioning panels that they have the ability and potential to cope with the demands of the programme. Their progress, especially in the early stages of the programme, will be closely monitored and appropriate advice and support given.

How to Apply

Apply via UCAS Conservatoires

Applications are made through UCAS Conservatoires website. The UCAS Conservatoires application system is separate from the main UCAS undergraduate application system. If you wish to apply to conservatoires and universities within UCAS, you will need to register for both services. There is a UCAS application fee of £27.50 to register to use UCAS Conservatoires.

To begin a new UCAS Conservatoires application, you will need to register. You can read the UCAS Conservatoires’ advice on completing the UCAS Conservatoires application. If you need assistance with your application, you can contact UCAS Conservatoires team by telephoning (Monday to Friday, 8.30 — 18.00). Phone 0371 468 0470 from within the UK or +44 330 3330 232 if you are calling from overseas.

Application deadline date

The deadline dates to apply and submit your audition recording can be found in the table below –

UCAS Conservatoires Application Deadline  Audition Recording Deadline
UK Applicants 2 October 2023 2 October 2023 (for applicants unable to attend an in-person audition)
International Applicants 1 December 2023 1 December 2023

International student applicants

We are aware that international students may struggle with the UCAS deadline. As a consequence, we have set an additional deadline of 1 December 2023 for international students.

If you submit your application after this date, we cannot guarantee that your application/audition recording will be reviewed by the audition panel. If you do want to submit a late application, you must contact in the first instance to check we are accepting late applications. Late applications will be considered on a case by case basis and may not be considered in the first round of scholarship allocation.

We do not offer deferred entry. If you wish to commence in 2025, you must apply next year.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland institution code is R58.

MMus Traditional Music (2 years) – 806F

MA Traditional Music (1 year) – 805F

Book an advice lesson with one of our Music tutors

An advice lesson gives you the chance to experience having a lesson at the Conservatoire and provides a great opportunity for you to gain some expert advice and insight. Advice lessons normally take place from late August to early October and are dependent on staff availability. Book your advice lesson here or e-mail our team for further information at

Application Fee

There is a UCAS Conservatoires application fee of £27.50. In addition to the application fee, each conservatoire charges an audition assessment administration fee. For RCS, the audition assessment administration fee is £65 per programme applied for. Fees are not refundable. The fees are paid via the UCAS Conservatoires website and not directly to RCS.

Audition Assessment Administration fee

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland charges an audition assessment administration fee of £65 per course.

We recognise that auditioning and interviewing for conservatoires, drama and ballet schools can be costly. The audition assessment administration fee charge allows us to offer a thorough and positive experience to all applicants and we encourage you to get in touch to ask the panel questions and find out more about the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to see if it is the best place for you.

We are committed to ensuring fair access to a conservatoire education for students who have the talent and potential to benefit from it, regardless of their background. In support of this, audition fee waivers are offered to applicants whom financial hardship may be a barrier to auditioning. Please see the audition fee waivers document for more information.


It is your responsibility to ask two separate referees to write references and ensure that these are sent to RCS.

The references must be written by two different people and we will not accept references from family, other relatives or close friends. You can submit your UCAS Conservatoires application form and send your references at a later date, but they must be received prior to your audition date.

UCAS Conservatoires provides reference forms for you to download and send to your referees for completion.

Selection Process

Applicants are selected first and foremost on the basis of merit and potential. However, due attention is also paid to the range of Principal Studies accepted in order to ensure the optimum experience for each student and to sustain the critical mass required for curricular activities, such as the symphony orchestra and choral activities.

Please note that the Conservatoire is obliged to offer one audition date per application. If you are unable to submit your application/audition recording by the deadline date above, you must email us immediately stating the reason. We have a specific period allocation to audition and all on time applications will recei