Tal­ent of NOTE

Dou­glas Academy of­fers mu­sic tu­ition of the high­est stan­dard for free. By Carla Fox


IT MAY seem hard to be­lieve but ev­ery child in Scot­land who shows mu­si­cal prom­ise has the chance of world class tu­ition com­pletely free of charge.

Yet while such mu­si­cal lu­mi­nar­ies as The Ay­oub Sis­ters, tenor Jamie MacDougall, com­poser Tom Har­rold, and con­duc­tor and Baroque spe­cial­ist Chris­tian Curnyn, (to name only a few) are well known names, few peo­ple re­alise they all stud­ied at the Mu­sic School of Dou­glas Academy in Mil­ngavie.

This is a fully funded mu­sic school for sec­ondary pupils sub­sidised by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and staffed by mu­si­cians of the high­est level. Many of the in­stru­men­tal teach­ers are from the Na­tional Or­ches­tras and en­sem­bles such as RSNO, BBC Sym­phony Or­ches­tra, SCO, and Scot­tish Opera.How­ever de­spite the qual­ity of the teach­ing, the stu­dents don’t have to pay for any­thing – not even res­i­den­tial ac­com­mo­da­tion fees for those from fur­ther afield.

Part of Dou­glas Academy, a com­pre­hen­sive sec­ondary, S1-S6 pupils are able to study the usual aca­demic sub­jects while also study­ing mu­sic. Around 50 per cent of those at the mu­sic school go on to study mu­sic at con­ser­va­toires around the world while the rest of­ten choose to be doc­tors, den­tists and teach­ers, con­tin­u­ing to per­form as ama­teur mu­si­cians to a high level.

“We do find that many of our mu­sic school pupils per­form to a high stan­dard aca­dem­i­cally,” said Course Di­rec­tor Mark Evans. “Some ar­gue that there is a cor­re­la­tion be­tween the arts and brain de­vel­op­ment and our pupils are of­ten very high fly­ing aca­dem­i­cally. The main school also ben­e­fits and the stan­dard of mu­sic across the school is gen­er­ally very high.”

Those who are ac­cepted as pupils, af­ter a rig­or­ous au­di­tion, ben­e­fit from one-on-one in­stru­men­tal les­sons in two in­stru­ments, as well as classes in com­po­si­tion, the­ory and har­mony, au­ral mu­si­cian­ship and mu­sic his­tory. There are also op­por­tu­ni­ties to play in cham­ber groups, par­take in vo­cal en­sem­bles/choirs,

cham­ber or­ches­tra and sym­phony or­ches­tra. The stu­dents are reg­u­larly given plat­forms to per­form in front of fel­low mu­sic school stu­dents, staff and the pub­lic. “The qual­ity of our ed­u­ca­tion was ex­cep­tional with world class teach­ers pass­ing on their knowl­edge to us on a daily ba­sis,” said Laura Ay­oub.

Laura and her sis­ter, Sarah, now per­form around the world and have a record deal with Decca, re­cently re­leas­ing their first al­bum which reached No.2 in the Clas­sic FM charts.

“We were given the op­por­tu­nity to write and record our de­but al­bum with the Royal Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra in Lon­don’s iconic Abbey Road Stu­dios,” said Laura.

“Ev­ery mu­si­cal skillset we ac­quired and de­vel­oped at school was put into prac­tise in the mak­ing of this al­bum, for which we are truly proud to praise Dou­glas Academy. We are eter­nally grate­ful for the time and money that was in­vested in our ed­u­ca­tion at such a vi­tal stage in our de­vel­op­ment.”

Other re­cent grad­u­ates from the school in­clude Tom Har­rold who went on to the Royal North­ern Col­lege of Mu­sic and has been awarded var­i­ous com­mis­sions from pres­ti­gious or­ches­tras.

He was com­mis­sioned last year by the BBC to write a piece to open the last night of the Proms and is in Scot­land at mo­ment as the Ed­in­burgh Quar­tet is about to pre­miere a new piece he has com­posed for them.

Some of the Mu­sic School stu­dents will be play­ing at the world pre­miere in the City Halls on Novem­ber 9. “The Mu­sic School of Dou­glas Academy is one of the main rea­sons that I am a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian to­day,” said Har­rold. “I owe the school a huge debt for the fab­u­lous im­pact it had on me.”

Jamie MacDougall, one of the Three Tenors, and pre­sen­ter of Clas­sics Un­wrapped on BBC Ra­dio Scot­land, and Gaelic mu­si­cian and choral di­rec­tor Mary Ann Kennedy were two of the first pupils at the school, which was es­tab­lished in 1979. The Mu­sic School has ca­pac­ity for 50 pupils mostly drawn from the Cen­tral Belt. At the mo­ment there are also 14 res­i­den­tial pupils who come from across Scot­land, but there is ca­pac­ity for 24 in the newly built res­i­dence at Knightswood Sec­ondary which the Mu­sic School shares with the Dance School of Scot­land.

KEY TO SUC­CESS: Most mu­sic school pupils also per­form to a very high ada­demic stan­dard.

En­try to the school is by au­di­tion and in­ter­view in the first in­stance, fol­lowed by a two day process which al­lows those ap­ply­ing to work in fairly small classes in a more re­laxed at­mos­phere. For­mer pupils have gone on to play in or­ches­tras around the world, and many hold pro­fes­sor­ships at some of the lead­ing mu­sic con­ser­va­toires

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