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