Before embarking on a full-time PhD in October 2012 at the University of Cambridge, I was a lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The modules I developed for the Scottish traditional music programme were Listening Skills, Composing & Arranging, and Scottish Music in History, Society & Tradition. I also coordinated Teaching Musics of the World for trainee classroom music teachers, and co-developed Dynamic Voice giving all 1st-year students in the Conservatoire a physical, practical knowledge of techniques of composition and music notation across a gamut of cultures and centuries.
As a children’s entertainer and composer of action songs, I gave weekly music sessions at Glasgow West End Montessori Pre-School (2010–11) and Broomhill Primary (2011–12). I regularly give children’s workshops at festivals, venues and schools – here is one I gave to 40 children in 2014, A Spell for Halloween.
For students and adults, my workshop speciality is pibroch through canntaireachd, making this ‘undiscovered’ classical music more accessible. By singing its traditional teaching chant, anyone can develop an appreciation of the single malts of Western music.
When I graduated from Cambridge in 1995, I became a classroom music teacher in Rome. With the grand title of Composer in Residence, I worked with 300 children of 70 nationalities aged 3–12. We made flutes from the cane (arundo donax) growing in the verges, and if not singing were usually hands-on in a xylophone circle.
Now that I have my own boys, aged 10 and 7, I am reminded of the value of classroom and community music-making. I hope to play a more active role in the future, stimulating good practice and creativity in this field. The traditional grounds of Scottish music are a perfect vehicle for group improvisation…