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Spotlight on Scots Trad Music Awards’ Music Tutor of the Year Award

Every month, we feature on an organisation or project that the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) supports, and that works with one of their priority groups of young people. These features give a space for organisation staff and participants to tell us their stories.

This month we hear all about MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards’ Music Tutor of the Year Award, sponsored by Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative, from Simon Thoumire, Organiser & Founder of Hands Up For Trad.


MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards 2020

We started the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in 2003 with the aim to highlight Scotland’s traditional music to the media and public. Everyone involved wanted to make an award ceremony that the public would relate to, something glitzy where everyone who came dressed up in the finery. It was in the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh and I remember being over the moon that we managed to sell 400 tickets in our first year. I think it was a case of right time right place.

Trad music had been on an upward trajectory for many years from the 80s, and in the 90s it felt that there were many more young people playing music. This increased 10-fold with the opening of the Traditional Music Course at the RSAMD (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). All of a sudden there was a place that young people could go to study trad music and song. All of these young people were getting tutored all over Scotland.

I went back through the Hands Up For Trad archives to have a look at the initial categories in the early years and was surprised. We had our usual categories like Album of the Year, Live Act of the Year, Gaelic Singer of the Year, Scottish Folk Band of the Year and more, and even a surprising one-off category ‘BBC Radio Scotland Personality of the Year’, which was won by Gaelic Singer Fiona J. MacKenzie. 7 years after it all started, thanks to all our kind sponsors I was finally able to introduce the Music Tutor of the Year Award in 2009.

The first winner was Pipe Major Ian Duncan who has spent his life teaching young people the pipes as well as leading bands like Vale of Atholl Pipe Band. In 2010 Gordon Connell from Tiree won. Gordon taught all the Tiree accordion players like Daniel and Martin Gillespie from Skerryvore, Angus MacPhail from Skipinnish, Ian Smith from Trail West and so many more. I remember how proud these guys were when Gordon won. They were so excited that he had been recognised.

In this year of Covid-19, music tutors have had to totally adapt. Teaching online is not easy. You can ‘get away’ with one-to-one teaching but it is not great. You cannot play with your pupil as they are not hearing you in real time, so everything must be muted if the tutor wants to demonstrate anything. Tutors are also relying on their pupil’s internet connection, also whether there is a free device in the house for the lesson to be hosted on, and ensemble playing simply does not work.

Ensemble playing is very important because it’s social. When I teach at St Roch’s in Glasgow, the ensemble classes are where the young people can chat to each other and laugh. Hamish Napier said to me that online teaching is like being in lecture where no one talks back.

It’s still very important though. People need to be able to learn and they all have adapted to the online environment which means that musicians can get paid for their work. It also means that they don’t have to travel - spending their life in a car driving between houses. So it’s good for the environment! When this time is finally over we won’t go back to exactly how it was before. Hopefully there will be some good points that we transfer.

The nominees for the 2020 Music Tutor of the Year Award sponsored by Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative are; Rua MacMillan, Rachel Hair, Josie Duncan, Lauren MacColl, Corrina Hewat, Laura Beth Salter, Louise (Mackenzie) Douglas.

Good luck to them all.

Simon Thoumire, Organiser & Founder of Hands Up For Trad.

Public Voting opens Monday 2nd November for nominees in the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards. Na Trads 2020 will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on 12th December 2020 at 9pm where the award winners will be announced along with specially recorded music performances.

Previous Music Tutor of the Year Award Winners:

2019: Iain Ruari Finlayson, Skye Schools

2018: Anna Wendy Stephenson

2017: Emma Tomlinson

2016: Jim Hunter

2015: Jenn Butterworth

2014: Douglas Montgomery

2013: Corrina Hewat

2012: Gillian Frame

2011: Mairi Campbell

2010: Gordon Connell

2009: Pipe Major Ian Duncan

This article was published on 02 Nov 2020