Tuesday 9 January 2018

Sir James MacMillan shares composing expertise.


Leading Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan, a regular visitor to St Mary’s Music School where he is a Vice-President, shares his composing expertise with a seventeen-year-old pupil in a new film which highlights the personal achievements and frustrations encountered by the young composer as he develops as a musician.

Tom Aitken, a piano and composition pupil at St Mary’s Music School, discusses his life as a budding composer in Composing, the second in a series of four short films which focuses on the journeys of pupils as they move towards mastery of their chosen instruments and music creation. Tom, an S6 pupil who has been at the school since 2012, is seen working with Sir James MacMillan on one of his musical compositions and playing piano with fellow pupils.

Commenting, Sir James MacMillan, said:

“St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh is one of the most precious jewels in the musical ecology of Scotland. I'm delighted to have a close association with them, and especially with the young composers who are being nurtured in the school. This film gives a wonderful glimpse into the creativity and imagination that is being cultivated in this special place.”

Tom said:

“It was a great inspiration to work with someone so highly regarded in the compositional world. As a teacher and educator he gives so much, communicating his passion. I loved it.”

The series of four films brings the advice of one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era to life, taking inspiration from the book Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians Revisited by Steven Isserlis. Schumann’s book, first published in 1850, received a modern focus when updated in 2016 by Steven Isserlis, the internationally renowned British cellist and Vice-President of St Mary’s Music School. The book provided the inspiration for the school to highlight the most important aspects of being a musician; it follows the sections in Isserlis’ revisit where he describes the processes of practice, composition and performance. The advice has been updated by Isserlis’ own commentary, making the volume an inspiring read for aspiring young musicians.

Commenting on Composing, Dr Kenneth Taylor, Headteacher at St Mary’s Music School, said:
Composing highlights the work of one of our S6 pupils whose journey is likely to be of interest to all budding composers and all young people who are interested in learning how music is composed. We are fortunate indeed to have Sir James MacMillan as one of the school’s Vice-Presidents and it was a wonderful opportunity for Tom to have the opportunity to work directly with him."

“The films are available to view online on the school website and our first film Practising has proved very popular, with over 20,000 views since its release in November 2017.”

Read all our latest news


24 October 2018

Debussy Festival at St Cecilia's

Staff member James Willshire will curate a mini-festival celebrating Debussy on 1st & 2nd December.

Read More >


1 October 2018

Head of Jazz wins Double Bass prize

Andrew Robb, Head of Jazz, wins at the European Society of Bassists 2018

Read More >


17 September 2018

The Note campaign is launched

The Note campaign calls for everyone to support the plan for the school's move to the old Royal High School.

Read More >


5 September 2018

Anonymous artist leaves gift to the School

The school has received the gift of a paper sculpture from Edinburgh’s Anonymous Sculptor.

Read More >


21 August 2018

Helen Macleod 1980 - 2018

Obituary: Helen Macleod, harp player, former pupil and former instrumental teacher

Read More >


14 August 2018

‘Moving movie’ supports the Perfect Harmony campaign

Watch our short film about bringing together two of Scotland’s national treasures in Perfect Harmony.

Read More >


28 June 2018

Salvador Sanchez wins Directors' Recital Prize

Eighteen year old pianist from Spain wins following a closely contested competition.

Read More >


20 June 2018

Nicola Benedetti and Steven Isserlis feature in new film.

The film showcases two musically gifted youngsters who have studied at St Mary’s Music School.

Read More >


13 June 2018

The Minute Waltz: Take a Minute       

Take a Minute to show support for St Mary’s Music School

Read More >


7 June 2018

Juniors in June - the Castles Series

Junior Instrumentalists play at the Palace of Holyrood House

Read More >


21 May 2018

Edinburgh Masterclass Series 2018: Violin Masterclass

Renowned violinist Renaud Capuçon delivered an exceptional masterclass for pupils and guests

Read More >


18 May 2018

James Willshire plays at the Edinburgh Society of Musicans

Keyboard staff member, James Willshire, gave a recital of Litolff, Debussy and Liszt

Read More >


15 May 2018

Scottish Awards for New Music                

Will Conway receives a Scottish Award for New Music for The Last Island, recorded by the Hebrides Ensemble

Read More >


14 May 2018

Steven Osborne Piano Recital in the Chapel

Vice-President Steven Osborne plays Berg op.1 and Prokofiev 7th Sonata

Read More >


12 May 2018

Rachmaninov Etudes-tableaux, played by Steven Osborne

Hyperion release of Rachmaninov Etudes-tableaux played by Steven Osborne due shortly

Read More >


5 May 2018

Simon Smith Lunchtime Concert      

Simon Smith played Stuart Macrae's Piano Sonata for pupils and staff.

Read More >


1 May 2018

The Minute Waltz: Animated film by Domenica More Gordon

New short animated film in support of the proposed move by the school to the former Royal High School building.

Read More >


30 April 2018

Young musicians participate in annual Nigel Murray Masterclass

One hundred and fifty young musicians attended the Masterclass given by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet.

Read More >


24 March 2018

MacMillan's Stabat Mater to be streamed live from Rome

MacMillan's Stabat Mater to be streamed live from Rome

Read More >


22 March 2018

Rachmaninov at the Edinburgh Society of Musicians

On Wednesday 21st March, the Keyboard Department put on a programme of Rachmaninov

Read More >


11 February 2018

Winterplay: Young Musicians' Showcase

Outstanding students from St Mary’s Music School performed an hour’s programme of chamber music.

Read More >


9 January 2018

Sir James MacMillan shares composing expertise.

Leading Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan shares his composing expertise in a new film.

Read More >


1 December 2017

Pupils Bring Advice of Famous Composer to Life

Pupils have brought the advice of a famous composer to life in a series of four short films.

Read More >


15 December 2015

Royal High School Preservation Trust unveils plans for iconic Thomas Hamilton building

The Trust hopes to move St Mary’s Music School into the historic Thomas Hamilton building on Calton Hill

Read More >


26 November 2015

Statement: Royal High School Proposed Move

Statement from William Gray Muir and Dr Kenneth Taylor in light of the City of Edinburgh’s decision to reject plans for a hotel on the Calton Hill site.

Read More >


2 November 2015

Royal High School Preservation Trust statement

Royal High School Preservation Trust makes statement of intent to Edinburgh Council

Read More >