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If you would like to find out more, including information about the Aided Places Scheme, please email admissions@st-marys-music-school.co.uk




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Improvisation Summer School 2024

Applications are now open. Please click on the link below to complete the application form:

Application Form

Summer 2024 will see the very first Improvisation Summer course at St Mary’s Music School. 

St Mary's Music School will be hosting our very first Improvisation Summer School in August 2024!

Led by Hilary Michael and assisted by Anna Michels, this is a wonderful and unique opportunity for young musicians to explore the art of improvisation and its endless possibilities in a caring and supportive environment.  

Whether you’ve improvised before or are completely new to it, you will get the chance to develop your skills and confidence as well as play with other musicians, having a lot of fun along the way. You will explore different musical styles, picking up skills and insights from two very experienced and versatile musicians, and tap into your own musical personality to unleash the creative musician inside. 

Who can apply?

The Improvisation Summer School is a non-residential course taking place on 10 & 11 August and is open to pupils aged 10 to 18 who have at least two years experience playing an instrument. There are only 16 places available so book now to avoid disappointment. 

The course programme includes:

  • exploring a variety of musical styles in which to improvise from Baroque to contemporary
  • using existing harmonic frameworks to experiment with melodic ideas
  • trying out different rhythmic patterns and grooves
  • playing solo as well as improvising in different instrument combinations
  • using non-musical stimuli such as art and nature
  • the opportunity to discuss the many and varied aspects of improvisation

Key Staff

Course Director: Hilary Michael

Scottish violinist and saxophonist Hilary Michael studied with Richard Deakin (violin) and Martin Speake (sax) at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating in 2006 with a 1st class BMus (Hons). She then returned to the Academy for a 2-year Postgraduate Diploma in Historical Performance, studying the Baroque violin with Pavlo Beznosiuk. Whilst at the RAM she won the Mica Comberti Bach Prize, performed Mendelssohn’s Concerto in D minor for Violin and Strings with the Becket Ensemble and David Watkin, led the RAM Baroque Ensemble and was the winner of the 2008 Early Music Prize.

For the past 15 years Hilary has enjoyed a busy freelance career performing and recording all over the world with groups such as Dunedin Consort, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Orchestre Romantique et Revolutionnaire, the Avison Ensemble, the Gabrieli Consort, La Serenissima and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. She has also been the Leader/Director of The Kellie Consort, a group set up by Tom Wilkinson to give music students and recent graduates experience in period instrument performance.

Alongside performing, Hilary has continued to work in Jazz education, most notably as the strings tutor on the Richard Michael Summer Jazz Course for the past 21 years. She is a regular visiting tutor to the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra,  has taught on improvisation workshops for Making Music and was the woodwind tutor for “Mistakes Are Cool”; the Glasgow Schools Jazz Orchestra, for 7 years.

For the past 8 years Hilary has been a chamber music coach at St Mary’s Music School (where she was formerly a pupil for 3 years) with a focus on Historical Performance Practice. She also directs the Early Music Group and is part of the Jazz Faculty and teaches Jazz violin, Aural and Improvisation to the senior students.


Course Assistant: Anna Michels

Praised by critic David Smythe for her ability to “dance across the keys with spirit”, Anna Michels is a Scottish-Dutch pianist who combines her love of performing and teaching in a multi-faceted career.

Anna is a graduate of Maastricht Conservatoire where she studied a double Bachelor in Piano with Dr. Katia Veekmans, and Music Theory with Dr. David Lodewyckx and Inge Pasmans. During her time in the Netherlands, Anna was a prizewinner of international competitions, both as a soloist and chamber musician. These include prizes at the Prinses Christina Concours, the International Anton Garcia Abril Chamber Music Competition, the International Swedish Duo Competition, the Scando Vocallis Lied Duo Prize, and the Maastricht Concerto Competition.

Her passion for unearthing hidden treasures of the classical repertoire, with a focus on Scottish composer Ronald Center, has culminated in giving lecture-recitals internationally, including at the London International Piano Symposium and Musica Scotica Conference.

Born in Scotland, Anna began piano lessons at the age of seven, and studied with Professor Heather Slade Lipkin at the Junior Academy of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, before moving to St Mary’s Music School in 2013. There she made her debut concerto performance with Schumann’s Piano Concerto in the Edinburgh Music Festival Final, as well as winning the Director’s Recital Prize. She was a prizewinner of numerous national competitions, including the Rotary “Young Musician Competition”.

Anna is a recipient of the Cross Trust and was awarded the Falkirk Civic Trust ‘Young
Personality of the Year’. She is currently studying for her Master’s in Piano Performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with Head of Keyboard, Aaron Shorr. 

Location and Facilities 

The School is located right in the heart of the stunning city of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland and home to the world-famous Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. 

Access to the School is easy with a quick journey by tram, bus or taxi from Edinburgh International Airport which is just 20 minutes away and has direct access to airports throughout the UK and abroad. Haymarket train station is just two minutes walk away. 


Financial Support

The Improvisation Summer School is a non-residential course over two days (10 and 11 August) with a fee of £135. You should bring a packed lunch on both days. 

Funding is available towards fees and travel expenses. Please contact Dr JoAnna Collings, Bursar at bursar@smms.uk for more information.  


Applications are now open. Please click on the link below to complete the application form:

Application Form

Please note the closing date for applications is 10 June 2024.

If you have any questions, please contact our admissions department.  


"In improvisation, there are no mistakes" - Miles Davis


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St Mary’s Music School is one of the nine specialist Music and Dance Schools the UK (and the only one in Scotland)  funded by the UK Government and providing the finest training in Britain. It is a co-educational, non-denominational specialist music school, offering a world class standard of music and academic education to musically gifted children aged 9-19 years. It is also the Choir School of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh. It attracts day and boarding pupils from across Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Europe and internationally. 

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