NOW in its 40th year, the Music School of Douglas Academy has every reason to celebrate having given numerous musicians a solid foundation to build stellar careers. Former pupils have been snapped up by orchestras around the country while others have gone on to shine as soloists in a range of genres. They include the Ayoub Sisters, who have been thrilling audiences with their blend of classic and crossover sounds.

There is also Rachel Redmond, whose “spitfire” performance in English Touring Opera’s staging of The Marriage of Figaro saw her named as the star of the show last year and who currently lives in Paris and performs with Les Arts Florissants under William Christie. Then there are conductors Christian Curnyn and Rory MacDonald, composer Tom Harold, Scottish National Orchestra chief executive Alistair Mackie, Shetland fiddler Chris Stout, who is recognised as one of the most exciting fiddle players of his generation, and pianist Jill Morton whose performances have taken her throughout the UK and across Europe.

Two of the first pupils were Jamie MacDougall, tenor and presenter on BBC Radio Scotland, and singer, composer and clarsach player Mary Ann Kennedy, a presenter of BBC Alba.

As part of the 40th Anniversary year, there is a joint concert planned for March with the three other Scottish music schools at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. The City of Edinburgh Music School is on the verge of celebrating its 40th anniversary while the Plockton High School and Aberdeen City Music School have nearly 40 years between them.

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Before then there is an open day on November 6 at the Music School at Douglas Academy when prospective pupils and parents can come and find out what is on offer.

“it’s a chance for anyone to come and see the school and learn some more about it from myself and a couple of the tutors as well as hear a short concert” said course director Mark Evans. “It’s important for visitors to hear the students as that helps to give people a real idea of what goes on here. They can also look around and chat to the students about their experiences and then decide whether to apply.”

There are 49 pupils at the music school from all over Scotland with residential pupils staying in the pristine accommodation at Knightswood Secondary which the Music School shares with the Dance School of Scotland.

Wind, brass, percussion and strings are all taught at the school, which also has a very strong piano department at the moment and is looking to develop the strings even further , particularly violas.

“There seems to be a nationwide lack of violas at the moment so with our new viola teacher we are looking to see if we can do something about that”, said Mr Evans.

The majority of the music school pupils go on to further study of music, although some choose to keep their playing or singing as a hobby to pursue a more academic route. “Douglas Academy is a very good school and in the top 10 per cent nationally for its results, which makes us very attractive for a lot of people.” Said Mr Evans. “music students tend to do well academically and ours are in the top  five to 10 per cent within the school because the are learning transferable skills and have to be organised and disciplined.”

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The school was setup in 1979 by Strathclyde Regional Council in response to the Cameron Report on Gifted Young Musicians and Dancers which recommended that specialist courses should be provided for musically gifted pupils in an existing comprehensive school. In the specialist course, while particular attention is paid to the development of a pupil’s principal instrumental study, it is also the aim to provide an all-round musical training and develop the pupil as a whole artist.

Music specialists are presented for the SQA Higher Music and Advance Higher Music examinations as well as A level, and many also achieve distinction in the grade examinations as well as A level, and many also achieve distinction in the grade examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Opportunities also exist for pupils to obtain professional preforming diplomas while still at school.

Tutors are largely drawn from the staff of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Opera and professional musicians based in Glasgow.

There are links with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where some pupils can participate in masterclasses. There are also opportunities to hear some of the many professional music recitals and converts in the Glasgow area.

Despite the quality of the teaching, the students don’t have to pay for anything, not even residential accommodation fees.

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Applications for the school should be made by the end of January. Those accepted benefit from one-on-one instrumental lessons in two instruments, as well as classes in composition, theory and harmony, aural musicianship and music history, chamber music and ensembles.

Pupils of the Music School are regularly members of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland, the West of Scotland Schools Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band, the National Youth Choirs of Scotland and Scottish Opera Young Company.

Extra-curricular activities include the chamber orchestra, senior choir, chambers choir, first orchestra, junior choir, wind band and second orchestra.