It has helped more than 200,000 children from all over Scotland in the past 24 past years.

The Celtic Connections education programme has benefitted youngsters, including some of the professional musicians now breaking through on stage.

Now Europe's premier folk and roots music festival, will present its renowned education programme in person for the first time since January 2020.

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With school concerts, a special 30th edition gig and an array of workshops, the festival’s education programme continues to inspire the next generation of musicians and music lovers alike.

More than 6000 children from across Scotland will attend three free schools concerts at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall this winter.

Peat & Diesel will showcase their award-winning live performance to thousands of school children on Friday 20th January. The Stornoway three-piece have gone from playing sessions at their local pub to becoming world-famous across social media and on the UK touring circuit. Opening for Peat & Diesel will be Ron Jappy and Rachel Hair who will perform an exciting array of traditional tunes on clarsach and guitar.

HeraldScotland: Québec’s Le Vent Du Nord will perform for young audiences at Celtic ConnectionsQuébec’s Le Vent Du Nord will perform for young audiences at Celtic Connections (Image: Celtic Connections)

Québec’s Le Vent Du Nord will entertain the young crowds. Although rooted in the Celtic diaspora, Le Vent Du Nord’s sound has a vast range of global influences and their live performance at previous school concerts has had teachers and pupils dancing in the aisles.  Opening this show will be the St Roch’s Céilí Band. Formed over 40 years ago by Frank McArdle as a lunchtime club in a Royston secondary school, this organisation is now responsible for teaching traditional music to hundreds of children across Glasgow.

The third and final schools concert will be a joint celebration that marks Celtic Connections’ 30th edition but also its pioneering education programme. Over 30 young musicians will come together from regions across Scotland, showcasing their home traditions before premièring a brand-new ensemble composition by Treacherous Orchestra co-founder John Somerville.

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Mr Somerville, said: “The Celtic Connections education programme has always been the jewel in the crown of the festival, not only does it inspire future generations of musicians but it also gives young people the opportunity to experience live music in an incredible setting like the Glasgow Royal Concert hall - an opportunity they may not have had otherwise.

“Playing a Celtic Connections schools concert to thousands of kids is absolutely unforgettable, you will never hear cheers like it or feel an energy similar, you literally feel how Ed Sheeran must feel walking out onto that stage and I can’t wait for the thirty young musicians with me on this bill to feel the same.”

Joining Mr Somerville and the young musicians on the final schools concert will be Scottish super group Session A9.

There will also be a series of taster workshops taking place in schools across Glasgow. Professional celtic musicians will introduce a variety of traditional means of expression to children, including Scots and Gaelic song, piping demonstrations and workshops, scottish step dance, alongside instrumental tuition featuring the tin whistle, bodhran, fiddle and clarsach. 

There will also be a host of weekend workshops throughout the festival, these will include Gaelic, Gospel and Scots song, as well as a family ceilidh that will all take place in the beautiful surroundings of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall will also host weekend workshops for all ages, including music workshops for guitar, strings, ukulele, mandolin, accordion and banjo.

For pre-school ages and babies, there will also be the very special Moon Dragon classes. These interactive workshops carry their young audience on a journey of discovery as they watch and interact with Bertie the Moon Dragon, Mrs Unicorn, the Owls and Frogs all trying to find the Moon and to get him to rise in time for the night. Rachel Huggins and Corrina Hewat bring live music together with catchy tunes, magical storytelling and the simple but effective story of Bertie the Moon Dragon to young audiences.

Donald Shaw, Creative Producer of Celtic Connections, said: “When I was growing up carrying a fiddle or an accordion on your back was considered really uncool but over the last number of years this has completely changed - we see so many young people with a desire to learn an instrument, which is heart-warming to see. I do think that this is in part thanks to the work that has been done by the likes of the Celtic Connections education programme and the Fèisean movement across Scotland. 

“It’s really quite mind-blowing to think that over the last two decades over 200,000 children have had the opportunity to enjoy the generosity of so many iconic and amazing bands and artists who have given freely of their time for school concerts at the festival over the years. I’m sure that this experience has been the inspiration for many to go on and become great musicians themselves.”

Chair of Glasgow Life, Bailie Annette Christie said: “The importance of music to the personal development of children is well documented. Countless studies have recognised the incredibly positive impact that music has on the young mind and emphasised its positive benefits to the wellbeing of young people.  That’s why the outstanding legacy of educational programmes that Celtic Connections has created over the years is so vital."

Celtic Connections will take place between Thursday 19th January – Sunday 5th February 2023. The internationally renowned event will mark its 30th edition.