Lews Students Recognised at Na Trad Awards

Ahead of the Na Trad Awards this December, Lews Castle College UHIs Programme Leader for the BA (Hons) Applied Music Anna Wendy Stevenson discusses why these awards are so important to a music industry devastated by the Covid pandemic and celebrates our students recognised for their talent.

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BA Applied Music students

This year has been one of the most challenging for musicians whose livelihoods often rely on a cocktail of contact – much of it close, ranging from rehearsing or teaching, to significant amounts of travel, to engaging with large and changing audiences.  Yet few can fail to have witnessed the adaptability and resilience demonstrated by so many musicians and musical communities as the internet has been flooded with online performances, classes and conferences. Indeed, as my grandmother says, ‘how would we have managed COVID without the internet?’.  The internet, no matter how much we lament the lack of face to face contact, has kept individuals and musicians connected and creative, wherever they are. 

Now more than ever it is important to celebrate this commitment and talent and we are delighted to announce, for a second year in a row the sponsorship arrangements on behalf of the University of the Highlands and Islands of the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. A televised ‘Oscar like’ ceremony, the awards celebrate the achievements of individuals, communities and businesses that make up and support the traditional music world in Scotland. We know the huge impact that music activity has on many local economies and communities, for example Hebcelt Festival, Eilean Dorcha, and Ceolas here in the Western Isles.

 It is fitting that UHI, which spans a geographic region rich in traditional music, is sponsoring the event.  As leaders in innovative curriculum design using blended learning, UHI is at the forefront of music education in the UK, from further to higher education, it is fitting to sponsor the category of Musician of the Year

Lews Castle College UHI has played a role in the education and development of many of the top names in traditional music world through our courses and within local communities.  Many of these former students appear in the final lists for the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, and we would look forward to re-uniting with them at the award ceremony. 

In the Musician of the Year category this year we are delighted to see a graduate of the BA (Hons) Applied Music, Peter Wood, in the list of finalists in this category.  Peter is an accordionist, composer and piper and teaches in the schools in Shetland.  He has taken the internet by storm with his ‘Tunes in the Hoose’ series which he broadcasts daily, reaching audiences across the globe.  His ‘Tunes in the Hoose’ also sees him in the final list for community project of the year, alongside the fantastic Comhairle Cèilidhs. 

In the Album of the Year category – Ewen Henderson -multi-instrumentalist and composer and performer with bands including Manran and is finalist for his album ‘Steall’ which features a range of mostly self-penned tunes, alongside some lesser-known Gaelic songs.  Ewen is currently enrolled on the MA Music and the Environment.  Like several other professional musicians, following the advent of COVID, Ewen joined the cohort of national and international students enrolled on the MA Music and the Environment.

Lews Castle College UHI has a lot to be proud of as developers of music provision that is innovative and facilitates a student-focused approach, enabling students to learn from their own homes and to fit their studies around their lives and adventures.  Our BA (Hons) Applied Music ran its first ‘virtual residency’ in 2014 and the team now acts as consults for other institutions weathering the COVID storm this year.  The National Student Survey results of 100% student satisfaction for consecutive years is testament to the quality of experience.  A huge part of this experience is the blend of contemporary and traditional, online and face to face, with several residency opportunities in the Outer Hebrides, from Uist to Stornoway.  Locating curriculum leadership within the Hebrides, reaching out and delivering internationally whilst offering opportunities to engage student cohorts in face to face environments, puts the Outer Hebrides at the centre of the music and education world. 

This year’s MG Alba Scots Trad Music awards will be different – resilient and adaptable like our musicians and our education programmes.  The awards will be online and supported by online performances, and I will attend without the winter fear of getting stuck in the snow or missing a ferry.  Congratulations to Hands up for Trad for another year of celebrating success.  Next year – hopefully - we will be celebrating being able to celebrate together in person.

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. Between 1pm and 9pm on Saturday the 12th, you will be able to watch a day of live Scottish trad music including Kinnaris Quintet, Dallahan, Inyal, Paul McKenna Band, Ryan Young and Jenn Butterworth and many more here: https://youtu.be/amByvVzxl5E.

You can vote here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/tradawards2020