Associate artist to mentor Scotland’s top young musicians

A creative force on the Scottish music scene will help nurture the next generation of traditional musicians in a new artistic role at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Mike Vass, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and arranger, is the first associate artist in traditional music at Scotland’s national conservatoire, where he’ll mentor young musicians on the four-year traditional music degree.

The associate artist programme at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland sees renowned musical figures become a central part of the institution’s artistic community, working intensively with students, and sharing their work with audiences.

Mike Vass said: ‘It’s a real privilege to accept the role of the first Associate Artist for Traditional Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In my musical pursuits over the past fifteen-plus years, I have had the great fortune of collaborating with, and learning from, many outstanding RCS alumni, who continue to make great contributions to the wider traditional music scene and to Scottish culture.

‘I’m really excited to get to work with such talented and committed students over the next two years and look forward to sharing my ideas and enthusiasm as they explore their own musical paths.’

Professor Joshua Dickson, head of Traditional Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: ‘Composer, fiddler, producer and arranger Mike Vass is one of the most exciting talents in Scottish music and we are delighted to welcome him to the Royal Conservatoire as our first associate artist.

‘It is important for our students to encounter and work with diverse musical voices in the scene today, and Mike’s passion and generosity are a great example for them as they follow their own career paths.’

Mike Vass, RCS Associate Artist in Traditional Music with student and guitarist Miguel Girão (Photo: Robert McFadzean/RCS)

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland offers the UK’s only Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree dedicated to traditional and folk music. The curriculum recognises that the innovative nature of Scottish traditional music today must be embraced, and that for traditional music to flourish from one generation to another, the creative development of the individual must go hand-in-hand with an understanding of its roots. It’s interwoven with a solid basis in contemporary and eclectic performance practice.

Graduates of the programme include:

Iona Fyfe: singer, MG ALBA Scots Trad Awards Musician 2021
Hannah Rarity: singer, BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2018
Benedict Morris: fiddler, BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2019
Eryn Rae: fiddler, BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2022
Finlay MacDonald: Director of Piping for the National Piping Centre

The associate artist programme for traditional music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will initially invite one artist for a two-year residency that involves one-to-one coaching and mentorship and artistic project direction leading to a public performance project every academic year.

  • Hear Mike talk about his new post HERE.

Professor Dickson added: ‘Uniquely to our department, we will then invite a second associate artist featuring complementary skillsets for an additional two-year residency beginning in the first Artist’s second year.

‘Thereafter, the department maintains two parallel and complementary residencies at any one time. This gives the artists the potential to collaborate with each other and maximise their ability to reach all our students. With collaboration at the heart of our overlapping two-year residency plan, our associate artists will share their knowledge and craft with students across the department and allow different disciplines within Traditional Music – and beyond – to benefit from their teaching.’

Professor Dickson said the aspiration is to see renowned artists from the folk and traditional world become a central part of the RCS creative community, working intensively with students and sharing their work with an international audience.

He added: ‘As a young musician, it’s rare to spend one-on-one or small-group time with major artists and tradition-bearers with the space and time required to develop ideas, understanding and mentorship at degree level – this opportunity is what we aim to achieve.’

For more information on Mike Vass, visit his website.

Visit the RCS website for more information on the traditional music degree and its alumni.