The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland unveils The Gleneagles Ensemble. Jazz students (from left) Mark Hendry, Matt Carmichael, Dominykas Snarskis and Tom Stephenson (Photo: Robbie McFadzean/RCS)
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland unveils The Gleneagles Ensemble. Jazz students (from left) Mark Hendry, Matt Carmichael, Dominykas Snarskis and Tom Stephenson (Photo: Robbie McFadzean/RCS)

Gleneagles Hotel jazzes it up with musical team

It’s a partnership that takes one of the world’s leading luxury hotels back to its jazz era roots — while playing a key part in nurturing young musicians in Scotland.

Five rising stars on the UK jazz scene, all students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), will shine in front of an international audience when they bring the mood of the roaring twenties to the world-renowned Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire.

Gleneagles is supporting four Undergraduate jazz students through the creation of The Gleneagles Ensemble. As the hotel’s in-house jazz band, Tom Stephenson (guitar), Matt Carmichael (saxophone), Mark Hendry (bass) and Dominykas Snarskis (drums) will entertain at a series of exclusive events over the coming months, putting a contemporary spin on the American and European songbook. They made their debut last week in London, at the launch of Gleneagles’ new luxury leather collection.

Award-winning jazz pianist Peter Johnstone is the recipient of the Gleneagles Scholarship, created to celebrate and support an exceptional performance student at the Royal Conservatoire. Jazz and Gleneagles share a rich heritage and make perfect bedfellows — when Peter and The Gleneagles Ensemble perform, they will celebrate the jazz age in the opulent, Art Deco-inspired surroundings of the hotel, which welcomed its first guests in 1924.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland unveils The Gleneagles Ensemble. Jazz students (from left) Mark Hendry, Matt Carmichael, Dominykas Snarskis and Tom Stephenson (Photo: Robbie McFadzean/RCS)

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: ‘The Gleneagles scholarship and ensemble is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate jazz, and its new artists, in Scotland. Our partnership with Gleneagles has been designed to nurture our student performers through a prestigious programme of scholarship and performance.

‘It’s a relationship built on our shared passion for excellence as world-class organisations located in Scotland. Gleneagles believes in the importance of investing in young people and the arts, and it is a pleasure to work together to create meaningful opportunities for next generation of performing artists.’

Professor Dr Tommy Smith, head of jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: ‘Jazz has a powerful presence in Scotland with a thriving scene that features many current, and former, musicians trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Students come from all over the globe to study on the first, and only, full-time jazz course in Scotland where they learn from inspiring educators and performers of the highest calibre, who are the world heavyweights of international jazz.

‘I’m looking forward to seeing Peter Johnstone, our Gleneagles Scholar, and The Gleneagles Ensemble – Tom Stephenson, Matt Carmichael, Mark Hendry and Dominykas Snarskis – continue to develop as artists with Gleneagles’ support.’

Conor O’Leary, Gleneagles’ general manager, said: ‘Gleneagles has a vibrant heritage of cultural engagement and musical performance — from Henry Hall, the great 1920s band leader who performed in our ballroom for live BBC radio broadcasts every weekend, to Oasis, who did their first ever recorded gig at the hotel in 1994.

‘Peter and the members of our newly formed Gleneagles Ensemble are walking in those hallowed footsteps and helping us to build on that rich cultural tradition, while enabling us to fulfil our ambition to support and enrich the educational journey of the next generation of world-class performing artists in Scotland.

‘We congratulate all five on their success and look forward to watching them make continued progress in their studies and careers.’

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland unveils new Gleneagles scholar, jazz pianist Peter Johnstone. (Photo: Robbie McFadzean/RCS)

Peter Johnstone, who is also an accomplished classical pianist and completed a Masters degree at the Royal Conservatoire in 2016, is now working towards a doctorate in jazz piano performance at Scotland’s national conservatoire, one of the world’s top performing arts education institutions. He will benefit from financial support during his studies and enjoy high-profile performance opportunities at Gleneagles and in Glasgow.

Peter, from Milngavie, said: ‘I feel enormously excited, and humbled, to be the new Gleneagles scholar. I’m incredibly grateful for the financial support which will enable me to continue my DPerf studies (Doctor of Performing Arts) at the Royal Conservatoire, focusing all of my attention on pursuing my musical goals.

‘I’m also looking forward to performing at such a unique place like Gleneagles, which attracts visitors from all over the world, and allowing the special nature of its performance spaces to shape my improvisations in new and exciting directions.’

Peter, who won the BBC Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year in 2012, regularly performs with his own trio, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the Tommy Smith Quartet and as part of collectives including Square One. He first began playing piano at the age of five and picked up the trumpet as a second study at the age of eight. He was part of the first cohort of the Royal Conservatoire’s Jazz course which was established in 2009.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Gleneagles joined forces in 2016 to support and showcase the next generation of performing artists. The partnership also creates performance opportunities for students including a programme of events at Gleneagles and an annual symphony orchestra concert at the City Halls in Glasgow. Peter is the second recipient of the scholarship, following opera singer Jerome Knox.