Sir James Macmillan Launches Cumnock as New Centre of Excellence in Composition

Acclaimed Ayrshire born composer and conductor, Sir James MacMillan, has launched a major initiative that aims to put Scotland centre stage in the world of composition.

Delivered through his festival The Cumnock Tryst, and in partnership with Trinity College London, who already enjoy a close working relationship, it is anticipated that over the next ten years Cumnock will become an internationally renowned centre of excellence for composition. Its aim is to support composers at the beginning of their careers; those teaching composition in schools; composers studying within higher education and young composers still at school.

MacMillan, alongside his continued contribution to the world of classical music as a composer, has long been a champion of emerging composers, mentoring individuals, supporting music provision in schools and commissioning and premiering new works at the Cumnock Tryst.

He said about the project, “It has long been an ambition of mine to take all the experience and learnings we have built over many years of teaching composition in the schools around Cumnock and East Ayrshire and make those available to teachers and students further afield. Teachers are under an incredible amount of pressure and for many, composition is a challenging topic to tackle. We’ve seen fantastic results at both primary and secondary school levels through our work here and feel we can really help support and empower those tasked with teaching composition in our schools across the UK.

 “The resources we create will not just be focused on teachers, but also support students studying composition at a higher education level or even self-taught. As part of our work to date we have mentored many emerging composers and supported some incredible talent nurtured here in Cumnock, such as Jay Capperauld and Electra Perivolaris through commissions for our festival, the Cumnock Tryst. …”

The first year of this new partnership is delivering a school-based composition project called Build It Loud that is a Composition Project for Advanced Higher Music Students at Cumnock’s Robert Burns Academy, holding the theme of the connection between the creative processes in both music and architecture. Each young composer is being mentored by James and Jennifer along with a composition student from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as they write a new piece for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Brass Quintet.

 When restrictions allow, all of the completed works will be performed and recorded in a live event within the Robert Burns Academy in 2021. The works by the young composers will then be collated in a growing archive of music written by pupils in East Ayrshire and in due course, it is hoped made available to teachers and students via the Trinity College London website.

Trinity College London has also commissioned a new book, to be launched at The Cumnock Tryst Festival in October 2021, from James MacMillan and fellow composer and Chief Executive of the Cumnock Tryst, Jennifer Martin, for music teachers and young composers to illustrate the compositional process and to support those teaching and learning composition in the upper years of secondary school.

Irene Brown

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