The acclaimed composer Sir James MacMillan has launched a centre for the learning and teaching of composition in his home town of Cumnock, East Ayrshire through his festival, The Cumnock Tryst, in partnership with exam board Trinity College London.
A longtime mentor and champion of new composing talent, and with a lifelong passion for the former coal-mining town in which he found his love of music, the new centre is the realisation of a dream for Sir James.
‘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,’ he said at the opening of the new Barony campus in Cumnock. ‘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.’
Housed within the huge community of combined schools, community spaces and learning facilities at the Barony Campus, the new centre aims to provide support for composition teachers and students throughout the world through digital courses and workshops.
Trinity College has had a strong relationship with The Cumnock Tryst since 2019 when the joint ‘Flow Gently’ project produced new compositions from Advance Higher Music students and their teacher at Auchinleck Academy. Mentored by Sir James and composer Jennifer Martin over three months, the students wrote pieces for clarinet quartet, which were performed by Mr McFall’s Chamber as part of a celebration of Robert Burns’ life.
Sponsorship from Trinity also resulted in new pieces from two students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and other new works for young dancers.
In this, the centre’s first year, the partnership with Trinity will expand to include a new book and ‘Build it Loud’ a composition project for Advanced Higher Music students at Cumnock’s Robert Burns Academy. Here they will mentor 15 students as they compose pieces specially commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s brass quintet.
The completed works are planned to be performed and recorded at a live event within Cumnock’s Robert Burns Academy when restrictions are lifted and will become part of the Trinity College London online archive of compositions.
The book that Trinity has commissioned is aimed at young composers and their teachers and will be written by Sir James and Jennifer Martin at to support secondary school students and teachers.
Stuart Pearce, Trinity’s Director of UK & Ireland markets, said, ‘Trinity’s relationship with Sir James and the Cumnock Tryst is very important to us and we are delighted to be able to support this invaluable and ground-breaking work. The publication of this book is a wonderful way to underpin the centre of excellence initiative and we look forward to a long and valuable collaboration, making a real difference to the lives of young musicians everywhere.’