Still hitting the high notes during lockdown

Pupils join their tutor Thomas Barnes for a group session.

Want to read more?

We value our content and our journalists, so to get full access to all your local news updated 7-days-a-week – PLUS an e-edition of the Arran Banner – subscribe today for as little as 48 pence per week.

Already a subscriber?


Subscribe Now

Adapting to online learning

Despite challenging and uncertain times, Isle of Arran Music School (AMS) has continued to develop and has successfully adapted its tuition to online learning.

After the schools were closed by the government, the AMS committee and the tutors developed a timetable and invested in Zoom, a video-conferencing tool.

The tutors have also created videos which the students can access through a YouTube channel, giving them a chance to ‘play along’ with the tutors between lessons.

The tutors trialled this for four weeks, which concluded at the end of March, even giving lessons during the Easter holidays. AMS has had positive feedback from parents and students and the tutors and are pleased to announce this will continue for as long as there are restrictions or to the end of the school year.

Head teacher Shirley MacLachan said: ‘Learning online via Zoom has been a completely new skill for the children to adapt to. As ever, they have done so with enthusiasm. Their weekly lessons continue, thanks to the great skills and dedication of their wonderful tutors. Well done to everyone for making this happen.’

AMS committee member Alistair Paul, who also runs Arran Fiddle Club which is also providing online lessons, added: ‘Fiddle lessons have continued online. As soon as the lockdown began, tutor Lynsey Tait started posting video lessons for her classes and has been supplementing these with video calls where extra help is needed. A number of young players have posted videos of their playing online as part of #COVIDceilidh, an initiative set up to connect traditional musicians throughout Scotland during the lockdown.’

AMS, a charitable organisation established in 2017, runs in partnership with island schools. Its core purpose is to provide young people with high quality teaching and learning alongside musical experiences. The focus is around traditional Scottish music making.

The organisation primarily works with young people but may look at music provision for adults in coming months if demand exists.

AMS trustees and committee members meet regularly to drive forward developments. This includes seeking funding to keep lessons and experiences as cost free as possible and looking at ways of working in partnership with other organisations including Isle of Arran Pipe Band, Arran Fiddle Club and Feis Arrain.

Fundraising through grants and donations continues to be a large part of ensuring AMS is operationally viable and sustainable.

A vital part of its funding came from an anonymous island donor who injected life into the music school in 2017. The donor pledged around £50,000 which propelled the organisation into life.

Now this funding has come to its planned conclusion and as the group enters its fourth year with new vigour and determination to continue, a range of approaches to ensure it continues to sustain and grow its music programmes will be embarked upon through grants and fundraising.

AMS is delivering pipes and drum lessons to 63 young people across all island schools – 36 pipers and 27 drummers – and 11 clarsach players.

The last word must go to the man who has been the creative force behind the music school, James O’Neil.

He said: ‘The committee and young people thank everyone who has contributed their time and/or resources, little or large, into ensuring the concept has become a reality and to continue providing young people across Arran with musical experiences in an equitable and exciting approach.’


Tutor Emma Durkan plays the the clarsach, fiddle and sings. 01_B20AMS01

Tutor Ross Miller plays the bagpipes, sings and plays the whistle and the classical trombone. 01_B20AMS02

Tutor Thomas Barnes plays the snare drum and plays for Glasgow-based pipe band ScottishPower. 01_B20AMS03

AMS pupils competed in the Scottish Schools Pipe and Drums Trust championship. 01_B20AMS04

Lisa Henderson practises the clarsach with tutor Emma Durkan.  01_B20AMS05

Scott MacAllister plays the clarsach with tutor Emma Durkan. 01_B20AMS06

Andrew Currie plays the drums with tutor Thomas Barnes.  01_B20AMS07

Fergus West plays the drum under the watchful eye of tutor Thomas Barnes. 01_B20AMS08

Megan Green prepares for her drum lesson. 01_B20AMS09

Pupils join their tutor Thomas Barnes for a group session. 01_B20AMS10

Erin McNiven joins tutor Ross Miller online. 01_B20AMS11

Piper Reece Ferguson joins tutor Ross Miller for his lesson. 01_B20AMS12

Charlie Adams prepares for his piping lesson with tutor Ross Miller. 01_B20AMS13

Piper Freya McNicol prepares for her online lesson. 01_B20AMS14

Cameron McCallum ready for his piping lesson. 01_B20AMS15

The music school logo. 01_B20AMS16