St Mary's Music School
|Type||Independent day and boarding
Specialist music school
|Director of Music||Paul Stubbings|
|Location||25 Grosvenor Crescent
St Mary's Music School is a music school in Scotland in Edinburgh, for boys and girls aged 9 to 19 and is also the Choir School of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral. The school provides education for children with a special talent in music, and is Scotland's only full-time specialist music school. Up to 76 full-time pupils come from many different backgrounds and from all parts of the country, as well as the rest of the UK and abroad. Up to 33 are boarders and the 22 choristers are day pupils.
Entry to the school is by audition and assessment, based on musical ability and potential and regardless of personal circumstances. Scottish Government funding, up to 100%, is available through the statutory Aided Places scheme to assist with the cost of tuition and boarding fees. The school draws pupils from many different backgrounds, from all parts of Scotland and abroad. Boarding Facilities are available.
The school operates a large chamber orchestra, a Junior String Sinfonia and a string ensemble which develops string players. Jazz and Traditional Scottish Music feature in both specialist ensembles and in Jazz and Scottish Music Days. Students perform regularly throughout Edinburgh and beyond. In addition to internal lunchtime concerts, students perform at the Queen’s Hall, Jam House, Kirks, Cathedral and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. Students also are requested to play at many civic occasions including Royalty, the Scottish Parliament and other public events such as NATO visit to Edinburgh
In addition, students regularly play in external youth orchestras such as the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra, National Children’s Orchestra of Scotland, National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
Students also have the opportunity to form their own bands such as the contemporary folk-fusion band Kilairum.
The school day is from 8.30am until 5pm (3.30 on Wednesdays and 4.30 on Fridays) - and there is no study leave. The School is regularly at the top of Scotland’s academic league tables. St Mary's Music School was named as Scottish Independent Secondary School of the Year in 2007 and its academic results are consistently excellent. The 2011 pass rate is 100% for Standard Grade, Advanced Higher and A level exams and 94.6% for Highers. A former Music Director, Nigel Murray, wrote in 1994 that the self-discipline acquired in the devotion to the mastery of an art as self-fulfilling as Music was bound to have a beneficial effect on the rest of the pupil's work and play. Murray continued that if he had a motto for St Mary's Music School it would be the words of the great Italian pianist Ferruccio Busoni,;
"He who is only a musician is no musician".
All pupils proceed to higher education and most generally go on to conservatoires or universities, this is usually but not always to study music. Of 11 pupils going directly to Higher Education in 2013, nine are continuing to Conservatoires or University music departments. Two are studying subjects other than music and three in total are attending Cambridge. Many established alumni now pursue international careers, retaining contact with the School.
St Mary’s Music School was founded as the Song School of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in 1880 to educate choristers for the newly built St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. At that time the school was located at Old Coates House and the adjacent Song School Building both within the Cathedral precincts.
In 1970 Dennis Townhill and the Provost, Philip Crosfield, became the driving force of a plan not only to safeguard the future of the Choir School of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh but to transform it into a new and vibrant entity. In 1972 the school was expanded into a specialist music school on the lines of the Yehudi Menuhin School, with Lord Menuhin becoming patron and referring to it as "my younger sister-school in Scotland". The school educates young instrumentalists, composers and singers. In 1976 the choir was opened to girls. In 1995, the music school moved out of the Cathedral Grounds and into its current location at Coates Hall.
St Mary's is a member of the UK Music and Dance Excellence (MADE) Schools and is similar to other specialist music schools throughout Europe such as the Dresden Music Gymnasium; Sächsisches Landesgymnasium für Musik "Carl Maria von Weber". The current President is Professor John Wallace, a trumpet player and principle of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Patron is the composer James MacMillan.
Coates Hall was originally designed by David Bryce for Sheriff Napier in 1850 as a small Baronial house. In 1891 the building was bought by the Scottish Episcopal Church for use as the Edinburgh Theological College and enlarged by Sydney Mitchell adding a late gothic chapel. In 1913 Robert Lorimer added a storey to the main block much improving the whole group.
In 1995 Coates Hall was sold to St Mary’s Music School and houses the (de-consecrated) chapel which is used for concerts. The Chapel contains three stained glass windows. by J. Ninian Cooper which includes Scotland's first saints;. St Columba and St Ninian. The school also has two libraries, staff offices, bedrooms for boarding pupils, and around 30 music practice rooms. Academic subjects are mainly taught in two modern buildings within the school grounds.
The school is surrounded by gardens in the heart of Edinburgh's West End and has good transport connections due to its proximity to Haymarket railway station.
The Song School within the nearby Cathedral precinct is still used by the Choristers for daily practice, where they are surrounded by beautiful murals by Phoebe Anna Traquair. It was these murals (1888–92), which won Traquair national recognition. Within a tunnelled ceiling interior the East Wall depicts the cathedral clergy and choir. The South depicts Traquair’s admired contemporaries such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and George Frederic Watts; the North, birds and choristers sing together. The West shows the four beasts singing the Sanctus.
Director's Recital Prize
This annual prize, funded by the Directors of St Mary's was inaugurated with the aim of providing pupils with the experience of public solo performance in a competitive situation. In 2013 there were 27 entries, with four finalists performing in St Mary's Cathedral. Recital prize winners were;
- 2001 Philip Higham (cello)
- 2002 Julia Rogers (violin)
- 2003 Kirstie Campbell (saxophone)
- 2004 Gillian Maitland (percussion)
- 2005 Christopher Guild (piano)
- 2006 Esther Swift (harp)
- 2007 David Gray (piano)
- 2008 Taylor MacLennan (flute)
- 2009 Emily Hoile (harp)
- 2010 Jakub Gutkowski (piano)
- 2011 Sarah Park (piano)
- 2012 Bethany Crockett (piano)
- 2013 Morag Robertson (viola)
Notable former pupils
- Alexander Armstrong - comedian, actor and presenter best known for The Armstrong and Miller Show
- Alan Benzie – pianist; winner, BBC Scotland Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2007
- Monica Brett-Crowther – mezzo-soprano 
- Daisy Chute singer – member of All Angels
- Paul Galbraith – guitarist
- Helen Grime - Oboeist and Composer 
- Susan Hamilton – soprano
- David Horne – composer
- Mike Peden- Record Producer
- Steven Osborne – pianist
- Andrew Robb – Double Bass; winner, BBC Scotland Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2009
- Garry Walker – conductor
- Overview of the musical pre-college phase in the United Kingdom, retrieved 2009-10-20
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- Nigel Murray & Neil Cox; The Musical Times Vol 135 No 1814, April 1994 pp247-248
- St Mary's Music School; Leavers' Recital 2013
- Obituary (Times) of Dr Denis Townhill retrieved 2009-11-02
- Obituary of Dr Denis Townhill retrieved 2009-11-02
- Carol Main, Musical Heirs show such a perfect tribute to Menuhin, Evening News, June 29, 1999
- Music and Dance Excellence Schools, retrieved 2009-10-20
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- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Retrieved 2009-11-04
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- Susan Swarbrick (2003-11-29). "Portrait Name: Monica Brett-Crowther CV: Opera singer". The Herald. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
- Cornwell, Tim (2010-03-31). "How this 28-year-old Scot wrote some of best classical music of 21st century". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2010-03-31.
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