University of the Highlands and Islands: Enjoying Student Successes At The MG Alba Scots Traditional Music Awards

Ahead of the annual awards that celebrates and showcases the incredible talent that drives the traditional music industry in Scotland, Simon Bradley, programme leader of the university’s music and the environment masters course praises those recognised in nominations and reflects on their pathway.

‘Hands up for Trad’

This year this annual event returns to Glasgow on Saturday 4 December. Broadcast live from the Engine Works on BBC ALBA at 9pm, the award ceremony is one of the most anticipated in Scotland’s thriving traditional music culture.

Supporting and celebrating talent

Ahead of the ceremony, organised superbly by Hands up for Trad, I want to wish all the nominees well on the night and congratulate them on being recognised for their achievements.

Once again, we have a fantastic group of music students and alumni that feature strongly in this year’s nominations. Each have studied with us in the 10 years since we have been delivering the BA (Hons) applied music degree and progression pathways for graduates.

Musical activity in Scotland connects communities in a myriad of ways and has a powerful significance to our cultural landscape, heritage and people. At the university we recognise the important in bringing together industry with our students, and through our curriculum continue to develop novel collaborations with industry to unlock professional opportunity and practical support for our students.


Sheila Sapkota
Meet Sheila Sapkota. An alumnus from the Scottish Borders, she graduated from the BA applied music degree in 2018 and then progressing to the music and the environment masters programme. Her studies culminated in a final masters project that inspired the ‘Two Towns Housing Estate Youth Musical Outreach’, nominated in the community project of the year award, sponsored by Greentrax Recordings.

Her masters programme springs from a desire to provide ‘Music for all’ in communities where gaps in provision are mitigated with free tuition and instruments. The flourishing of musical activity in these youth groups has produced noticeable benefits to her local community. By providing accessibility and flexibility to learn we can enable our students to be remain based in their own communities where they can apply their learning and contribute to local contexts.

“This band, in an area of multiple deprivation, would not have formed without the community project aspect of the Masters.” Sheila Sapkota

And we have more students, staff and graduates nominees.

Madderam feature in the up-and-coming artist of the year award; and
Livewire by Mec Lir and Gaol by Rachel Walker, both nominated in the album of the year award
Invitation to our anniversary event

Marking ten years since the applied music degree was introduced, we are celebrating with an online get together on Wednesday 24 November at 4pm.

Everyone is welcome to join our team based across the university partnership in discussion with graduates, current students and guests to reflect, remember and find out more about how you might wish to get involved in the future. As well as producing some of Scotland’s top performers and educators, for three consecutive years our innovative music programme has achieved 100% scores in the National Student Survey, highlighting the value students place on a curriculum which has developed strong community and engagement with industry and professional opportunity.

Exploring a ‘Future Me’

Providing employment-focused conversation, connection and links with industry is fundamental to our award-winning music teaching recipe. The university’s careers and employability podcast series ‘Future Me’ offers valuable insights for our students and listeners to help to chart their future steps is accessible any time. Each episode brings a range of career stories and valuable advice, accessible to all in your own time.

In the latest episodes I talk to Donald Shaw, director of Celtic Connections about moving Celtic Connections online during the Covid-19 pandemic. Having worked at the highest level within the Scottish music scene his valuable insights are illuminating. And it was my pleasure to talk with two of our music alumni, graduates Eamonn Watt and Ewan MacKay who share their experiences of life in the creative industries after graduation and forging their careers as professional composers.

The University of the Highlands and Islands is proud to be sponsor of the Musician of the Year award MG Alba Trad Awards 2021 for a third year. University partner Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI is sponsor of the ‘trad music in the media’ award which will be presented by alumni Peter Wood @tartantunes

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