St Mary's Music School

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.[1] The school, which is non-denominational, provides education for children with a special talent in music, and is Scotland's only full-time independent specialist music school.[2][3] In 2017 the school has 80 pupils from many different backgrounds and from all parts of Scotland, the rest of the UK and abroad - 49 day pupils and 31 boarders, plus one student on the school's Part-time Pathways to Specialism scheme.[4][5]

St Mary's Music School
25 Grosvenor Crescent

EH12 5EL

TypeIndependent day and boarding
Specialist music school
HeadteacherKenneth Taylor
Director of MusicPaul Stubbings
Age9 to 19
Enrolment80 (2017)


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 and St Mary's Cathedral also award bursaries.[1]


The school operates a large chamber orchestra, a Junior String Sinfonia and a Senior String Ensemble. Jazz and Traditional Scottish Music (including instruments like the clàrsach and bagpipes[1]) feature in specialist ensembles and in Jazz and Scottish Music Days. Students perform regularly throughout Edinburgh and beyond.[6] In addition to internal lunchtime concerts, students have also performed at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh,[7] Jam House, Kirks, Cathedral and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. Students have also been requested to play at many civic occasions including Royalty, the Scottish Parliament and other public events such as a NATO visit to Edinburgh.


The school day is from 8.30am until 5pm (3.30 on Wednesdays and 4.30 on Fridays).[4] In 2017 the school ranked 25th out of 28 independent school's listed for highest pass rate. St Mary's Music School was named as Scottish Independent Secondary School of the Year in 2007[8] The 2016 pass rate was 100% for National 4, Higher and A level exams, 94% for National 5 and 95% for Advanced Highers.[4] 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 Italian pianist Ferruccio Busoni; "He who is only a musician is no musician".[9]


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.[10] 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".[11][12] The school educates young instrumentalists, composers and singers. In 1976 the Cathedral choir was opened to girls. In 1995, the music school moved out of the Cathedral grounds and into its current location at Coates Hall, Grosvenor Crescent, Edinburgh.[1]

St Mary's Music School is the only Scottish member of the UK Music and Dance Schools (MDS)[13] 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 former principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Vice presidents are Dame Evelyn Glennie CH DBE, Steven Isserlis CBE, Sir James MacMillan CBE, Jerzy Maksymiuk and Steven Osborne.


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.[14] by Ninian Comper which includes Scotland's first saints, St Columba and St Ninian. The school also has two libraries, staff offices, bedrooms for boarding pupils, and 25 music practice rooms. Academic subjects are mainly taught in two 20th century buildings within the school grounds.

The school is surrounded by gardens in the heart of Edinburgh's West End and has excellent transport connections due to its proximity to Haymarket railway station and connecting bus and tram links.

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.[15] 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.[16]

Royal High School

In 2016 the school put forward a fully funded £25 million proposal to move its location to the old Royal High School in Edinburgh in competition with another proposal to convert the site to a hotel.[17] The school's plans were accepted by the Edinburgh Council planning committee in 2016 and would have allowed the school to increase the number of its students.[5] However, the council had previously signed a contract with Duddingston House Properties in 2012 to convert the Royal High into a hotel. [18] Two hotel plans were rejected by the Edinburgh Council planning committee in 2015 and 2017.[19] The St Mary's Music School proposal could not go ahead unless the agreement with Duddingston House Properties were renegotiated or terminated or until after the hotel group's agreement with the Council ended in 2022.

Notable former pupils

See also


  1. MacFarlane, Felicity (Summer 2016). McKinnon, Gillian (ed.). "On Song at St Mary's". The Edge. The Diocese of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church. 20 (4).
  2. Overview of the musical pre-college phase in the United Kingdom Archived 20 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2009-10-20
  3. History of the Music and Dance Scheme Archived 1 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2009-10-20
  4. Post of Headteacher Archived 1 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2012-08-20
  5. Miller, Phillip (8 February 2016). "Music school reveals expansion plans for old Royal High School building". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  6. St Mary's Music School Prospectus retrieved 2009-11-19 Archived 14 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Concert at the Queens Hall Archived 24 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 2009-11-19
  8. Scottish Independent Secondary School of the Year 2007 retrieved 2009-11-03
  9. Nigel Murray & Neil Cox; The Musical Times Vol 135 No 1814, April 1994 pp247-248
  10. Obituary (Times) of Dr Dennis Townhill retrieved 2009-11-02
  11. Obituary of Dr Dennis Townhill retrieved 2009-11-02
  12. Carol Main, Musical Heirs show such a perfect tribute to Menuhin, Evening News, 29 June 1999
  13. Music and Dance Excellence Schools Archived 17 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2009-10-20
  14. Gifford et al. The Public Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh(1984) p368
  15. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Retrieved 2009-11-04
  16. Gifford et al. The Public Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh(1984) p366
  17. Grant, Alistair (10 August 2016). "Plans to turn Royal High into music school backed by planners". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  18. Braidwood, Ella (18 August 2016). "Planners back Richard Murphy's alternative Calton Hill plans". Architects Journal. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  20. "Alexander Armstrong on bringing variety back to Saturday night TV". The Scotsman. 26 July 2011.
  21. Craig Brown (3 November 2010). "Young Scots pianist joins jazz greats with US college honour". The Scotsman. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  22. Susan Swarbrick (29 November 2003). "Portrait Name: Monica Brett-Crowther CV: Opera singer". The Herald. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  23. "Face to Face interview: Hitting right note in producing tomorrow's top musicians". Herald Scotland. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  24. Cornwell, Tim (31 March 2010). "How this 28-year-old Scot wrote some of best classical music of 21st century". The Scotsman. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  25. BBC Radio Scotland. Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2009, retrieved 2010-11-4
  26. Wilson, Conrad (27 June 2007). "Music". The Herald. Retrieved 3 November 2009.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.