Music is Love and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra launch VIBE

Image: Music is Love logo & Scottish Chamber Orchestra logo
Image: Music is Love
Photo: Music is Love

I sat down with Joanna Burns, the University of St Andrews Music Centre/SCO Connect graduate trainee to discuss SCO VIBE St Andrews, an initiative by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in collaboration with Music is Love.

Can you tell me a bit more about VIBE?

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is Orchestra in Residence at the University of St Andrews so this project is an expansion of SCO VIBE involving St Andrews students rather than secondary school pupils. Four songs written by student songwriters will be workshopped over the course of a weekend (10-12 February 2017) led by renowned workshop leader and guitarist Paul Griffiths. Along with Paul, SCO violinist Aisling O’Dea and professional percussionist Pete Vilk will work with a group of student musicians to develop these songs and create parts for the all the instruments there. The weekend will culminate in a performance of the four songs in the Students’ Union played by all the musicians involved in the weekend. We’re collaborating with Music is Love for the project as they have a wide network of student musicians around St Andrews.

Who can apply?

We’re looking for a real mix of instruments and styles from classical to jazz to rock to acoustic. A bit of experience with improvisation would be great as that will be at the heart of developing these songs. Musicians are encouraged to work without notating anything so the music can be as flexible as possible so reading music is not a requirement! Overall, we want to attract really creative musicians from all different backgrounds to make the weekend and the music as exciting as possible. We really just want to show off the best of St Andrews’ musical talent. Singers are welcome as well!

How do you apply?

There are two separate applications available: one for songwriters and one for musicians. Both are available as Google Forms, which can just be done online. If you’re a songwriter applying with a song to be workshopped at the weekend, the application needs to come with a clip of your song either as an audio file or a SoundCloud link sent to me by email. I, along with Alasdair (president of Music is Love) and Paul Griffiths, will choose musicians for the weekend. Both the songwriters, and musicians will perform at the workshop and concert itself.

What inspired you to create this unique event?

Having the SCO as Orchestra in Residence is such a wonderful thing for the university but most students don’t know about it so I wanted to raise awareness of their role here. The SCO is not just an orchestra, they work around Scotland with different groups of people, from primary school children to people living with dementia, as part of their creative learning projects using music to benefit these peoples lives. We really need to make the most of them being here and widen the contact they have with students. I thought this kind of project would appeal to people who would not normally interact with the SCO – going to their concerts or taking part in instrumental masterclasses. Hopefully this weekend will really benefit the musicians taking part, inspiring them to think creatively, writing and playing music and allow them to experience working with professional musicians.


What other SCO events should students look out for?

The SCO bring five season concerts to the Younger Hall each year, which are always amazing. It’s a great opportunity to see a world- renowned professional orchestra playing in this little Fife town. As well as this, SCO players come up to do solo and chamber concerts. We have two exciting concerts coming up in the New Year which focus on composers James MacMillan (1 March) and Jeremy Thurlow (12 April). A clarinetist and pianist from the SCO are performing in the MacMillan concert and the Thurlow concert includes student musicians playing alongside SCO musicians. SCO players also come up to lead masterclasses and coach orchestras.

Will this be a recurring event?

Hopefully! This is its first year and we will just have to see how it goes. I really hope it will benefit the students involved and I have no doubt the concert will be a really incredible experience for the student musicians and SCO players, as well as those who come to the concert.


It sounds like an incredible opportunity, and one which I’m sure will tempt many a musician here, our town filled with such talented songwriters. After all, how often is it that you can performed your own song with a professional orchestra?!

Songwriters application

Musicians application

For more information on SCO VIBE St Andrews, email Joanna at Deadline mid January.


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