FOR 19-year-old Anna Massie, a first-year Applied Music student at Strathclyde University, the start of her second semester yesterday will likely have been spent in rather a daze. For the previous night saw Massie, who plays fiddle, guitar and mandolin, named BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2003.
Launched by musician and record company director Simon Thoumire in 2001, and backed by Radio Scotland as of last year, the competition has already proved itself a major career springboard for its two previous winners, Gillian Frame and Emily Smith. With the final staged at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as part of Celtic Connections, the top prize includes an album deal with Thoumire’s label Footstompin’ Records, and bookings for major festivals, this time including October’s Celtic Colours event in Canada.
Thanks to the joint imprimatur of the BBC and Celtic Connections, Massie can now look forward to an immediate and substantial hike in profile, exposure and reputation, such is the trust already placed in the contest by international promoters and festival organisers.
And thanks to Celtic Connections’ programming of the final during its four-day Showcase Scotland event, more than 100 of said international folk-brokers - plus another 50 from the UK - were at the festival over the weekend. Many of them will have been present among the sell-out crowd for Massie’s winning performance, or caught her first taste of the limelight playing at the Festival Club later that night.
"My biggest aspiration is to have a professional career as a musician, and hopefully this has just given me the most enormous leg-up - it’s amazing," says Massie, who began learning guitar from her multi-instrumentalist father as a seven-year-old in her native Fortrose, and has been playing in ceilidh bands since she was 13. In a six-way play-off that brought new meaning to the words "closely fought", these years of experience - and Massie’s resulting ease and warmth in front of an audience - were clearly a significant factor in her victory. "I’m just really used to playing in public, which maybe made me a bit more comfortable under all the pressure," she says.
"Stagecraft and presentation are important aspects of what the judges are looking for," confirms Thoumire. "The whole point of this competition is to enable young traditional musicians to start a performing career, so we’re not just looking for talent - we’re looking for people who understand how to put on a performance."
The five runners-up must have been consoled by Thoumire’s announcement of Arts Council funding for a seven-date Scottish tour in April, with all six finalists.
For now, though, once Massie’s post-celebratory haze has cleared, she has an academic schedule to catch up on. "All my second-semester essays were supposed to be handed in yesterday," she says.
"But once they knew I was in the final, everyone was very nice about giving me extensions."
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Friday 24 May 2013
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