Young Traditional Musician of the Year crowned

Winner Robyn Stapleton at Celtic Connections. Picture: Alan Peebles
Winner Robyn Stapleton at Celtic Connections. Picture: Alan Peebles
Share this article
Have your say

A FORMER carer-turned-singer has won one of the Scottish music industry’s biggest honours.

Robyn Stapleton was crowned BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.

The 24-year-old, from Stranraer, abandoned a philosophy course at Stirling University and worked as a career before deciding to pursuing a musical career.

She now specialises in traditional Scots song, with a fledgling career combining performing with community singing and teaching.

She is a recent graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where she studied on the Scottish music course, but continued working as a carer part-time to help finance her studies, even practising her singing at work.

Ms Stapleton, who spent a year as an exchange at the University of Limerick, studying traditional Irish music, has already performed before the Prince of Wales, at Dumfries House, the lavish stately home in Ayrshire that he helped rescue. She has also appeared on BBC Scotland’s “Take the Floor” programme.

Ms Stapleton dedicated her award to her song tutors at the music academy, Anne Neilson and Margaret Bennett.

She told The Scotsman: “The whole competition has been a great experience, I’ve learned so much and it’s made a big difference to my self-confidence. I was actually more nervous in the semi-final than tonight, although I couldn’t believe it when I won. I actually felt a bit guilty because I know the other musicians had put so much into their music and practised so much. However I do sing constantly myself, even when I’m walking down the street. People look at me as if I’m mad.”

The six finalists who performed in the gala final at the City Halls on the final night of the festival had been drawn from more than 40 entrants to the competition, which is open to musicians based in Scotland from the ages of 16 to 27.

The other five runners-up were fiddler Mhairi Marwick, pianist Alistair Iain Paterson, accordionist Ian Smith, singer Jack Badcock and fiddler Neil Ewart.

The winning prize includes a recording session with BBC Scotland, a guest appearance at the annual Scots Trad Music Awards event and a one-year membership of the Musician’s Union, while all six finalists will also head out on tour together later this year.

The awards scheme, the final of which was broadcast live on Radio Scotland, has been run by the BBC and the music organisation Hands Up For Trad since 2001. Highlights of the event will also be screened on BBC Alba tonight at 9pm.

Winning the award has proved to be major platform for rising talent, with previous winners including piper Stuart Cassells, a founding member of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, singer Emily Smith, multi-instrumentalist Anna Massie and fiddler Ruairidh Macmillan among those going on to forge successful careers in the industry.

Jeff Zycinski, head of radio at BBC Scotland, said: “We broadcast the final concert for this event because every year, the instrumental skills and the comprehensive content of the participants is incredible – and we are keen that the nation shares this talent.

“All six finalists have done a superb job to get this far bearing in mind the huge number of entries and shortlisting that we have filtered through.”