Top composer calls for music tuition to be given protected status in Scotland’s schools

Scottish film composer Patrick Doyle. Picture: John Devlin
Scottish film composer Patrick Doyle. Picture: John Devlin
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He is the musical maestro who has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood – but credits his entire career as a film composer to his education in Lanarkshire.

Now Patrick Doyle has called for music tuition to be given protected status in Scotland’s schools to ensure future generations have the chance to follow in his footsteps.

Speaking ahead of a 65th birthday celebration concert at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival, he has spoken out against recent cuts in music tuition enforced by local authorities across the country.

Doyle has insisted that playing in his school brass band and a Lanarkshire youth orchestra helped pave the way to write soundtracks for films like Sense and Sensibility, Gosford Park, Brave, Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire and Thor.

And he warned the growing number of councils considering cutting specialist classes and imposing fees on pupils not to “under-estimate the power of music tuition”.

Brought up in Uddingston, in south Lanarkshire, Doyle is best-known for his 30-year partnership with Kenneth Branagh on his films.

However, he has also worked with the likes of Brian De Palma, Robert Altman, Al Pacino, Richard E Grant, Robbie Coltrane and Judi Dench, and has provided the score for more than 60 movies.

But Doyle has singled out Eddie Morrison and Inga Marshall, his teachers at Our Lady’s High and Dalziel High, both in Motherwell, where he attended specialist classes in his later school years, as his key influences.

Doyle was one of 13 children and only started learning music when he began piano lessons at the age of 12, under the tutelage of piano teacher Edith Ferguson, a stalwart in music circles in Lanarkshire for more than half a century.

Doyle went on to play tuba at high school and on leaving won a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow to study piano, singing and brass.

He spent a year teaching music himself at Hillhead High, before entering the theatre world, working at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and acting in plays like The Slab Boys. He first met Branagh after moving to London and joining his theatre company Renaissance, going on to win an Ivor Novello Award for his work on their first film collaboration, Henry V.

Doyle said: “I can only urge the education authorities not to under-estimate the power of music tuition.

“Not only does it add something unique to your general education, it helps to build your confidence.

“Playing and competing with the Lanarkshire Youth Orchestra and the Our Lady’s High brass band gave the foundation for everything that I have achieved throughout my life.

“Specialist music teaching was crucial for me. I couldn’t wait for it to come aroud every week.

“It was a huge thing in my life.It was the musical education I had in Lanarkshire that set me on my road.

“I didn’t plaything until I was 12 and asked to go to piano lessons. My teacher Edith Ferguson transformed my life. She instilled such confidence in you. Nothing was impossible.”

Doyle has created two brand new pieces of music for the celebration concert at Celtic Connections on 24 January. However, he hinted that the show would include a surprise tribute to his upbringing at home.

He added: “I’m from an incredibly musical family full of fabulous singers. We had big parties in the house about four or five times a year where everyone was expected to sing. My father was a great archivist and recorded the whole family on a Grundig tape recorder.”