HND in Music course for pipers now offered

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Pipers can now study at the National Piping Centre for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Music.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority, the Scottish Government body responsible for accrediting educational awards, approved the course recently.

The HND is part-funded by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for eligible Scottish students and it’s anticipated that the most popular route to this Diploma award will be through the two-year full-time programme but it will also be available part-time over a longer period.

The same opportunities are also on offer for those from overseas to study remotely (with a couple of intensive week-long in-person sessions in each year). There’s even the option to leave at the end of the first year with a certificate award (HNC).

Finlay MacDonald, NPC Director of Piping, said: “Having a long-established, close association with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the NPC, through its partnership development of the BMus (Hons) Traditional Music – Piping (initially, the BA Scottish Music – Piping), as well as its contribution to the collaborative development of the PDQB awards, the HND was perhaps something of a missing link and it’s wonderful that this has now been addressed.”

Recent graduates: Danny Hutcheson, Gavin Hardie, Christina Shaw, Ciaren Ross and John Dew. (Photo: John Slavin).

In addition, talks with the University of the Highlands & Islands are at an advanced stage to lead to an agreement whereby HND graduates from the NPC will be considered for entry directly into the third year of their BA (Hons) Applied Music.

There was an earlier attempt in Glasgow to offer a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Music for pipers. Around 2008/9, soon after its refurbished building in the west end reopened, the College of Piping in partnership with Stow College launched an HNC in Professional Bagpiping. This relationship had developed when the College of Piping’s teaching had decanted from Otago Street to temporary premises at the then Stow West campus whilst their building and renovation works were going on.

The course ran exclusively for pipers for two years but the low numbers of applicants meant it was opened to the wider folk/trad community. Whilst this didn’t lead to many more pipers on the course, it did mean that the programme was more sustainable and so it was supported for another two years. Sadly, though, the course was cancelled at the end of 2012.

During 2014 and 2015, the NPC began work on creating a new HNC course for pipers. As with the previous incarnation at the College, the generic SQA HNC award was used as the foundation.

A good number of students have moved on to the BMus Traditional Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where they’ve embarked on a further four years of intensive development as musicians and performers. Some others have caught a different learning bug and have continued developing their craft on the pipes through other routes such as with the examinations available through the PDQB awards or the Pipe Major course at the Army School. Others have moved into employment as schools’ piping instructors and into pipe making.

For students who relocate to Glasgow to study on these courses, a new Halls of Residence has been built next to the NPC McPhater Street headquarters.

• More information is available on the National Piping Centre website.