Boom in young trad players, but few jobs around

AS REPORT cards go, it beats "must try harder". The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton High School has just released its sixth annual album. It joins several releases reflecting an efflorescence of youthful traditional music-making which would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago.

It's titled We're A Case the Bunch of Us and the schoolchildren staring nonchalantly out of the sleeve can fairly let rip on pipes, fiddle, accordion, clarsach and much else, as well as coming out with some plaintive singing in Gaelic and English.

The album (available from [email protected]) is bursting with youthful bravado. The centre has flourished since it was established almost seven years ago, with many pupils going on to the Scottish music degree course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in Glasgow and other higher-level music courses, while former pupils - such as Mairead Green, Innes Watson and Radio 2 Young Folk Award winners Bodega - are now making names for themselves. "We can't claim 100 per cent of the credit," says Pincock, "but we can say that we did give them a wee leg up."

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Youthful interest in traditional music has developed phenomenally since Pincock's own days as a piper with the Battlefield Band, and he credits the Highland fis movement, celebrating its 25th anniversary, with playing a seminal role: "The fact is we wouldn't be here without the fis movement."

Meanwhile, the Greentrax label has just re-released its 2002 album No 1 Scottish, spotlighting students and staff of the RSAMD. A polished affair, this features several names who, since its first release, have gone on to establish themselves, such as piper Stuart Cassells, whose outfit the Red-Hot Chilli Pipers recently won BBC's When Will I Be Famous?

The invasion of the young turks continues apace with the Traditional Music & Song Association releasing its TMSA Young Trad Tour 2006, featuring winners and finalists from the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Music Award.

It all bodes hearteningly well for the future of our traditional music, though not without the odd reservation - as Pincock agrees, there is a relative dearth of young singers, in Scots or Gaelic, possibly because there's more of a "cool" factor in toting an instrument and playing hell for leather. And I can't help wondering where they'll all find gainful employment. Pincock says this is a concern: "The cake is not large enough for the number of people looking for a slice of it."

In the meantime, those keen to swell the burgeoning legion of young folkies should try Edinburgh's Youth Gaitherin on 2-3 April, which offers classes during the city's Ceilidh Culture fling (24 March-15 April). Rosin your bows and visit or call 0131-555 7669.