Published: 10/01/2018 07:00 - Updated: 11/01/2018 12:42

Black Isle music student reveals fundamental secret of her success


Rachel Spence, from the Black Isle, was chosen to take part in the video.
Rachel Spence, from the Black Isle, was chosen to take part in the video.
A YOUNG Ross-shire musician has played a part in bringing the advice of a famous composer to life in a short film inspired by a book dating back more than 150 years.


Viola player Rachel Spence is one of four students at the prestigious St Mary’s Music School who contributes to the film based on the book Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians Revisited by Steven Isserlis.

Practising is the first film in the series, highlighting the journey of four of the pupils at the Edinburgh centre of excellence as they move towards mastery of their chosen instruments.

Rachel, originally from a musical family on the Black Isle, is featured alongside three of her peers, Ryan Corbett (accordion), Sophie Williams (violin) and Max Carsley (oboe).

The students describe what music means to them and how passionate they feel about their daily practising, leading up to live performance.

The six-minute film also includes insights from Paul Stubbings, the school’s director of music and William Conway, its artistic director.

2017 was a memorable year for the 18-year-old who combined full-on study with a fundraising drive for Macmillan Cancer Support in tribute to her late grandmother, June Bevan-Baker who from lymphoma in early 2016.

The music student, who lives in Fortrose, wanted to give something back to the charity for its "amazing" support for June and her family. She took the plunge with a sponsored head shave and more than doubled her original target by raising £2250.

Her hair was donated to the Little Princess Trust, which makes wigs for children going through cancer treatment.

Turning her energies back to music, Rachel is now playing her part in helping inspire fellow musicians and sharing the ethos of the school she attends.

The music featured in the film Practising is Vaclav Trojan’s Fairy Tales for accordion and orchestra and Suite on English Folk Songs by Benjamin Britten for a small orchestra.

The further three titles in the series, which will be released this year, are entitled Composing, Playing and On Being a Musician.

In the film, Rachel says: "All the time that you’re playing you have to analyse all the technical things you are doing and go back and fix the tiniest details whereas when you’re performing you’ve got to let it all go. You’ve got to trust that you’ve done the work."

Schumann’s book, first published in 1850, received a modern focus when updated last year by Steven Isserlis, the internationally renowned British cellist and one of the vice-presidents of St Mary’s Music School.

The book provided the inspiration for the school to highlight the most important aspects of being a musician. The advice has been updated by Isserlis’ own commentary, making the volume an essential read for aspiring young musicians.

Dr Kenneth Taylor, headteacher at St Mary’s Music School, said: "St Mary’s Music School is delighted to have the opportunity to bring the advice of Robert Schumann and Steven Isserlis to life. Practising, the first film, highlights the work of the fine young musicians we nurture and inspire in the school and shows how their innate musical gifts are honed as they practise in the lead-up to public performance."

Robert Schumann was considered far ahead of his time, not least in his attitude to children and young people.

Steven Isserlis is one of Britain’s great musicians and a tireless advocate for music education.

The series of films are being posted on the school’s website at https:/

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