The David Roberts Memorial Plate is awarded to a promising young traditional musician in Lanarkshire. It is presented annually at the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician semi-finals concert in Coulter, South Lanarkshire. In 2015 it was awarded to Emma Dickson from Dolphinton.
We asked Emma a few questions.
What age were you when you started playing music? Why did you start?
Around age 3, I first picked up an accordion, having heard my dad, Keith Dickson, and my grandad, John Anderson play since I was a baby. It wasn’t until I was around 5 that I had my first accordion lesson from Wilson Wood of Whitburn. From age 5 up until 17, Wilson gave me weekly lessons in both classical and traditional accordion music. Although I have played the accordion from a young age, I have always aspired to be a piper. It wasn’t until later on in life that I got the chance to take up the bagpipes under the tuition of Gordon Rowan from Edinburgh.
What made you want to play your chosen instrument?
Seeing the successes of my dad, and watching the enjoyment my grandad got from playing music inspired me to play the accordion. As well as this, from a young age I was exposed to the many different styles of accordion playing which made me quickly realise the versatility of the instrument, and this also played a role in me choosing to seriously study the accordion. With the bagpipes, it was the distinctive sound which made me choose to play them. I had always wanted to be a piper, however around age 13, I attended a concert in the Usher Hall which featured a piper accompanied by an organist – although I cannot remember either of their names, I can remember vividly the emotion which came across in thier playing, and the incredible atmosphere in the room, and it was this which confirmed that piping was something which I wanted to do.
Who are your main influences and why?
My dad, Keith Dickson, has been a strong influence for me in music, and I hope to follow in his footsteps as I progress musically. I believe that music should never stay at a standstill and although greats such as Sir Jimmy Shand, and Will Starr did much for the accordion world, it is time to build on what they achieved, rather than merely copy their style. Accomplished accordionists who are doing this include players such as Robert Black who have given me the inspiration to modernise traditional music, and this is what gives me many of my musical ideas. I am also interested in listening to many different modern traditional bands such as the ‘Treacherous Orchestra’ and ‘The Monster Ceilidh Band’ which take traditional music to a whole new level.
What are the highlights of your playing career so far?
Playing music has given me countless oppurtunities, as well as allowing me to meet some amazing people along the way. Some of the more memorable highlights for me include playing for HRH the Prince of Wales with the ‘Kodetta’ band. Playing in the band ‘KODA’ has also given me the oppurtunity to perform twice at Scotland’s largest music festival ‘T in the Park’. Another highlight for me is winning the 15 and under British Accordion Championships, and the All Scotland Junior Accordion Championships. More recently, and arguably the biggest highlight for me was playing in the ‘Arts in Film Youth Orchestra’ where I got the oppourtuntity to work alongside Hollyood composer Patrick Doyle (famous for composing the music for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Nanny McPhee, and Disney’s Cinderella), as well as performing with the orchestra for the European Premier of the silent movie ‘IT’.
Do you have any things you want to achieve in music?
The only thing I aim for in music is to play in the style that I enjoy, and to make friends along the way. Anything else I achieve is a bonus.