Congratulations to Louise (Mackenzie) Douglas who has been nominated in Music Tutor of the Year sponsored by Creative Scotland Youth Music Initiative in the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2020. Vote here! Vote now!
We asked Louise (Mackenzie) Douglas the following questions.
Tell us about yourself
I was brought up in Nigg, Easter Ross and I’ve always loved music. We had many, many ceilidhs at home with my family, and I have very fond memories of them. According to my Primary 1 report card, it noted “Louise loves to sing” – I should mention that it didn’t say that I could sing, just that I loved singing!!!! I took up the fiddle when I was 11. It was the first year that stringed instruments were taught at Nigg Primary and it was a very exciting time.
My secondary school years were mostly spent in the music practice rooms. After leaving school I moved to Aberdeen and played in various bands including the Desperate Danz Band, Lois & The Session Clarks and The Howling Shed. It was lots of fun and a great opportunity to play and sing with amazing musicians. I also tutored at the SCAT music classes in Aberdeen, the Ythan Fiddlers in Ellon and at the ‘Gordon Gaitherin’ festival on several occasions but moved to the west in 2000 to take up the role of Traditional Music Co-ordinator for Skye & Lochalsh which was an incredible time of my life.
I also enjoy composing tunes, especially waltzes and slow airs.
For the past 13 years, I’ve been a Strings Instructor in the Highlands, working in the Sutherland area which is more of a vocation than a job. It’s wonderful to be employed to do what you love doing best!
Why are you involved in Scottish music?
As I mentioned before, we had cracking ceilidhs in Nigg when I was young and that was my introduction to Scottish Music. My Dad introduced me to recordings of The Corries, Will Star, Boys of the Lough – anything he thought we would enjoy listening to. I’m the youngest of five and I’m grateful that my older siblings and parents went out of their way to encourage and support my musical pursuits.
As a teenager, when all my peers were listening to pop music, I would be listening to Aly Bain or Alasdair Fraser. My violin teacher at school, Christine Martin, suggested I attend the Stirling Summer School and in the years that followed I attended classes led by Tom Anderson, for Shetland fiddle, and Aonghas Grant for the West Coast style. When I went back home after each summer school, it was still the school holidays and I practised, morning, noon and night – stopping for meals and sleep only! I was obsessed with traditional music. I was very fortunate in that Tom invited me to Shetland to receive private tuition and Aonghas took me under his wing to teach me all about west coast music and stories. Around that time, I also met Alasdair Fraser who was hugely inspirational to my playing. I remember listening to the ‘Skyedance’ album by Alasdair and Paul Machlis and thinking it was one of the finest traditional albums ever. I still think so today.
I attended the very first Fèis Rois as a participant back in 1986 and just loved the whole experience. Great music, great fun and I made lifelong friends there. I started tutoring at various Fèisean when I was 18 and have done so on a regular basis ever since. I also tutor at weekly classes for Fèis Rois which gives me enormous satisfaction. It’s a big family and what an amazing family to be part of!
Any particular career highlights?
There is nothing more rewarding that watching students progress and flourish in their playing. To see them enjoying playing is such a wonderful feeling.
For the last 10 years, I have had the honour of teaching with Aonghas Grant at Fèis Rois Inbhich and this is a very special date in my diary. To teach alongside one of my mentors is indeed a great honour and a privilege. We have a great rapport and the students enjoy the fun as well as the learning element.
I also tutor annually at the Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas Fiddle & Cello Camp at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig which is another special date in my diary. As Alasdair was (and still is) a huge inspiration to me, it’s such an honour to be a regular tutor at the course. He also invited me to teach at the Valley of the Moon fiddle camp in California back in the 1990’s which was a fantastic experience.
Another highlight has been some of my compositions being recorded and published. It’s such a lovely feeling to think that someone enjoys playing a tune you’ve written.
Of course this nomination is definitely one of the highlights too!
What are your plans for the future?
To keep doing what I’m doing, and to the best of my ability. The traditional music world is an enormous part of my life and I’ll keep composing tunes. At some point I would like to publish a book of my compositions.
The MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards, Na Trads 2020, will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on 12th December 2020 at 9pm where the award winners will be announced along with specially recorded music performances. During the day on Saturday the 12th, you will be able to watch from 1pm til 9pm a day of live Scottish trad music including Kinnaris Quintet, Dallahan, Inyal, Paul McKenna Band, Ryan Young and Jenn Butterworth and many more here https://youtu.be/amByvVzxl5E. Keep up to date with all the latest information by joining the Hands Up for Trad newsletter at https://handsup.link/Newsletter or use the hashtags #natrads #HUFTonline.
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