Tarbert Music Centre began as a pilot scheme funded by a grant from the Scottish Arts Council’s Youth Music Initiative, channelled through Argyll and Bute Council.
It started in February 2005 when Paula McLean was Instrumental Instructor at Tarbert Academy and it was part of her job to set up the centre – the only one of its kind in Argyll.
Tuition sessions take place at Tarbert Academy each Thursday from 3.30pm-8.30pm.
The Centre owns a large proportion of its instruments, although some of the original instruments remain the property of Argyll and Bute Council, which, in the early days, purchased 10 accordions, a set of drums and several guitars.
Since then, the Centre has added extensively to its instrument list and now, in a developed stock, owns 6 sets of digital drum kits which are lent out to any child showing particular promise.
The Centre’s tutors are:
- Fiddle: Archie McAllister
- Accordion: Fraser McGlynn
- Whistle: Lorne McDougall
- Drums: Ryan McGlynn
- Chanter: Scott McLean
- Acoustic/electric guitar and bass: Jamie McLafferty
Sam Hales acts as a student tutor for guitar.
The Centre is currently teaching 70 kids. It started the year off with 83. Most of the now missing ones have moved away but some, as will always be the case, decide that music’s not for them.
Over the last few years the Centre is reckoned to have taught approximately 150 children in the age range is P5-S6.
At the moment Tarbert Music Centre has pupils from Tayinloan to Lochgilphead – although anyone who wanted to come for lessons and resident anywhere in Argyll would not be turned away provided there were spaces available.
The pilot scheme had three years funding. When this finished, the Centre applied successfully to the Scottish Arts Council for continuing support, being given funding for 2 more years and with additional funding from Argyll and Bute Council.
Lessons have, from the beginning, been free and instruments have been supplied on loan for up to 2 years.
The Centre encourages £1 donation per lesson which helps with the cost of little things like strings. No child is turned away and Pajla McLean says that she gets a lot of satisfaction from the fact that the Centre is accessible to everyone.
However, in the economic climate of the moment, the Centre is not in a position to guarantee that it can continue to be nearly free – or even to continue at all. Paula McLean hopes that this possibility is looking on the black side.
Each year Tarbert Music Centre does a Christmas show and a Summer concert. All pupils are encouraged to perform once they have reached the stage that they can knock out a tune. As a conscious strategy, they get plenty of performing opportunities throughout the year.
Beyond this, the Centre has included a talent show in its calendar for the last two years; and the older pupils provided the music for a disco run in November 2009 and open to under 18′s.
The Centre’s first class tutors bring it links with the best that Scotland has to offer and have just recently enabled a fiddle workshop with Daniel Thorpe – Young Traditional Musician of the Year. This is an initiative the Centre hopes to continue in the future.
Many of the pupils have gone on to study music, with their time at Tarbert Music Centre helping them to make that career choice. This is a particular satisfaction for organisers and tutors alike, feeling that their biggest success is seeing how much the children enjoy the experiences they offer, as well as knowing that, without them, musically the young people they work with would have less choice available to them.
Where the learning experience the Centre offers is different from a child that’s having private instrumental lessons is that many lessons are group taught and that pupils are made into bands to perform together.
Tarbert Music Centre very much hopes to continue what it does but each year it gets harder. All the tutors are paid for their teaching time and in some cases the time they spend on the project on events like concerts. This is by far the biggest cost but the Centre works endlessly to try and find many routes for funding – a full time job in itself.
This is a fantastic resource for the encouragement and development of young musicians in Argyll. Add to its services the opportunities created by initiatives like Lochgoilhead’s Fiddle Workshop and the Kintyre Music and Arts Tuition Group – and Argyll has a sound foundation for creating stellar musicians of the future.
The photograph of Tarbert above is by copyright holder Anne Burgess and is reproduced here under the Creative Commons licence.