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Young musicians ‘come home’ to encourage others to get involved in music

Two young musical high-fliers, originally from the Highlands visited Strathpeffer this week as part of an exciting collaboration between High Life Highland Instrumental Tuition Service and the Agar Trust.  

Their ambition was to generate some excitement in music-making and to provide “sparks” of inspiration and energy amongst young people. They recorded a recital with High Life Highland’s Instrumental Instructors in Strathpeffer Pavilion, which will be circulated widely online soon, and also be delivered as workshops to children at Strathpeffer Primary. 

Rachel Spence (21) is originally from the Black Isle. She currently studies viola at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she holds the Sir Elton John Scholarship. Rachel has appeared as a soloist at festivals including the London Strings Festival, has been principal viola of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, the Berlin Opera Academy, and Nevis Ensemble, and is an Ambassador for the Benedetti Foundation. 

Rachel commented, “My earliest memory of performing was as a member of Black Isle Primary Strings, when I had just begun playing the viola. I think that performing alongside my peers from the very start of my musical journey was absolutely fundamental to how I have developed as a musician.” 

Highlander, Neavan Lobban (21) who is originally from Inverness and is currently finishing his fourth year at the Royal Birmingham

 Conservatoire. While specialising in Saxophone, he is also singing with the National Youth Choir of Scotland.  

During his studies he has travelled around Europe, including Serbia, Monaco and Germany; performed in the European Parliament building in Brussels and New York City’s Carnegie Hall. 


Neavan said, “My earliest musical memory was definitely with my primary school choir. Every year we performed at the Inverness Music Festival and developed a winning streak in our category, which made it all the more exciting!” 

The Agar Trust helps to support talented young musicians from rural Scotland who travel to short courses in order to develop their skills further. This week it will also contribute to encouraging all youngsters to take the first step and try playing an instrument. 

Janet Macdonald, Founder of the Agar Trust, said, “We’re really pleased to be able to support these two Agar Ambassadors to come back and take a role in encouraging our next generation of young musicians to give it a go. Singing, or playing a musical instrument is a lot of fun – so even if they’re not going to make a career from music, they should still have a shot and share in the joy that live music can bring.” 

“We’re absolutely delighted to be working in collaboration with High Life Highland Instrumental Tuition Service, who have done such a fantastic job in sustaining music education throughout the pandemic across the Highlands. During these past 16 months, live musical performances have all but disappeared from public life and we hope these live and recorded sessions which include young musicians will remind everyone of the fun and engagement, the sense of shared experience, that music can bring.” 

Norman Bolton, High Life Highland’s Music Development Officer said, “HLH is absolutely delighted to be working with the Agar Trust and it is so nice to see two of their Ambassadors ‘come home’ to encourage young people across the Highlands to get involved in music and pick up an instrument.  

“The last year or so has been extremely challenging in terms of music tuition, but our instructors have really stepped up to the plate during the period and did all they could to ensure music tuition across the Highlands continued, even when we knew other areas of Scotland were cancelling theirs. 

“It is great to see some level of normality returning by way of working with organisations like the Agar Trust as well as with individual like Rachel and Neavan.”