Bobby Brown Music Apprenticeship
Bobby Brown (1941-2011) devoted his life to the playing, researching, recording, and teaching of Scottish Dance Music. As an individual performer, a member of two Scottish Country Dance Bands, the Musical Director of the internationally renowned fiddle troupe The Cape Breton Symphony, and the leader of The Scottish Accent, Bobby Brown was a leading proponent of Scottish Country Dance music and traditional Scottish music in Canada, the United States, Britain, and Europe for over fifty years.
Scope and Purpose
Understanding that cultural preservation is dependent upon the devoted cultivation and transition of knowledge, Bobby Brown encouraged young musicians to learn and preserve the songs and tunes of the Scottish tradition. At workshops and classes, Bobby set aside his performer responsibilities to become an engaging teacher and eagerly instructed participants in the subtle idiomatic nuances of traditional Scottish music. He loved playing, and Scottish music was in his soul.
In his memory, the annual Bobby Brown Music Apprenticeship was initiated in 2015 to provide funding towards the cost for tuition, meals, and accommodation for one musician to attend one of the following:
• A music internship at TAC Summer School
• A music course at TAC Summer School
• A music course at a TAC-recognized Scottish Country Dance event
2023 Bobby Brown Apprentice
Sarah Lynn, Texas
On July 30th I woke up to begin my big Adventure to Canada. I was brimming with excitement ‒ for the past 4 months, I had been organizing my huge TAC music binder, writing bowings into hundreds of tunes, and practicing daily. Scottish Country Dance was still relatively new to me, so I knew this would be a good challenge and an important learning opportunity. After 15 hours of travel, I made it to my dorm room, expecting to just nod off, when Marjorie texted me “Come hang out with us!” I went down the hall to find a room full of warm, excited faces smiling back at me and giving me welcoming hugs. Immediately, I knew this was going to be an even more special week than I had anticipated.
Monday morning began with breakfast and then straight to Ron Wallace’s class. I had heard nothing but high praise for his teaching style and ability to work with musicians, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. I couldn’t have asked for a better first class at TAC ‒ between Ron’s energetic and clear teaching style and Kathy’s advice and support, the class went smoothly and my confidence increased for the coming classes.
Every day I played for a different class. It was so helpful to play for all class levels and with different teachers. It gave me a wider overview of what to expect in different situations.
The evenings were quite fun and challenging, and taught me a different set of skills. Getting to play with the Tartan Ties gave me a deeper understanding of the hierarchy of roles within a SCD band (mainly, band leader vs members) and the skills needed to operate in each respective position. On a more personal level, getting to play for hundreds of dancers in the evenings was simply electric! I have never been in such a position, and it solidified my desire to play for SCD.
Socially, TAC was a blast. I was very quickly adopted by the young dancers and included in all their fun evening plans. It’s always a bit intimidating for me to be in a new situation where I don’t know anyone, but I never once felt shy or alone at TAC. The SCD community is incredibly welcoming and encouraging, and I hope to take that energy with me into the world. One unexpected highlight of the week was exploring Halifax on our afternoon off. We got ice cream, went shopping, and had dinner and drinks - it was a great bonding experience for our new group of friends!
I am so thankful to have been chosen as this year’s Bobby Brown Apprentice. TAC was everything I had hoped it to be and more - I will be using this new skill set for the rest of my life and will forever have TAC to thank. My only complaint is that I can’t come back EVERY year!!
Previous Bobby Brown Apprentices
2023 Sarah Lynn, Texas, US
2022 Connie Walker, Los Angeles, CA US
2019 Lorraine McCormick, Lethbridge, AB Canada
2018 Sarah Thompson, Minneapolis, MN, US
2017 Martha Matthews, Los Angeles, CA, US
2016 Heather Cameron, Plymouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
2015 Mary Ross, Victoria, BC, Canada
The Music Director for the 2024 TAC Summer School will work with one pre-selected lead player /melody instrument (fiddle, accordion, keyboard) on a daily basis in the capacity of a private tutor/coach. By the conclusion of the week, the candidate will have all the necessary information and skills to confidently and competently play for a class and future dances. This program could potentially be developed to incorporate additional summer school musicians working in the same manner with piano, bass, drums, or other instruments.
The apprentice program will include the following:
- Selection of approved and appropriate music for dances
- Opening & Closing Chords (Bow & Curtsey)
- Grace notes & other idiomatic choices
- Phrasing, Dynamics, Interpretation
- Assembling sets/ musical research
- Guiding & assisting the candidate through classes
- Working with teachers
- Afternoon discussions and preparation for the following day
- Involving and preparing candidates for participation in evening socials where possible
Provided a suitable applicant meets all the following criteria, one award will be made for 2022
• The musician must have demonstrated a genuine interest in Scottish music, preferably with some experience playing Scottish Country Dance Music
• The musician must have the desire to improve his or her musical skills
• The musician must display an appropriate level of technical proficiency on his/her instrument, with the ability to improve musical skills
• The musician must have the passion and commitment to continue to play for and promote the music for Scottish Country Dancing
The next deadline is March 31, 2024
A musician may apply for the 2024 Bobby Brown Music Apprenticeship by submitting the following:
• the completed application form (download Music Application Form)
• a letter of application that addresses each of the above eligibility criteria
• a recording of three tunes; at least two of the tunes should be in the Scottish idiom
• a letter of reference from a Scottish Country Dance teacher, RSCDS Branch, or music teacher
• Applications for the 2024 Bobby Brown Music Apprenticeship received by the deadline will be reviewed by a committee of the Scottish Country Dance Teachers' Association (Canada) including, but not limited to: TAC Chair, TAC Treasurer, TAC Summer Events Director, and TAC Summer School Music Director.
• The award will be presented to the recipient in the form of a pre-paid scholarship (to a maximum of the cost of the full-week resident registration fee, including meals and accommodation, dependent on the value of funds available)
• A recipient can only be awarded the scholarship once
• Following the 2023 TAC Summer School, the recipient will forward a report on his/her experience to the Teachers' Association (Canada) for publication in the next issue of TACTalk