KMS Education

School Workshops

Kelso Music Society believes in encouraging a love of music in children and young people. We have organized several workshops in local schools using the enthusiasm and talents of our visiting musicians. This outreach is an activity which we intend to continue and expand.

Every time we give one of these workshop/performances we are struck by how important this work is in enhancing the music-making that is already going on in the schools. It’s vital that these young people hear great music played to the highest standard.

 We are grateful to Enterprise Music Scotland and Charity Begins at Home, Kelso for making it possible for us to offer these opportunities to our local young people.


Meera Maharaj and Dominic Degavino at
Castlegate Nursery, Kelso

After an extremely successful concert in Kelso Old Parish Church on Sunday 24th October, Meera and Dominic stayed overnight with John and Lorna Harris and spent the following morning in Castlegate Nursery, Spylaw Rd, Kelso.

Because of Covid restrictions it had been difficult to arrange workshops in nurseries, who were not allowing visitors into the school. Castlegate has a large outdoor play area and it was agreed with Christine Hamilton at Castlegate that we could use a poly tunnel to deliver the workshops. Meera and Dom were happy to go along with that. Christine feels, as we all do, that these 3 and 4 year olds have missed out over the last 18 months, from hearing live music, unless their parents are musicians. For children of that age, that is most of their short lives. We all felt that this was important.

Meera and Dom both work for Live Music Now and their experience was evident in the confident way they engaged with the children. They had brought toys, jungle mat etc as props and the children were delighted with these. They worked with 4 groups of 8 children; 4 x 20 minute sessions. Initially the children were slightly overwhelmed but the duo’s gentle delivery was very non-threatening. Because the following groups had heard snippets from the poly tunnel from the garden, they gradually became more confident.

I particularly liked the fact that Meera and Dom played quite long chunks of music, encouraging the children to listen and move to the music. All was done from memory so lots of eye contact with the children. The mix of music was well chosen, leading from gentle to Jamaican dance music.

I was so pleased we were able to go ahead with this. It was extremely rewarding for all concerned, staff and children. (Some tears were evident amongst the staff!)
Lis Dooner

KMS Broomlands Primary School
Music Notation Project
October 2019 - January 2020

This project came about partly by accident; the Brodsky Quartet’s visit to Kelso coincided with school half term so it wasn’t possible to set anything up with them on this occasion.

We therefore took the opportunity to try something rather different. Because we have two experienced workshop leaders on the KMS committee (Lis Dooner ex SCO and Stephen Tees ex Academy of St Martins) we decided to deliver a more long-term project which ran through October and November with a follow-up in January.

In this notation project we looked at conventional music notation, rhythmic notation from words, graphic scores and free ornamentation and devised a piece with all these elements present.

We worked with children from P4/5 and P5 classes. The children were also introduced to flute, violin and viola, hearing them play in a variety of ways and having input into their final performances.

We will follow this up by displaying the children’s art work at our concert on 19th January and invite them to the church the following morning to revisit their work and perform it again.

Both classes have been given a recording of their pieces and a score to follow as they listen.

We felt that this more long-term approach was an interesting departure and we would definitely consider offering something similar again. We particularly enjoyed the opportunity to build relationships with the teachers and children which gave a depth to the work and encouraged a cross-curricular approach.

Lis Dooner 27.11.19

Kelso Music Society
Borders Primary Schools

String Ensemble
Duns Primary School

Simon Johnson, string coordinator for Scottish Borders, runs a weekly after-school session in Duns PS for primary-aged string players. Some come from quite far afield, from schools such as Morebattle and Melrose. This is a group of around 17 young, enthusiastic players plus one percussion teacher, a new string student!

We offered a session to Simon and he enthusiastically accepted. Both Stephen Tees and Kirsty Orton have huge and varied experience in teaching at all levels and Simon was very happy to have their input.

We started by playing a Beethoven trio for them and then they played a piece for us. It was lovely to share our music making.

Kirsty, who teaches at Big Noise in Stirling had some fun warm-ups and games focusing on basics of string playing. One lovely game where children passed around empty yogurt pots on the end of their bows to someone they could see had a good bow hold!

We just had one hour with them but the string tutors were able to reinforce what Simon is already doing with them with a different voice and a new dynamic.


“Hi Lis,Thank you so much for the brilliant workshop yesterday. The children were inspired by your playing- I’m sure you could tell how enthusiastic they were. Loved Kirsty’s warm ups, particularly as they reinforced a lot of the things which I am repeatedly teaching but with a fresh voice. The whole body warm up was particularly useful and the sort of thing I have time for in rehearsals if not in lessons - she’s given me a few things to think about. Please pass on my thanks to Stephen and Kirsty and also to Kelso Music Society. Simon”

  AUGUST 2018
Helen MacLeod

In July we heard the very sad news that Helen MacLeod, the Scottish harp player, was tragically killed in a car accident. Many of you will remember her from the concerts she gave for Kelso Music Society, with Steve and Lis in the Waverley Trio and the following season appearing with the Waverley Band in the concert which included the Berio Folksongs. Helen also gave generously of her time to visit Morebattle and Yetholm Primary Schools with Steve Tees and Lis Dooner - see photograph on left.

Helen hailed from the Highlands near Kyle of Lochalsh where she started playing the clarsach. She won a scholarship to study at St Mary’s Music School where fellow students remember her as being “a bright spark and joyous trouble maker”.

Helen continued her studies at the Royal Northern College of Music before returning to Scotland. She had a busy career here, working regularly with all the Scottish orchestras. She was also a very active chamber musician and worked alongside composers like Helen Grime and Edward McGuire.

Helen was a joy to work with, good fun to be around and she will be sorely missed as a positive force in the Scottish musical scene.

Our thoughts are with her family and friends as they come to terms with this terrible loss.

JUNE 2017  

Waverley Trio

  On Thursday, 15th June the Waverley Trio (Lis Dooner, flute, Stephen Tees, viola and Helen MacLeod, harp) made a special visit to Morebattle and Yetholm primary schools.
two schools who often miss out on our bigger events in Kelso because of the expense of transporting the children,   An hour was spent with each school.  The schools were very helpful and appreciative .

The trio focused on the beautiful Debussy Trio for Flute, Viola, Harp and the children, around 50 in each school, were delightful and had lots to say about the music and what pictures it conjured up for them. The were also introduced to the instruments and shown examples of different flutes and stringed instruments and the variety of sounds they could make and they were enthralled .The nursery class in Morebattle, who it had been planned would leave after 15 minutes, actually stayed for the whole performance

Peter Moore (trombone)

String quartets, piano trios, solo violinists and cellists and a clarinetist visiting schools all around Kelso. All that has happened under the auspices of Kelso Music Society over the past couple of years.

In February we had a visit from Peter Moore, the youngest ever winner of the BBC Young Musician competition. He was a mere 12 year old when he won and at the grand old age of 18 he was appointed to the co-principal trombone chair of the London Symphony Orchestra. Now just 21 he is an assured soloist as well as orchestral player.

How fortunate then was the group of brass players who got together under the baton of Cameron Mabon to play for Peter in Kelso Old Parish Church on February 4th. Peter and his pianist Robert Thompson kindly agreed to come up to Kelso a day early to work with the local brass players and what a success it was! Peter gave very helpful advice; his background was in the brass band world and one felt that perhaps he misses that now. He impressed the participants when he demonstrated the music they were playing in such a lovely, modest way.

Four soloists had a short masterclass with Peter; two sisters, Eliza and Jemima Bevan, from Duns played trombone and trumpet solos very beautifully. Two young players to watch! Two students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Lewis Bettles and Daniel Eddison, had come all the way from Glasgow to play for Peter and it was good for the youngsters to hear the more advanced playing of budding professionals. We were very happy to be able to offer that opportunity to the students and to offer them accommodation so that they could stay for Peter’s recital the next day. We’d also like to thank Robert for sight reading their accompaniments! Young Eliza was spotted sitting in the front row at Peter’s recital; I suspect this was a weekend she’ll never forget!

There is definitely a sense after these events that the visiting artists appreciate the chance to meet local musicians and to feel more connected to the area and its musical inhabitants. In this way these events have a two-way benefit.

This strand of our work is very important to us. To have these wonderful artists visit Kelso and not give young (and not so young!) local people access to them would, in our opinion, be a dereliction of our duty!

MARCH 2016

The Gould Piano Trio with Robert Plane

We had another highly successful event for local school children. On the advice of the artists we targeted 11 year olds, mainly P7s. We had 6 participating schools with around 150 children.


This group was obviously experienced in working with large groups of children.


They started the concert/workshop by playing an entire movement of Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time; not easy for 11 year olds but the quality of the listening was excellent. Questions were asked about the music and responses showed that they were truly engaged.


The group delivered an interactive session based on the music they had played in another Messiaen movement where all the instruments were playing individual parts. This was extremely good fun and gave opportunities to discuss and try balance, different tempi, accelerando, dynamic contrasts etc.


I had asked the players not to shy away from playing big chunks of music for listening; living in a rural community there is little opportunity to hear live music played at this level and, although some found that difficult, the overall impression was that they listened well. There was a little group who almost danced their way through a Beethoven clarinet trio!


Robert Plane, “ We so enjoyed our visit, and the children you managed to gather were terrific, really attentive and involved”


We hope to build on this work and are very grateful for the financial help we receive to do this. Each event is different depending on the visiting artists, their experience in this field of work, whether we need to be in the church to use the piano or can visit schools etc.


Our over-riding consideration is that the participants should hear playing and music of the highest quality with no hint of playing down. We are fortunate indeed that having musicians of the calibre of the artists visiting Kelso we are able to offer that.

Lis Dooner

March 16th 2016



Laura van Heijden and Tom Poster, who had given a stunning concert on the previous Friday, returned to Kelso in a gap in their Scottish tour to give a workshop to 150 pupils from 4 primary schools (Ednam, Broomlands, Edenside and Sprouston) and two High Schools (Berwickshire and Kelso) in Kelso Old Parish Church in which we hold our concerts.  Laura also went to Earlston High School in the afternoon.

The format of Laura and Tom’s workshop was that in the first half hour they talked to the pupils and played three short movements from their concert which was followed by a question and answer session.   The children had been invited to prepare their questions beforehand.  The four primary schools then went away and for the rest of the time two very good violinists from Berwickshire High School were given a masterclass by Laura.

This was a big breakthrough for us, to be able to allow so many children to hear Tom and Laura’s superb playing.  Their concentration was acute and there was not a sound throughout.  Both artists talked extremely well, very clear, firm and articulate. Verbal feedback from the schools has been extremely positive.

To bring six schools together at the same time was a major organisational endeavour masterminded by our own Lis Dooner.  Congratulations are due to the schools as well for their cooperation and support.  The next one takes place in February with Robert Plane and the Gould Trio.

 We received this appreciation from the minister

The short period I was in the church on Wednesday seemed inspiring, and I endorse your comments about the teaching. I saw the little girl violinist grow in musicality even within the space of ten minutes! What a wonderful opportunity for these young people.   Jenny Earl, Minister of Kelso Old.

MARCH 2015

Yuka Ishizuka gave a memorable violin workshop at Berwickshire High in which she had audible effects on both the excellent individuals that she coached and indeed their very efficient string orchestra.


The Benyounes Quartet  devised, with the help of a music educationalist, a workshop based on the Ravel String Quartet and for secondary school students a “timeline” of music and its context from Purcell to John Cage.

The morning of 24th November was spent in Sprouston PS and Ednam PS, each session lasting around 50 minutes. The beauty of working in these rural schools is that all the pupils there could take part and the quartet handled the spread of ages extremely well, making sure that all were engaged.

This was a delightful project. The children were engaged from the beginning as the players walked among them playing the opening of the quartet as they came into the hall. During the course of the sessions the children were engaged in various ways; in very careful listening, in observation of the way in which the instruments were played, in understanding musical structure through movement, in identifying texture and colour in the music. This project was extremely sophisticated in its concept and delivery and ideally targeted for the age range.

In the afternoon the quartet spent an hour with senior music students at Kelso HS. This project was less interactive than the morning sessions and involved lots of playing in different styles from the quartet. They set all their pieces in a historical and social context which was fascinating and the students seemed to enjoy the chat as well as the playing.

The quartet worked with over 80 young people in the course of the day and feedback from all the schools was very positive. 

2023/24 Season: