Isla Ratcliff is a Scottish musician who works in numerous musical genres and practices. She is a Scottish traditional fiddle player, Scots singer, songwriter and composer, with a background in classical violin and piano. Her work is underpinned by her passions for music’s positive impact on our wellbeing and for Scottish cultural politics. She is currently studying a Masters degree in Scottish traditional music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, supported by Help Musicians UK.
Isla studied with a Suzuki violin teacher in Edinburgh, with a Russian violin teacher in Addis Ababa, at the City of Edinburgh Music School and at Oxford University, where she gained a First Class BA Music degree. She wrote her undergraduate dissertation on the role of music in the Scottish Independence Referendum debate. Highlights of her performance career include performing at Cambridge Folk Festival and Sidmouth FolkWeek with the Fèis Rois Gaelic National Cèilidh Trail 2018, performing at Celtic Connections with the Fèis Rois National Cèilidh Trail 2017, performing at Festival Boult-aux-Bois et Cordes 2019, touring to China with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland in 2015, playing a trad duet with Nicola Benedetti in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall aged 13, and busking from Moscow to Zeebrugge aged 11. Isla writes her own songs, has scored music for two short films and two theatre productions and devised a 30-minute cultural-political musical-theatrical production A Reawakened Monument of Antiquity. Her song ‘Death Row’, inspired by the case of Troy Davis, won the lyrics category of Amnesty International’s Power Of Our Voices protest songwriting competition in 2013. As a community music practitioner, Isla has run songwriting projects for young parents and for people with dementia, delivered workshops about music and mental health for P7 children, taught violin to vulnerable children in Uganda, supported music rehearsals for people with disabilities, been a gig buddy for a person with additional support needs, and researched music interventions in prisons. Isla is a fun and inspiring instrumental teacher with a DipABRSM Teaching Diploma with Distinction.
“a promising musician full of dedication and seriousness” – Nicola Benedetti, classical violinist
“a natural performer” – Peter Markham, classical violinist
“her performance is compelling – a chilling lament for a life lost that brings to mind Billie Holliday’s classic ‘Strange Fruit'” – Dan Jones, Amnesty International UK Education Team
“an elegant and stylish performer with much to offer as a sincere musician who plays from the heart” – Adjudicator of Edinburgh Competition Festival 2014 Concerto Class
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