The Liam Colgan award honours the legacy of the former Perth UHI student who passed away in 2018 and now his memory commemorates exceptional musical students from all across the largest university student population in Scotland.
Aiesha Hunter and Jack Birnie are this year’s two winners who both happen to study at Perth UHI and graduated with a first-class BA (hons) popular music degree.
Heartland Multimedia caught up with Aiesha who couldn’t be more grateful to have been awarded for the prestigious recognition of her effort throughout her studies.
Aiesha said to us: “I would just love to thank all of my tutors at UHI, espcially Liam’s family, and this fund for awarding me with this amazing thing, I’m very honoured.
“I’m very, very, incredibly thankful they even picked me, I don’t now if I’m this is me being too humble, but I’m very, very grateful for it.”
Winning this award gives Aiesha £500 towards a mentoring opportunity with with ‘a renowned artist.’
Speaking about why they were chosen, Dr Seán McLaughlin, BA (Hons) Popular Music Programme Leader said: “Both students demonstrated outstanding resilience, creativity and dedication in adapting their honours year projects to difficult circumstances following the outbreak of Covid-19.
“Aiesha produced a fantastic collection of original songs, but also designed a free online songwriting education programme during the spring/summer lockdown. I’m looking forward to seeing her continued development and output in both of these areas with the help of the Liam Colgan Scholarship.”
This is the second year in which the award has been running and it hopes to help provide an opportunity for upcoming, local, talent to hone in their musical skills and break out into the musical world.
Founder of the award, Brian Colgan said: “It was great to be able to meet and award last year’s winners Lora MacLeod and Liam Cole at their graduation ceremony at Perth College UHI where Liam also graduated from.
“We thought it would not be possible to do the same this year due to the pandemic but were delighted when we found out that an online awards evening was being arranged by the university.
“We set up this student award with the University of the Highlands and Islands as a way to help young people realise their ambitions in the world of music, and to make sure that positives could come out of the devastation caused by Liam’s untimely death.”
For Aiesha, developing the musical skills of others is a passion of hers expressed in her studies where she’s had the chance to try this out on placement.
She said: “I’ve always been a big drama and big music kid and I’ve always wanted to write my own music, but I just thought I wasn’t talented enough, I thought it was like a born gift.
“So when I came up to university, and everybody was witting original material, I was like, oh my god, how can I do this?”
After picking up some of the ‘fundamental stepping stones’ to her own music writing, Aiesha said if she could ‘just break them down into basic steps, how would this play?’
So during her time on placement she tried giving children the opportunity to write their own songs using her approach.
Asking if she feels that anyone, regardless of their musical ability, can learn to be musical, Aisha’s simple answer was ‘one hundred percent, one hundred percent.’
She explained: “I think that , not only of playing an instrument or singing, but to actually create their own original material.
“I think the only difference between me and a non-musical person is I’ve had the education and I’ve understood the key fundamentals to doing so.
“So I think if anyone had the knowledge then they are more than capable of going away and creating their own original material, one hundred per cent.”
Looking back on her time at the University of Highlands and Island’s Perth campus, she said one of the best aspects is learning first hand from lecturers who are ‘popular musicians’ and ‘are very much in the industry.’
She added: “And I just found that so interesting, our lecturers were teaching us class at five and he’s got a gig at six and I just loved that.
“So for me, Perth UHI was one hundred per cent the best course I could have went to, it’s a fantastic course, I couldn’t recommend it enough.”
Aiesha finished by saying: “I just urge everybody to go for it, I think life’s too short and music’s the most amazing thing and what’s better than better than music? Music’s all we need, so I urge anyone to go for it.”