A Lewis music student has just learnt she’s been awarded a coveted place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, one of the top ten performing arts colleges in the world.

Caitlin Mackenzie, of Back, who is 18, was among 300 students auditioning for just four available places to begin a course in September 2019, in the study of vocal music including opera and classical singing.

When news arrived that she had been successful, on Wednesday last week (November 14th), it meant the end of a determined battle for Caitlin - and the start of a new era of hard work and opportunity.

Caitlin, the head girl at the Nicolson Institute last year, left school in June having already applied once, unsuccessfully, for the Conservatoire.

Mum Emma said: “They told her at that time that she was too young and lacked experience, so we arranged for her to travel to Glasgow every second Saturday to join the junior conservatoire, a weekend study and tuition school.”

At the Saturday sessions, Caitlin learnt about performance, music theory, choral work and in one-to-one sessions with a tutor from St Andrew’s university. Since leaving school she has moved to Glasgow, leaving younger sister Jocelyn and parents Emma and Willie behind, and now attends every Saturday, spending her weeks practicing and studying.

Emma said: “She has just been living and breathing singing. The audition came round on November 8th and she got through to the second audition later the same day. There were about 300 people after four places, so we really did not know until she heard the news on Wednesday. People here had told her that she was good, but of course we haven’t heard everyone else. I think it was just before the audition that she began to realise what she was up against.”

Even with the place assured, Caitlin continues her hard work. She is in two choirs, one the National Youth Choir of Scotland, and has Christmas concerts to practice for, as well as a performance in Stornoway as part of the Iolaire commemoration on December 31st.

Emma said: “She will be home for Christmas with us and have a chance to thank the people who supported her, including Avril Allen and Cath Fish, both of whom were great supporters during her time in school here in Lewis. Everyone was so helpful to her.

“She’s absolutely delighted. This is her dream. Not getting in last year was really hard, but she found the strength to follow that dream.”