Pianist Murray McLachlan awarded Honorary Doctorate

The University of Dundee has awarded pianist, teacher and writer Murray McLachlan the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for outstanding achievements in music and education. McLachlan has made over 40 commercial CDs in a wide range of repertoire that includes the complete Piano works of Erik Chisholm and all the sonatas of Prokofiev, Myaskovsky and Beethoven.  He has performed on all five continents.  As Head of Keyboard at Chetham’s school of Music and Senior tutor at the RNCM in Manchester he is one of the UK’s leading teachers.  In 2001 McLachlan founded the Chetham’s International Summer School and Festival For Pianists, now the largest summer school in Europe devoted exclusively to the piano.  In 2007 he founded the Manchester International Concerto competition for Young Pianists, which will be staged for the fourth time in 2013.  In addition to performing, teaching and administrative achievements, McLachlan is an acclaimed writer on piano related subjects for magazines including International Piano and ‘Pianist.  He is also editor of ‘Piano Professional’ magazine and Chair of EPTA UK (European Piano Teachers’ Association).

The Laureation Address reads:

Chancellor, I have the honour to present for the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Murray McLachlan

It is indeed fitting that the University of Dundee should recognise the achievements of Murray McLachlan, an outstanding pianist and music educator – a son of this city who has supported Scottish music during an international career.  Born in Dundee, he attended school in Aberdeen where his family relocated, followed by secondary education in Manchester and a music degree at Cambridge University.

Murray McLachlan’s professional career began 25 years ago with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, under Sir Alexander Gibson, playing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”.  He now has over 60 piano concertos in his performing repertoire and a prize-winning discography of over 40 CDs.  The most acclaimed CDs have probably been of Russian music, but he has also received accolades for recordings of Scottish music, including earlier 20th century composers such as Chisholm and McEwen;  and contemporary Scottish composers including Ronald Stevenson – who himself received an honorary doctorate from this university in 1998.  Despite a very busy international schedule, Murray still finds time to visit Dundee, and only 10 days ago we heard his spectacular rendition of Beethoven’s first piano concerto with Dundee Symphony Orchestra just a few paces to the east of here, in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Like Peter Donohoe, Stephen Hough and Paul Lewis, Murray McLachlan is a “piano old boy” of Chetham’s music school in Manchester – and it is to Chetham’s that he returned in 1997 as head of keyboard after several years teaching, in Scottish music schools, universities and what is now the Glasgow Conservatoire.  At the end of each school year in Manchester, Murray fills what lesser mortals would take as a summer break by running an outstanding piano summer school on the Chetham’s campus, with the energetic and capable assistance of his wife Kathryn Page,  who is also a super pianist.  This residential summer school, now 12 years old, brings a star-studded international teaching faculty to Manchester: it is not only for budding professional pianists, but also for enthusiastic amateurs of all ages.  The McLachlan enterprise has now added two new international piano competitions into this summer programme, cleverly converting the teaching faculty into judges, and the summer school delegates into an enthusiastic and discerning audience.

But this is still not all – in addition to performances, one-to-one teaching, masterclasses and judging competitions, Murray McLachlan has become a teacher of teachers, now Chair of the European Piano Teachers Association, and Honorary President for Great Britain and Northern Ireland of the World Piano Teacher’s Association.  He regularly contributes articles and reviews to international piano and music magazines.  And I have it on good authority that when he eventually returns home he is greeted with the clamour of a young family who demand piano lessons from him.

He continues to exude a boyish enthusiasm in everything he does:  his energy and warmth has made him friends all over the world.

There is a “soor ploom” saying that: “those who can, do: those who can’t, teach” – Well, Murray McLachlan calls the lie to this waspish sentiment.  He is a dynamic doer, a terrific teacher and an entrepreneurial educator. 

So Chancellor, it is with great pleasure that I invite you to confer upon Murray McLachlan the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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