Charles Bryars Organ Scholarship winner

Lady standing next to organ
Carol Ditner-Wilson
Online Course
PGT Student
Carol studied on the MA in Transcultural and Traditional Music studies from 2021 - 2023 and was awarded the Charles Bryars Organ Scholarship to support her with her studies.

Department of Music Scholarships 

What made you choose to study at Sheffield and your course?

The pandemic! Lockdown gives one a lot of time to think, and I had long been contemplating a return to academia but never acted on it.  I took that time to research many schools and programs, and it came down to  a choice between Library Science and World Music.  I soon realised that even if I chose a Canadian school I would be learning remotely, so why not look overseas? Remote learning and distance learning had essentially become the same thing. I knew that there was a lot more to learn about music than the old composers in the history books, and the course description for Traditional and Transcultural music was appealing as it seemed very relevant to the present day.

What does a typical day look like for you?

While each day is a bit different, I usually take care of my work during the day - teaching, practicing either piano or organ, collaborating with my duet partner (sometimes that just means drinking coffee),  and going to my non-music job as a jewelry merchandise rep. Most of my reading and studying is done in the evenings, and since I am a night owl anyway, that means until midnight or 1 am.  When we have tutorials or group meetings I have the flexibility to accommodate those during the day.  It’s a treat if I can spend an entire Friday or Saturday on school work, and Sunday mornings I am at the organ console at a Lutheran church in the nearby village of St.Jacobs, Ontario. 

What are the highlights of your experience in Sheffield so far?

It may seem like a small thing, but last year our instructor Dr. Kate Walker was doing field research in Dubai and we had to have a class meeting.  I think it was around lunch time for me in Canada with snow on the ground, and she appeared on camera in Dubai outdoors, wearing summer clothing,  in the dark, with the moon shining brightly behind her.  To have all our classmates in different countries and time zones interacting with our teacher in that moment was really memorable. Another highlight for me was receiving the Charles Bryars Organ scholarship.  

What do you enjoy most about your course, and why?

I enjoy the fact that everyone on the course is interested in something different and we can all learn from each other.  I appreciate that the course encompasses globalisation of music and encourages us to think about decolonisation of music curricula that we may already be teaching, or changing curricula in the future. 

What skills have you developed during your course that will be useful after you graduate?

I needed to develop a lot of skills because I had been away from academia for many years. Time management,  searching databases, and critical thinking (which needs more work) are the big ones that come to mind.  I learned about digital archives and metadata from Dr. Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw in the Teaching and Transmission module.  While researching my topic, which was about Shape-Note singing, I made a connection with Dr. Jesse Karlsberg from Emory University in Atlanta, United States, and now I volunteer  remotely with his team on the Sounding Spirit project.  They are digitising songbooks and hymnals from the American sacred vernacular of 1850 to 1925. I started out intending to work on the collection of  metadata, but since I have to focus on my dissertation I took on a job that is less time consuming, that of quality control. All the digitised books need to be checked for page order, flipped images and things like that. I never would have understood the significance of any of this had I been in a different course. 

How has the scholarship supported you with your studies?

I’d like to share a bit about receiving the scholarship.  I think almost everyone these days searches for help with funding their education.  For some reason I did not find out about this scholarship until it was posted on a Sheffield music faculty Facebook page, along with the quickly approaching deadline! I sincerely thank Dr. Andrew Killick for believing in me and for making sure I had a strong application.  A requirement of the scholarship is that your final dissertation has to have something to do with the organ.

I had been thinking about secular uses of the organ in society and this funding gave me a chance to research the use of the organ as accompaniment to hockey and baseball games at stadiums across Canada and the United States. Last year, while learning to do virtual fieldwork, I was privileged to capture first hand, accounts of  music activism during the first few weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when church organists in several countries began playing the Ukrainian national anthem unscripted during their regular Sunday services. I have looked at both of these topics from the perspective of the organists themselves and probably learned just as much from people as I have from the course. It has really been a privilege to have the financial support, as it eases the mental load and allows you to graduate without student loans. 

A note to future students:  you do not need to be an organ virtuoso to qualify for this scholarship, you just need to be able to pay attention and ask questions.  Sometimes it’s just the organ sound that is significant, what does it mean? The possibilities are endless and I encourage you to apply.  You have nothing to lose and may gain more than you ever imagined. 


Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

International scholarships

We offer a generous package of financial support for international students, including undergraduate and postgraduate taught scholarships towards the annual tuition fee. Applications are open for existing offer holders.