- Course: MMus Performance
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Originally hailing from Manchester, I completed my undergraduate studies at King’s College London, graduating with a 1st with hons in Music (BMus) in 2017. I began my postgraduate studies at the University of Leeds in September 2019, studying with the assistance of the Head of School Excellence scholarship. I am also the Taught Postgraduate School Rep for the School of Music. During my undergrad, I was president of King’s Opera and took part in various musical activities in and around London (including playing the piano and some very questionable clarinet).
What made you want to apply to your Masters course and to Leeds?
Having completed my undergraduate degree, which was largely music history and musicology, I wanted to start the shift to performance. The course at Leeds is a really great mix between academic study and practical performance which is what drew me in initially. You can also choose a lot of what you study – alongside my core studies I am taking an additional performance module (applied performance) and a dissertation (to cram in my love of writing essays). There is also the obvious draw of Leeds to any young singer – Opera North. It also has a great Youth Opera company – Leeds Youth Opera – who I was lucky enough to perform with as Rosalinde in their 2019 production of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
On a very basic level – I love singing. On a more specific level – researching and discussing the academic writings and historic recordings that influence performances make singing and performing as a whole a lot more satisfying, and let you make more informed interpretive choices. I have always found music, and singing in particular, a really strong outlet for expressing emotion and I’m very interested in the positive effect performance and music can have on mental health.
What aspects of the course are you enjoying the most?
The amount of performance! As much as I do love writing and research, the number of performance opportunities are great. As well as performance classes, which are really helping me get over my performance nerves, I’ve had the chance to perform solo in Ripon Cathedral and in public concerts happening in the school. Getting feedback from, and giving feedback to your peers is very helpful and makes you much more self-aware about stage presence and practice and bad habits you might have not noticed before.
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
The school of music itself has some amazing facilities. The whole basement is practice rooms (including percussion rooms, ensemble rooms, a psychology lab, electronic suites, and a rehearsal hall) which all have Steinway pianos. There is also the Clothworker’s Centenary Hall which hosts an international concert series as well as weekly performance classes and student concerts and showcases. It’s a really great space to perform in and is conveniently central to everything you’ll be doing. There are also practice and performance spaces in the union, such as the Riley Theatre where opera soc performs.
For research – the libraries are amazing. As a music student you’ll likely spend most time in the Brotherton which has very Harry Potter vibes, and Laidlaw, which is very swanky and modern – there are other libraries too and there are a huge number of physical and online resources.
Did you work closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff? Tell us about that experience.
I have had an amazing experience learning from my vocal teacher – dramatic soprano, Sarah Estill. She is honestly a wonder and has taught me so much about the industry as well as about my own voice and how to best use it.
Completely invaluable to performers is school repetiteur Dan Gordon – from running the performance class, having a dedicated repetiteur makes such a huge difference when you’re getting rep ready for performance. His contacts are also really helpful for performance opportunities outside the school.
Professor Mike Allis runs most of my modules and he is the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable person – having been tutored by him on three different modules has introduced me to some great sources for researching and information on how to approach different projects.
What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?
There are a whole bunch of music societies as well as other general interest societies available through LUU. I personally have been lucky to perform with LUU opera soc as Semele in Handel’s opera of the same name and am a member of the Symphonic Choir. Even within LUUMs (the central music society) there are both auditioned and un-auditioned ensembles.
What do you plan to do when you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed/are developing at Leeds will help with these plans?
Ultimately, I want to go on to sing opera professionally. Upon completion of my masters, I’m hoping to continue my studies at a conservatoire before beginning a full-time professional career. The course at Leeds has given me a much better insight into how to approach learning and performing repertoire from a wide variety of angles. The standard and amount of performance required has also been very eye-opening for me and has really helped me to plan my time and practice to make sure everything is fully prepared so I can get the most out of performances and classes.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
Go for it! Be ready for the commitment to working both academically and in preparing performances – one of the best opportunities are weekly performance classes in the Clothworker’s Centenary Concert Hall, but you have to put a lot of time and preparation in to get the most out of them. And just throw yourself in! I’ve found extra-curriculars really help to give a rounded university experience (but don’t fall into the music student trap of all extra-curriculars being music as well).