Charlotte Duckett

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

My name is Charlotte Duckett and I am a final year student at Leeds University. I am an Early Music nerd – my greatest love in life is Bach! I am from a small town in North Wales. I am a singer but also play violin, viola, bass guitar and most recently viol and hurdy-gurdy! I am an experienced chorister, singing in choirs both in the UK and Canada, where I spent my year abroad. I am incredibly grateful for all of the amazing and honestly life-changing opportunities and experiences I have had in Leeds!

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

I fell in love with the buildings here! I find it so inspiring to be able to study in such beautiful places – the art deco Brotherton library’s circular room is such a beautiful place to read and write essays and Clothworker’s hall is a wonderful room to sing in! I was also attracted to how passionate all the music staff were at open day, I felt motivated to study here from day one. I was originally on a joint honours course, but always felt so welcomed and at home in Music that I transferred onto the single honours course at the end of first year.  It was the best decision I made!

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

I absolutely love research and being surrounded by musicologists of such a high renown in Leeds is truly inspiring. My lecturers are always willing to talk through my ideas with me and I benefit so much from their experience and knowledge – they become truly passionate about your projects and helping you realise them! I absolutely adore Early Music – music from before 1750 – and Leeds such a wonderful city to study it in. The city itself has plenty of early music opportunities and you are a very short train ride away from York and the Early Music Centre there. Leeds Baroque choir and orchestra, run by Dr Clive McClelland and professor emeritus Peter Holman, is well-known nationally and allows students to perform with some of the top Baroque musicians in Europe.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

The flexibility of the course here is really its stand out point – you can design the exact degree that you want. Beyond the basic ‘overview’ courses in first year, there is a huge diversity in the modules that can be studied. This structure means that every degree from Leeds is different – even two people taking identical modules will have totally different degrees based on the amount of freedom and choice we get. I am particularly enjoying the freedom I am getting in final year with my final year projects – I have fewer lectures and a lot more space to do my own independent research, supported by experts in my field.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

I was surprised by how strong a feeling of community we have at Leeds. I came from a small sixth form and never really felt as if I fit in. In Leeds, I found groups of people who understand me and care about me and my opinions. The music foyer is a hub for meeting people and hanging out between practices and lectures.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

I love the music tech/macbook suite in the music department. It feels so open and inviting and the top-end and up-to-date software on the computers makes it the best place on campus to type up notes, write essays, edit works on Sibelius or plan lecture presentations. The libraries in Leeds have anything you could ever need – and if they don’t, they can order it in for you! Most music books are kept on the bottom floor of the basement in the Brotherton library – the circular room and spiralling staircases down to it really at to the character of the university.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

I sing with the Clothworker’s Consort of Leeds and Leeds Baroque choir, both of which have not only allowed me to develop as a musician but have given me the most unbelievable opportunities. I have sung with Clothworker’s Consort all over the UK, from Edinburgh to Norwich and in my first year, we were invited to sing at the official Holocaust Memorial Day in London, which was one of the most profound experiences of my life. Through my association with both choirs, I have been offered many generous bursaries for Early Music summer courses, including the prestigious Benslow Early Opera course. These extra-curricular courses have allowed me to gain knowledge and experience in specific aspects of early music that have greatly improved how I approach my uni work and have given me experiences that set me apart as a performer and a researcher.

Did you take a work placement or study abroad year? If so, how did you find this experience and what have you gained from it?

I spent the last year at York University in Toronto, Canada and it was the best experience of my life. The skills I had learned prior to my year abroad made me more than ready to thrive in a new environment with different challenges. Whereas I mainly focus on musicology, the research and essays side of music, at Leeds, the freedom of a year abroad allowed me to explore other options without the fear of having to get a specific grade above a pass. This freedom gave me the confidence to leave my comfort zone. I spent the year as a choir and conducting major under Dr Lisette Canton, one of Canada’s top choral conductors. I was also invited, through my success in York University Choirs, to join the profession Ottawa Bach Choir. During my year working with the OBC, I met and sang for the Governor General of Canada, the choir was featured multiple times on national radio, and I performed in Carnegie Hall in New York. Singing in New York had always been a dream and performing in Carnegie Hall was a transcendent experience. I was asked to stay on with the choir as a professional singer this year, with me travelling to Canada at multiple points of this year for concerts. Leeds School of Music have been incredibly supportive with this and without their support and encouragement, I wouldn’t be able to keep living my dream as a singer in Canada. This summer, I have been invited on tour to China and to perform at the prestigious BachFest Leipzig, one of the biggest and most important early music festivals in the world.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Leeds has so many amazing and unique experiences to offer that no other university experience could compare. The modular structure of the degrees and the huge amount of discovery options and options for years abroad and in industry mean that no one’s experiences at Leeds will ever be exactly the same. You can tailor your degree into exactly what you want of it, with it still remaining flexible enough to try something completely new in final year, if that’s what you want. I have hugely enjoyed my time here and will forever cherish the memories and friends I have made here.

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

I’m looking to continue my studies next year with a Master’s degree in musicology. From my year abroad, I have been given opportunities for further work and study in Canada that I’m hoping to pursue as soon as possible. At Leeds, I’ve been given opportunities that I’d have never dreamed of and through these, I have discovered who I am and what I want to do.