Lara Wassenberg

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am half English, half German and mostly grew up in the South of England, however also spent a few years living in Frankfurt in Germany. I love my music, but also have a passion for the outdoors, learning new languages, and cooking. 

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

I really wanted to carry on performing but didn’t want it to be the only thing I did. The course at Leeds was perfect because you could choose a variety of Music modules (from History to Composition to Technology), as well as carry on performing to a high level. On top of this you can also choose a discovery module – for example I chose a LEED sports module and learnt how to boulder and climb, so the diversity is brilliant and keeps your academic life very interesting! I also didn’t want to go to conservatoire for my whole degree, so to have a year of conservatoire life abroad, and to be able to get my French fluent is an amazing opportunity.

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

Music will always be there for everyone, as long as there are people to make music. It is a common interest among all people, so it truly is something that you can connect to everyone about. Within the subject of Music there are so many different avenues it is impossible to get bored, whether you’re a techy, academic, creative, or scientific person, there is something to explore. Which is another reason why I love studying music – you get to meet a very broad range of people with different interests.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

I loved my viola lessons, as my teacher was brilliant, however I also really enjoyed Music in Context and learning in depth about a particular genre and period of music. Aesthetics and Criticism was also really fun and engaging, and made me enjoy writing again.

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

Before arriving at Leeds I thought that if I took a Performance degree the University would expect me to go into that profession. On the contrary – I feel the professors in the School of Music are very holistic and open-minded about students and their futures. I am studying Music because I love it yet have no idea if I want to follow it into a career, as there are so many other areas of life that I’m passionate about – and the School of Music are completely supportive of that. This is also reflected in the modules offered, as each one gives students a different set of skills which you can translate into most employment areas. So I suppose the most surprising thing is the amount that I can tailor my degree to what I want to learn.

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

The learning facilities are brilliant and modern, with everything you need. There are also regular ‘Town Hall’ meetings for students to voice their views and suggest improvements, all of which are taken into account and acted on. My favourite thing about the University in general is the Student Union. The building itself is amazing with so many food options. There are always events going on inside or outside, and the list of Clubs and Societies you can join are endless! I met most of my friends through the Union.

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

For music students, most of the ensembles you will find through LUUMS (Leeds University Union Music Society) – these are fun and relaxed and you get to cover some amazing repertoire! There are auditioned and non-auditioned ensembles so there is something for everyone. I ran Fundraising and Sponsorship for this society in my second year and learnt so many skills through it – I even landed a job that summer on a Fundraising Campaign for my old school because of it! Any student can apply for a role on the Executive Committee for any Society – an opportunity that should not be missed if given the chance! As well as the Music Society I also did frequent hikes with the Hiking Club, which I loved! On our Easter trip we went on an epic trip to the Moroccan Anti-Atlas Mountains. Whatever your hobby is there is bound to be a Union Society you can join – the list is endless!

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 am currently on my year abroad studying at the Superior Academy of Music at the School of the Arts of the Rhine in Strasbourg (la HEAR). My main reason for applying to somewhere in France was to improve my French. I have only been here 3 months and my French has already come on in leaps and bounds. My teacher is also brilliant here and focuses a lot on technique. It is also fascinating to learn about the difference in upbringing and attitudes in France. Conservatoire life is very different to university life and I am still getting used to it, however I am very glad that I have taken this opportunity.

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

Whether you want to be a Performer long-term or not, you get to learn so many valuable skills and have so many amazing opportunities. I think the value of a Music degree is massively underrated, and in a world where careers and job possibilities are ever-changing, the skills you learn will give you a secure basis to pursue the career that you want.