Hello! I’m Megan and I’m a third year Undergraduate Music student here at York!
The Department is small yet, vibrant and incredibly inclusive. There are only two courses (Music and Music and Sound Recording) and all first year students, along with some second and third years, are involved on a large project together called the Practical Project in their first six weeks. By the end of these six weeks you will have been involved with an incredibly rewarding show that runs for three nights, and could even be devised entirely by you and your fellow students! This was really key in helping me settle into University life – after the whirlwind of Freshers’ week, it was great to have something to focus on and really get my teeth into. Practical Project is completely different every year, and can either be devised around a theme (past themes include Commedia dell’Arte and James Joyce), or performing an existing show (past performances include Shosktakovich’s Paradise Moscow and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera).
Naturally, lectures aren’t your traditional ‘sit and listen’ in a 200 seat lecture hall. Classes are small (usually 20 in a class) and many modules are focussed on Performance and Composition, which means that lecture styles and activities often vary massively. You could be listening and giving feedback on a performance or a composition delivered by your peers and doing the same for them! However, there are still lots of modules that are assessed by traditional essays or other written forms.
One of my favourite lectures this year was on the Music in the Community module where we spent a solid half an hour learning musical warm-up games for children and vulnerable people to help them engage with rhythm and singing! At the end of this module we took part in a full day placement, delivering our own devised workshops based on one of the BBC Ten Pieces Project, to four primary school classes. I am also looking forward to my Final Flute Recital this summer – a popular final term choice for third year Music BA students who love performing!
The lecturers are really friendly and welcoming. You will have an academic and performance supervisor (sometimes they happen to be the same person!) and twice termly supervisions are mandatory, along with supervisions and tutorials from your module lecturers during the term. The support and enthusiasm of the staff in the department is very good. Each of them have their own areas of expertise, and many of them are involved with running and leading the many department ensembles on offer.
The Department Ensembles are incredibly varied so even if you don’t think performing is particularly your thing there is more than likely something for you! From large-scale, classical choirs and ensembles like University Choir, Chamber Choir (led by Peter Seymour) and University Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra (led by John Stringer), to smaller scale, student-led ensembles such as Zamar Gospel Choir and the Music Education Group (MEG), there is a huge range of opportunities to perform!
Even if you don’t see yourself as a ‘performer’ you can still be involved with ensembles. MEG delivers musical workshops across the community and there are chances to compose and/or conduct a piece for The Chimera Ensemble, the department’s student-led contemporary music ensemble.
The department provides you with many opportunities to increase your employability. Contact hours are not overly heavy which allows you to take time to get really involved with ensembles, societies, volunteering projects, or even a part-time job. A lot of the people I know from the department have flexible, student-friendly part-time jobs, and the department even offers the chance for you to be Front of House Staff at concerts in your third year! The department Careers officer Robert Hollingworth works closely with the University of York Careers Office to deliver music focussed careers talks at accessible times for everyone in the department. In the past, these have ranged from Music Therapy to a career in teaching or performance.
The Department runs their own Concert Series that includes a vast range of concerts on a weekly or even twice weekly basis during term time. Highlights from this year include The Swingle Singers and the ever popular University of York Symphony Orchestra concerts. As a Music Department student you will likely have the chance to perform in these concerts, and all tickets are absolutely free for music students! So if you want to access opportunities to listen to more live music, York is the place for you. Concerts take place either in the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall or the Rymer Auditorium, which has very interesting acoustics that are particularly useful for Jazz concerts. There are opportunities to be a steward for concerts, which is valuable work experience, particularly if you are interested in concerts/events management. As a steward, you also have the opportunity to meet and greet members of the public who also regularly attend York Concerts.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of York and can honestly say that I don’t want it to end so soon! If you want to be a part of a varied department that values composition, performance, listening and academic writing equally and allows you to tailor your degree to really suit you and your prospective career path, then I am sure that you would thrive here.