Music at Manchester: An unrivalled blend of academic and performance excellence

“I’m so glad I chose Manchester. The lecturers are so approachable and interested in the students’ individual interests and welfare. The year groups mix really well and get involved in lots of activities together, so that there’s a real feeling of belonging. Performance means a great deal to me and I don’t think anywhere else would have offered me so many varied opportunities.” – Sophie Price, MusB, University of Manchester

Home to three professional orchestras (The Hallé, BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata), the Royal Northern College of Music, the headquarters of the BBC, the Manchester Arena and a host of clubs and venues to suit all musical tastes, Manchester is one of Europe’s leading musical and cultural centres. Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle, the Bee Gees and Oasis: these are just some of the musical pioneers to whom Manchester owes its claim to fame.

Leading the field in the city’s musical masterstrokes, the Department of Music at the University of Manchester is the ideal place to inject velocity into your musical aspirations. Characterised by an intensely practical focus, outstanding teaching and a unique performance culture, this department has always been positioned at the cutting-edge of musical innovation.

Since 2013, the department has been ranked among the UK’s top three destinations for the study of music, highlighting the elite reputation of this artistic and intellectual powerhouse. By maintaining a natural synergy between the critical sub-disciplines of performance, musicology and composition, the institution consistently produces versatile global graduates with wide-ranging expertise, spurred on not only by a genuine love of music and learning but also by a burning passion to succeed.

“Performance + Musicology + Composition. Making music. Thinking about music. Creating new music,” says Head of Music Professor Camden Reeves, as he sets out the department’s fundamental ethos. “For us at Manchester, these provide the three sides of an equilateral triangle, and we pursue all three to an equal level of excellence.”

By nurturing a setting that actively encourages students to learn from one another, Manchester embodies the friendly, intimate and unpretentious learning environment needed to produce the highest standard of work. Teaching takes place in the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama – a £8.2 million state-of-the-art building furnished with the full range of musical equipment – and the adjacent NOVARS building, which houses the award-winning electroacoustic composition studios and the highly regarded NOVARS Research Centre.

Access to top-class facilities, matched by a highly-specialised education in practical music-making and critical thinking delivered by expert musicians and eminent researchers, sets students off on the best possible foot when it comes to forging a professional career. And in a fast-moving, global business that’s notoriously competitive, there’s no better return on investment than the promise of success.

Tom Coult, graduate of Manchester’s MusB Music and MusM Composition programmes, was quickly able to establish himself as a leading new compositional voice. “I’m a composer of notated music,” he explains. “I’ve written pieces for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia and the Philharmonia, and am currently working on commissions for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and London Sinfonietta.” In his work, Coult weaves a distinctive blend of wit, invention and playfulness into a rich, sensuous and luxurious sound, creating his own musical artistry that reflects his own personal vision and identity.

“I enjoy being a composer because music is the best thing in the world – I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he adds. “When, after months of difficult work, a piece seems to gain enough momentum to take off and the ideas come thick and fast, the excitement is really intoxicating. It’s maybe only bettered by the experience of hearing a piece performed well by great musicians.”

Without the opportunities and experiences made available to him throughout his time at this school and in this culturally vibrant city, Coult believes his life would have taken a very different path – one he can’t even begin to imagine as he continues to take the UK music scene by storm.

“My studies at the University of Manchester were absolutely crucial to my development as a composer – I received inspiring and meticulous tuition on my pieces, was part of a rewarding community of composers, and benefitted from the University’s admirable emphasis on giving performance opportunities for composers,” he concludes. “I heard so much of my music – such a number, range and calibre of performance opportunities is unheard of in a university environment; the experience, confidence and recordings that I acquired as a result of this commitment to performing composers’ work were invaluable in entering the professional world as a composer.”

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