Source: Royal Academy of Music
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Royal Academy of Music: A global hub of artistic and educational excellence

An extraordinary place for extraordinary people — that’s the Royal Academy of Music, the UK’s oldest conservatoire. Now in its third century, it has trained and inspired students to become some of the world’s most successful music makers and leaders in concert halls, opera houses, theatres and beyond. They include the likes of multi-Oscar and Grammy award winner Sir Elton John, Sir Simon Rattle (incoming Chief Conductor with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Munich)  and music legend Annie Lennox. More recently, Sheku Kanneh-Mason performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018, guitarist Plínio Fernandes was selected by Forbes in their annual Under 30 list and in 2021 Academy graduate Jacob Collier won five Grammy awards, fresh from studying at the Academy

At the Academy, students don’t just follow the path of these legends; they get to work and record alongside them as well. Distinguished artists regularly return to the Academy to impart their wisdom through masterclasses, engage in performances alongside students in Side-by-Side programmes, and even collaborate on recordings together. Together with The Juilliard School, renowned soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan and students produced an all-Stravinsky recording, which will be released by world-renowned, independent label Linn Records. Recently, Courtney Love and her co-writers visited the Academy to listen to baroque instruments and “a Bach bassline that sounded as if Bach was into Pantera or Radiohead’s Kid A.” “It blew my mind,” she told The Financial Times, calling the trip “the most delightful musical experience of my life.”

Performing with world-leading musicians is a way of life at the Academy. “Rehearsing and performing alongside professors is one of the most valuable ways to learn within a live performance setting. Putting years of preparation into practice alongside working professionals is the goal for most students when they leave – bringing this into a controlled and encouraging educational environment is bridging the gap between being a student and being a professional and highlights finer elements of technique which still need honing,” says Head of Woodwind Fraser Gordon. Gordon has been a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as Principal Contrabassoon for 11 years and has performed, recorded and toured with most of the orchestral groups in the UK.

“At the start of their studies, regular ensemble work is vital, however high-pressure performance situations need to be well controlled and perhaps individually tailored so students are given time to grow technically and musically between public performances. Live performances in front of an audience are most important so students can feel their progress and gain confidence from it.”

The Academy offers a wide array of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes spanning performance, conducting, composition, and research. The lineup — which includes jazz, classical music, composition, conducting, musical theatre, and opera — is diverse and unique. No other UK conservatoire offers this musical breadth or the promise to transform students into graduates set to make important artistic waves, in every musical discipline and around the world.

Whether you’d like to be a performer, composer, or teacher or to work in another related field, all programmes are a chance to follow in the footsteps of musical heroes and to build a solid foundation for a career in music. The four-year Bachelor of Music is a great example of how the Academy ensures its graduates have one of the best employability records of any British university.

Academy courses are varied, full of creative opportunities, and can be adapted to what students are interested in. Each instrument and area of study is supported by its own department, all whilst being guided by award-winning faculty members, many of whom are professional and active musicians and academics.

“Students receive support from world-renowned specialists in various ways: one-on-one lessons with multiple experts, regular classes covering solo performance, instrumental-specific sessions focusing on repertoire, technique, and performance style across genres, as well as group classes and orchestral woodwind sessions to boost confidence and develop professional approaches,” says Gordon. “They gain valuable performance experience, receiving specialist feedback in both solo and ensemble settings throughout their studies.”

The Academy’s international reach is exemplified by  their Sir Elton John Global Exchange Programme. Students have the chance to embark on educational exchanges with 12 renowned conservatoires worldwide, including prestigious institutions like The Juilliard School and Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The exchanges can range from intensive one-week project-based work to a full year of study, allowing up to 20 students to expand their musical horizons and share their creativity and culture with others across the globe. Such invaluable experiences not only enrich their artistic abilities but also foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for different cultures, making them true global ambassadors

To further produce independent professional graduates, the Academy trains students to develop their unique identity, and explore musical experimentation while building a strong foundation in techniques and repertoire.

“Feedback helps boost their performance confidence, and the guidance of 1-1 teachers is crucial in nurturing their individual style while focusing on strict technique fundamentals,” Gordon says. “Group classes provide creative stimuli to encourage artistry, and students are motivated to organise their concerts, diversify repertoire, and explore various performance styles. Additional academic electives and practical sessions, including related instruments and contemporary performance guidance, are available for advanced study.”

In 2022/23, an impressive 97% of BMus students graduated with a first or upper-second-class degree, showcasing the academy’s commitment to excellence. This success is attributed to the exceptional mentoring provided by professors, the breadth of the programmes and the emphasis on one-on-one teaching.

If you seek a career and life as a musician, then the Royal Academy of Music is the institute to be. To learn more about the Academy, explore their website.

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