Professor Julian Lloyd Webber has been Principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire since 2015. Take a look at his audition tips to find out what tutors are looking for and what he thinks makes a successful audition.
Before dedicating his career to music education full-time as Principal of RBC, Julian enjoyed one of the most creative and successful careers in classical music to date, as a cellist playing internationally to high acclaim. However, before retiring from performance Julian’s dedication to music education and access to music was apparent; he founded of the British Government’s In Harmony programme and is also Chair of Sistema England, through which he continues to promote personal and community development in some of England’s most deprived areas. He was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 1994, and in 2014 received the Incorporated Society of Musician’s annual Distinguished Musician Award.
Did you ever get nervous before performing, and did you have any ways of handling those nerves that worked for you?
Everyone gets nervous – at least they should! The key is to make the nerves work for you rather than against you. Nerves should supply that extra adrenaline you need to play at your best!
Do you remember any performances before which you felt particularly nervous?
I was always nervous before concerts because you can never be certain what’s going to happen. But that’s the beauty of live performances!
What do you think makes a successful audition?
The most important thing is to focus all your mind on the music itself and what it means to you. Try to shut out everything else! Don’t worry about little mistakes – the overall impression is what will count.
What do you think the tutors are looking for in musicians that auditions at RBC?
At RBC we look for potential and individuality – so don’t worry about making a few mistakes! Be confident in your presentation and – if you are playing with a pianist – make sure you know the pianist’s part just as well as your own. We are looking for musicians with distinctive personality so go into the room brimming with confidence and show us what you can do.
What ethos are you and the other staff trying to build and maintain at RBC?
We aim to be excellent in everything that we do – that means giving your best at all times.
What does it mean to you to be Principal of RBC, are you involved in everything that goes on?
It is a wonderful privilege to be Principal of such a fantastic institution. Our facilities are the best of any music college in the UK and all the staff want to be the best. I spend most of my time at RBC as it’s very important for me to be involved with all aspects of life at the conservatoire.
What do you think makes a successful musician, what qualities does someone need to have or learn?
You need to stand out from the crowd. And that doesn’t necessarily mean being the BEST performer – you can find individual paths to making it in music.
What sort of career do you think students and new graduates are going to experience in the future?
The music world is changing very fast so students need to think ahead and watch the trends. This is something we are very aware of at RBC and we encourage each student individually to find the key strengths they should develop to leave with a job.
Why do you think applicants should want to join RBC over other institutions, what makes us special?
RBC is a forward looking institution with fantastic facilities – and we look after our students as individuals. Birmingham as a city also has a lot going for it. Student accommodation is much cheaper than in London and is in walking distance of the conservatoire. We have the closest links with the great City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and being part of Birmingham City University gives students opportunities to work with other Schools that no other UK music college can provide. RBC really does offer the complete package.