My first year experience at RBC

I’m Phoebe – I’m a trumpet player from Northamptonshire, and I’ve just completed my first year on the BMus course at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Before coming to college I’d been part of the Northamptonshire Music Service since I was a toddler. I studied music at A-level, along with maths and chemistry.

Phoebe Snook
(BMus) Music

Moving away from home

I lived in Birmingham City University’s University Locks accommodation during my first year so that I was as close as possible to the Conservatoire. For me, the thing I was most worried about before moving to University was getting on with my flatmates and meeting new people, but I had nothing to worry about as I had really lovely flatmates so I felt like I settled in straight away. I had a great experience living in halls because the Conservatoire was five minutes away, and there was 24/7 access to practise rooms which was ideal. However, it’s totally different from living at home. Get used to stacks of washing up, cooking all your own food and just generally learning how to live with other people!

As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of clubs I was quite nervous about fresher’s week too, however with conservatoire-organised events alongside what Birmingham City University offers, there was definitely something for everyone. The week of Conservatoire events began with a meet and greet at a pub, and ended with a dress to impress night. My favourite was the department night out, as I got to meet the rest of the Brass Department before term officially started, which meant my first proper day at college was made so much easier.

Making friends was also not an issue at all. You naturally become so close with your department and your flatmates, and I found the older years definitely looked out for the first years. It’s important to talk to other people even if it seems daunting – next year I’ll be living with friends I made on the very first day!

Living up to expectations

I was definitely nervous before coming to Royal Birmingham Conservatoire – I was worried everyone would be a higher standard than me as it’s such a good place to come and learn. However I found that the Conservatoire provides so much support for the students here that I didn’t actually expect. I was also worried because I definitely didn’t (and still don’t) practise 5+ hours a day, which I think is a common misconception about studying at a conservatoire. If you can practise that much, that’s great! But at RBC putting yourself first is a priority, and I easily got into a healthy and productive practise routine thanks to my first study teacher and Head of Brass. Besides that, RBC has met my expectations 100%. There’s such a good work attitude here so I feel motivated, and there have been way more performance opportunities than I thought I’d get in first year, which is amazing.

Surprising opportunities

Although I’m a trumpet student, I have been able to be a part of the RBC Brass Band this year. This has been great as it wasn’t something I thought I’d get to do. A highlight was going to Bangor to compete in the UniBrass competition, which I had wanted to do for ages. I also got to form a quintet in my first week and we rehearsed pretty much every week of the year. We were picked to take part in a masterclass which was great, as we were the only first years to be picked. I would definitely recommend trying to form a chamber group early on in the first term, as you can find so many opportunities.

How busy? Very busy!

I would be lying if I said first year had been super easy. It’s definitely had its challenges. Be organised from the first week and it will make things so much easier – it’s not like sixth form where you get given a timetable, you have to sort out most things for yourself. However it’s easy if you write everything down! How busy you are in first year is dependent on how busy you decide to make your year. If you only went to the required lectures and practised the minimum it would be easy…but very boring. You get to choose the electives you want to do – I know folk ensemble is a very popular one – and you can get involved with chamber music, choirs and so much more.

I actually really enjoyed the academic side of this year, however there’s always modules that aren’t for everyone. I loved learning about the romantic era, and also harmony and aural, but a presentation on classical music definitely wasn’t my favourite!

Benefits of BCU

Being part of Birmingham City University is super handy as you have access to lots of university services. This means you can use the 24-hour library, register with the BCU doctor and join lots of societies. Personally I didn’t join any this year, however loads of people joined clubs such as dance and other sports – another trumpet player was even captain of the BCU rowing team!

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