Emily Hopper is currently studying BMus (Hons) Music (Harp) at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. She describes to us her first prospective visit to the Conservatoire, her experience of the course so far and why she chose to study at RBC.
When I cast my mind back to the winter months in 2017 when I was in the midst of the application processes for various Conservatoires, I can still vividly remember each individual audition experience. As a fresh-eyed year 13 student, I remember finding the whole experience bittersweet, with some auditions creating fonder memories than others.
My first audition was in mid-November and I travelled from my hometown in Kent up to Birmingham. We eventually directed ourselves through the bustling Christmas market to a concealed concrete entrance of the half-demolished building that was the old Conservatoire. By the time our auditions had come around, most of the building was out of bounds or simply non-existent in preparation for our glamorous current new building. I remember winding my way through various dark concrete hallways and waiting for my audition with nervous anticipation in a common area. Despite the seemingly unwelcoming building, the warm sense of belonging I felt after meeting the students of the harp department and my cheerful audition eventually led me to accepting my place at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. This feeling of acceptance is something that has remained with me as the Conservatoire has supported me growing both as a person and a musician.
I am currently studying as a fourth-year harpist. In my four years here I have been lucky enough to watch the Conservatoire flourish with its exceptional new building and its graduation to ‘Royal’ status. The wonderful new concert hall gave way for students to be involved in concerts such as Ravel’s ‘Daphne’s and Chloe’ which was conducted by Mirga Gražinytė-Tylaand and aired on BBC Radio 3. The Jazz Club is one of our most active performance spaces, and definitely the coolest, with concerts spanning from flamenco nights to free jazz improvisation. Being able to use state-of-the-art recording studios will constantly feel like a novelty to me! I have been able to use the Conservatoire’s equipment to record an EP for my duet and to record various pieces for composers’ projects. The building has created an environment where any performance project is possible.
The harp department specifically has been a constantly supportive environment. We have been lucky enough to have had masterclasses with incredible harpists from different parts of the world and across a huge range of music genres. We have regular classes on early music, orchestral performance and jazz, along with ‘harp hives’ where we study different aspects of the harp from pedagogy to harp history. I think that across all departments, RBC is passionate about allowing students to find their own individuality; students are encouraged to explore all areas of music in which they can express themselves. For me, I have been drawn to music education and outreach where there is endless amounts of support and opportunity.
To those struggling to decide where to study, my advice is to visit the Conservatoires and follow your gut instinct. More often than not, you will be able to visualise yourself studying in a particular environment. I followed my gut to study at RBC and couldn’t have imagined a better Conservatoire experience!
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