Choosing where to study as an aspiring musician, composer or music technologist is a big decision. I recommend attending as many open days as you can to get a real sense of what it is like to study at a conservatoire, and which one is right for you.
The last time I went to a Royal Birmingham Conservatoire open day was over four years ago, before starting my undergraduate degree (which I’ve recently completed!). So I went to the recent open day to discover what the event is like nowadays, and what you can hope to experience as a prospective applicant during your visit.
What to expect on the day?
It’s a good idea to get to the day as early as possible, so you have time to fit in the abundance of activities available. Be sure to grab an open day programme from the registration desk as you arrive so that you can plan your day and not miss anything important. I would recommend heading straight to the accommodation and facilities tours to book your places for later in the day – more on that to come – and then go to the Conservatoire Welcome Talk. This talk takes place in our biggest venue, The Bradshaw Hall. Principal Julian Lloyd Webber and leading members of the faculty will give you a brief introduction to the conservatoire, how it is run, what we offer and how much you can gain from studying here. At the June open day I attended, the talk was also preceded by an energetic and uplifting performance from our Folk Ensemble – a spirited way to begin any day, and an example of the diverse range of opportunities available here to all kinds of performers.
The BMus course talk is also essential to get an overall understanding of what undergraduate study as a musician entails. Music courses can vary so much between institutions, so it is important to understand what RBC’s course consists of. For example how many hours of one-to-one tuition will you get in your first study area? How much academic work is compulsory? What extra-curricular electives are available to compliment your studies? This is also a crucial chance to ask the staff any questions you have about the opportunities available to you.
Subject specific information
Once the essential information is out of the way, it’s time to visit your chosen first study department. Each department runs their open day activities in their own way, but it usually includes a talk on what studying with them involves, as well as an opportunity for more subject-specific questions with the members of staff you would be spending most time with. When I came to my open day as a prospective composition student, I found this session important for getting an idea of what the staff valued from their students. It also helped me to get a better understanding of what I should include in my application. Some of these subject-specific sessions also include performances or examples of current students’ work. In between the regular talks listed above, departments often put on extra sessions such as the Brass concert and workshops, the Jazz jam session and the Music Technology studios tour. Some are interactive, so make sure to find out if you can bring along your instrument, if you wish to participate.
Hungry for more...
By this point you will probably be inundated with information and a little weary, so knowing where to get some refreshment on open day is key. The Conservatoire has its own Boult’s Bar, serving hot and cold food and beverages. Don’t worry if you can’t make it to any of the scheduled performances, as you will more than likely hear current students playing informal performances in Boult’s all day. The last open day included performances from the Quicksilver flute trio, folk-fusion band Juniper and The Cherry Stone (guitar and harp) Duo. There are plenty of opportunities to hear examples of music-making happening at RBC!
Facility tours and accommodation
After you are sufficiently fed and watered, you can even indulge in some light exercise in the form of our facilities and accommodation tours. The Conservatoire recently opened its new music building two years ago, with purpose built, state-of-the-art venues, recording studios, teaching workshops and practice rooms. The tour will give you the chance to see all of it, with a knowledgeable guide to give you all the relevant information and answer any questions you have. The accommodation tours are equally as helpful; they provide the chance to see where you could be living during your first year of study. All on-campus accommodation is really modern, and the benefit of being part of with Birmingham City University means that you get the conservatoire teaching experience with the university living experience alongside. This means that you can also join BCU societies and make use of the 24-hour Curzon library. It may be worth asking your guide, staff or other students that you may see on the day all about the further benefits that come with this.
Top tip for maximising your open day experience
My top tip for visiting a Conservatoire open day would be to ask any questions you have, big or small, on the day. Current students and staff will be around to help you and it is a great opportunity to have a one-to-one conversation that you can’t experience in any other way. This will hopefully lead you to making an informed decision about your future studies, and perhaps making an application to Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, if you feel it’s the right fit for you!