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Choral Conducting - MMus / PgDip

Designed for recent graduates and suitably qualified mature students, our taught Master of Music (MMus) and Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) Choral Conducting courses provide the technical training, collaborative opportunities and podium time necessary to help you prepare for a career as a professional conductor....

Studying with us in 2021/22 and 2022/23

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses.  Information about the arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year can be found here.  

 

Should the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continue in the 2022/23 academic year or subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • School Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Overview

Designed for recent graduates and suitably qualified mature students, our taught Master of Music (MMus) and Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) Choral Conducting courses provide the technical training, collaborative opportunities and podium time necessary to help you prepare for a career as a professional conductor. Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is currently the most exciting destination for choral conductors, with an active recording and concert schedule.

Our established Choral Conducting specialism allows you to work with a dedicated chamber choir, rehearsing and performing a variety of works throughout your training. You'll be offered tailored individual tuition from our principal conducting tutor Paul Spicer (Finzi Singers), and will also come into contact with Jeffrey Skidmore (Ex Cathedra) through the Conservatoire’s Chamber Choir.

You'll work across the whole spectrum of the Conservatoire’s music making, from core contemporary repertoire and student composition projects, through the central romantic and classic masterpieces back to period performance techniques. 

It's normal for conducting students to be proactive in presenting performances of projects that they've generated themselves. You'll receive support and professional advice in pursuing such projects, which should be viewed as an essential element of your studies. Both PgDip and MMus courses provide excellent opportunities to develop other skills relevant to a future career in the music profession. 

You'll have full access to our superb £57 million facilities, including our Concert Hall, 150-seat Recital Hall, our black box performance space known as The Lab, and more than 70 practice rooms, ensemble rooms and workshops; all acoustically designed to provide a music-making environment that is world class.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

  • Regular individual specialist tuition. 
  • Vocal lessons. 
  • Opportunities to join orchestral conducting classes. 
  • A dedicated chamber choir, ‘Camerata’, managed and nurtured by students on the course. 
  • Involvement in rehearsals of the Conservatoire’s highly acclaimed Chamber Choir, which has a regular and highly successful recording programme. 
  • Many other choral singing opportunities within the Conservatoire. 
  • Bespoke support classes in musicianship and repertoire.
  • A core career development module designed to get you thinking about your future professional plans. 
  • The flexibility to choose from a broad menu of Professional Development Option modules designed to help you work towards achieving your personal career aspirations.
  • In MMus, a core module designed to develop your skills as a researcher or informed practitioner.
  • The possibility of transferring from PgDip to MMus once you have begun your studies (but before completion of the PgDip course). 

Why Choose Us?

At Royal Birmingham Conservatoire we provide a friendly and supportive environment in which you can pursue your postgraduate studies. This is a time when you need to think particularly carefully and strategically about the direction of your developing career as a musician. We therefore encourage you to be ambitious in pursuing your aspirations, and endeavour to provide you with the flexibility to mould your course to your individual needs, both within your Principal Study area and in complementary modules.

Similar Courses

Entry Requirements

MMus/PgDip
Essential

UK students should normally hold an honours degree, ideally but not necessarily in Music.

Non-UK students should hold a Bachelor's degree or a similar degree-equivalent diploma, ideally but not necessarily in Music.

Audition requirements

All applicants for this course will be auditioned.

Home student auditions will be scheduled live in Birmingham.

Further details about the audition will be supplied once we have received an application.

For full details, audition requirements and audition advice, please visit the Music Auditions section of the Conservatoire website.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.0 overall with 5.5 minimum in all bands.

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 30 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £12,430 per year
  • Apply via UCAS

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 30 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £26,510 per year
  • Apply via UCAS

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead.

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Project materials (mandatory)

This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the options selected.

Specialist equipment (mandatory)

This course requires the purchase of specialist equipment, for example Conductors may wish to purchase study materials (books, scores, recordings) where these are not available in the library.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Books (optional)

All module key texts will be in the University library, but in limited numbers. You may choose to purchase a copy.

Placement expenses (optional)

If you choose to undertake a placement, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst living or working away from home.

Field trips (optional)

This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.

Subscriptions (optional)

You may wish to purchase subscriptions to additional journals and websites.

Memberships (optional)

You may wish to join a union or professional body related to this course.

DBS Certificate (optional)

You will need to cover the cost of a DBS Certificate should you need one for the optional pedagogy modules.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

*Professional Placement option

The Professional Placement version of the course is optional and is offered as an alternative to the standard version of the course.

This will allow you to complete a credit bearing, 20 week Professional Placement as an integral part of your Master’s Degree. The purpose of the Professional Placement is to improve your employability skills which will, through the placement experience, allow you to evidence your professional skills, attitudes and behaviours at the point of entry to the postgraduate job market. Furthermore, by completing the Professional Placement, you will be able to develop and enhance your understanding of the professional work environment, relevant to your chosen field of study, and reflect critically on your own professional skills development within the workplace.

You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement. The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study. You will also benefit from support sessions delivered by Careers+ as well as advice and guidance from your School.

Placements will only be confirmed following a competitive, employer-led selection process, therefore the University will not be able to guarantee placements for students who have registered for the ‘with Professional Placement’ course. All students who do not find a suitable placement or do not pass the competitive selection process will be automatically transferred back to the standard, non-placement version of the course.

Completing your application

Further information on writing your personal statement can be found on the UCAS Conservatoires website.

Course in Depth

PG Dip

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete the following CORE module (totalling 60 credits):

As a postgraduate choral conductor, the Principal Study 1: Choral Conducting module enables you to advance your training in your specialist area.   As the focus of this module is entirely on your own continued development as a choral conductor, you will spend considerable time developing not only conducting and gestural techniques in rehearsal and in performance, but also skills in administration, management (including self-management, management of other people individually and in a group, and of rehearsal and performance situations), communication (including interpersonal skills), interpretation and musicianship (aural skills, score reading, sight reading, ability to sing to demonstrate), and ability to mould voices into a cohesive group.

Your work in this module is supported by one-to-one tuition in choral conducting and a variety of related activities in the Principal Study area. These will normally include taking weekly rehearsals of the Conservatoire’s second chamber choir, Camerata; a weekly support class focusing on both developing musicianship skills and enhancing knowledge of the repertoire; masterclasses from visiting experts; seminars on choral conducting issues; and some 1:1 vocal tuition. You should also expect to attend classes/workshops of your peers studying orchestral conducting. You will be encouraged to take part in other vocal/choral activities scheduled within the Conservatoire (and elsewhere), and to engage in language provision provided by the Department of Vocal and Operatic Studies. You are also encouraged to form your own groups, to participate in external groups and to find external choirs to conduct. Chorus master/assistant conductor possibilities may also arise in the context of the Conservatoire operas and Chorus.

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete the following CORE module (totalling 20 credits):

Members of the music profession require not only high-level specialist skills but also the ability to target those skills strategically to different circumstances. This module focuses on a range of different aspects of a musician’s professional development that directly relate to the music industry and their preparation for it: from self-promotion and self-management, to funding and wellbeing. It is thus central to a programme which aims to prepare you for a career as a musician in the 21st century.

It requires you, near the beginning of your postgraduate studies, to reflect ambitiously yet realistically on your professional aspirations, and to formulate a plan that helps you stand the best chance of achieving your goals. Weekly workshops, delivered by internal staff and external professionals, will focus on the practicalities of a career in music, providing you with a better insight into the industry you will be entering, as well as encouraging you to be self-reflective about your own personal and professional development needs.

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 40 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.

Each module listed is worth 20 credits.

Conservatoire based

  • Concepts in Musicology
  • Contemporary Music Concepts and Practice
  • Creative Interactive Music Technology Performance
  • Critical Editing Techniques
  • Documentation
  • Experimental Performance in Context(s)
  • Historical Instrument Performance
  • Historical Performance Practice
  • Independent Scholarship in Music
  • Music and Ideas
  • Music Technology Contexts
  • Orchestration
  • Performing and Producing in the Studio
  • Professional Music Criticism
  • Self-Promotion Project
  • Teaching Matters: Principles and Practice
  • Work Placement
  • Writing Music for Media
  • Conference Paper
  • Preparation for Research
  • Music, Community and Wellbeing (BMus module)

School of Art based

  • Art and Ecologies
  • Contemporary Philosophy and Aesthetics
  • Discourses in Art and Design
  • Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice
  • Queer Strategies in Practice
  • Small Arts Business Set Up
  • Social Practice in the Visual Arts

School of Media based

  • Live Events and Festival Management
  • Social Media as Culture and Practice

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

MMus

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete THREE CORE modules (totalling 140 credits):

Members of the music profession require not only high-level specialist skills but also the ability to target those skills strategically to different circumstances. This module focuses on a range of different aspects of a musician’s professional development that directly relate to the music industry and their preparation for it: from self-promotion and self-management, to funding and wellbeing. It is thus central to a programme which aims to prepare you for a career as a musician in the 21st century.

It requires you, near the beginning of your postgraduate studies, to reflect ambitiously yet realistically on your professional aspirations, and to formulate a plan that helps you stand the best chance of achieving your goals. Weekly workshops, delivered by internal staff and external professionals, will focus on the practicalities of a career in music, providing you with a better insight into the industry you will be entering, as well as encouraging you to be self-reflective about your own personal and professional development needs.

As a postgraduate choral conductor, the Principal Study 1: Choral Conducting module enables you to advance your training in your specialist area.   As the focus of this module is entirely on your own continued development as a choral conductor, you will spend considerable time developing not only conducting and gestural techniques in rehearsal and in performance, but also skills in administration, management (including self-management, management of other people individually and in a group, and of rehearsal and performance situations), communication (including interpersonal skills), interpretation and musicianship (aural skills, score reading, sight reading, ability to sing to demonstrate), and ability to mould voices into a cohesive group.

Your work in this module is supported by one-to-one tuition in choral conducting and a variety of related activities in the Principal Study area. These will normally include taking weekly rehearsals of the Conservatoire’s second chamber choir, Camerata; a weekly support class focusing on both developing musicianship skills and enhancing knowledge of the repertoire; masterclasses from visiting experts; seminars on choral conducting issues; and some 1:1 vocal tuition. You should also expect to attend classes/workshops of your peers studying orchestral conducting. You will be encouraged to take part in other vocal/choral activities scheduled within the Conservatoire (and elsewhere), and to engage in language provision provided by the Department of Vocal and Operatic Studies. You are also encouraged to form your own groups, to participate in external groups and to find external choirs to conduct. Chorus master/assistant conductor possibilities may also arise in the context of the Conservatoire operas and Chorus.

As a postgraduate choral conductor, the Principal Study 2: Choral Conducting module builds on the skills acquired in the Principal Study Project 1 module, encouraging independent and appropriate decision-making based on secure musicianship skills and self-reflection, the development of an individual musical personality, and a professional approach to rehearsal and performance, including effective leadership and communication skills.  The module clearly provides professionally-relevant experience, and you will spend considerable time further developing not only conducting and gestural techniques in rehearsal and in performance, but also skills in administration, management (including self-management, management of other people individually and in a group, and of rehearsal and performance situations), communication (including interpersonal skills), interpretation and musicianship (aural skills, score reading, sight reading, ability to sing to demonstrate), and ability to mould voices into a cohesive group.

Your work in this module is supported by one-to-one tuition in choral conducting and a variety of related activities in the Principal Study area. These will normally include: taking weekly rehearsals of the Conservatoire’s second chamber choir, Camerata; a weekly support class focusing on both developing musicianship skills and enhancing knowledge of the repertoire; masterclasses from visiting experts; seminars on choral conducting issues; and some 1:1 vocal tuition. You should also expect to attend classes/workshops of your peers studying orchestral conducting. You will be encouraged to take part in other vocal/choral activities scheduled within the Conservatoire (and elsewhere), and to engage in language provision provided by the Department of Vocal and Operatic Studies. You are also encouraged to form your own groups, to participate in external groups and to find external choirs to conduct. Chorus master/assistant conductor possibilities may also arise in the context of the Conservatoire operas and Chorus.

In order to complete this course, a student must successfully complete at least 100 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules:

  • THREE Professional Development modules (20 credits each), and

  • ONE MMus optional module (40 credits)

Professional Development modules (20 credits each)

Conservatoire based

  • Concepts in Musicology
  • Contemporary Music Concepts and Practice
  • Creative Interactive Music Technology Performance
  • Critical Editing Techniques
  • Documentation
  • Experimental Performance in Context(s)
  • Historical Instrument Performance
  • Historical Performance Practice
  • Independent Scholarship in Music
  • Music and Ideas
  • Music Technology Contexts
  • Orchestration
  • Performing and Producing in the Studio
  • Professional Music Criticism
  • Self-Promotion Project
  • Teaching Matters: Principles and Practice
  • Work Placement
  • Writing Music for Media
  • Conference Paper
  • Preparation for Research
  • Music, Community and Wellbeing (BMus module)

School of Art based

  • Art and Ecologies
  • Contemporary Philosophy and Aesthetics
  • Discourses in Art and Design
  • Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice
  • Queer Strategies in Practice
  • Small Arts Business Set Up
  • Social Practice in the Visual Arts

School of Media based

  • Live Events and Festival Management
  • Social Media as Culture and Practice

MMus optional modules (40 credits each)

  • Research Project
  • Critical Edition
  • Lecture-Recital
  • The Reflective Practioner
    • There are two pathways through this module: 1. Professional Placement, and 2. Creative Interdisciplinary Artist.

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

Course structure

Whichever course you choose, work in the Principal Study area lies at its heart, and this involves the experience of managing rehearsals and directing performances, as well as developing essential musicianship skills. These modules will enable you to become self-directed in tackling, and capable of solving, technical and musical problems, and working autonomously in planning and presenting performances at a high artistic level. You'll be supported both by the specialist individual tuition you receive and by your experiences as a conductor throughout the course.

You will take a Career Development module, which will require you, near the beginning of your course, to reflect ambitiously yet realistically on your professional aspirations, and to formulate a plan that helps you stand the best chance of achieving your goals. You will also choose, in addition, some Professional Development Options from a varied list. The following gives an indication the kind of optional modules which may be offered in a given year, including some offered by Birmingham City University’s Schools of Art and Media (note, not all will run every year):

MMus students will additionally choose a 40-credit option from one of two categories: ‘The Emerging Researcher’ or ‘The Reflective Practitioner’.

Part-time options

There is some room for negotiation in how the course unfolds for a part-time MMus student over three years, or in the case of part-time PgDip students, over two years.

Employability

OpportUNIty

OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

International Students

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has a growing community of international students from across the world.

We appreciate the challenges of moving to a new country to live and study and aim to be as supportive as possible.

Aside from being friendly and welcoming, we have various support mechanisms in place to help you settle in as an international student, including:

  • An international students' 'orientation week', including a special Conservatoire welcome event
  • A dedicated international student admissions administrator
  • A full-time staff member employed as International Student Support Programme Director (who speaks Mandarin)
  • A mentoring system in which you, as a new postgraduate international student, are mentored by continuing postgraduate international students who will be supporting you both pastorally and academically though weekly workshops
  • Additional supporting classes for international students that are particularly designed to help you further develop your English reading, speaking and comprehension skills
  • Additional academic skills support provided by expert tutors from the BCU's Centre for Academic Success

Further information for prospective international students is available on the University's international pages.

Facilities and Staff

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s £57 million music building opened in September 2017, and is located on Birmingham City University’s City Centre Campus in the Eastside ‘learning quarter’ of the city.

This brand new music facility include five public performance venues – a 500 seat Concert Hall, 150 seat Recital Hall, Organ Studio, Eastside Jazz Club and the experimental black box performance venue known as The Lab. As well as these stunning performance venues, we have nearly 100 practice spaces; including 70 small practice rooms and larger ensemble rooms and workshops.

Our new home is the first conservatoire built in the digital age, and as such it has been vital to ensure that the technical infrastructure installed is on par with any advanced commercial facility. We have seven recording studios, a mastering suite, a distance learning hub, and all of our performance venues feature high specification audio-visual equipment that enables interconnectivity and advanced functionality throughout the building.

These impressive modern facilities guarantee that we are excel in our unique dual purpose of providing the highest standard of music education deserved by our students, as well as meeting our role as a concert and performance venue for the people of Birmingham; taking our place in the vibrant cultural landscape of the UK’s second city.

Our staff

Luan Shaw

Interim Vice Principal, Music (Learning and Teaching) and Director of Postgraduate Studies

Luan is Director of Postgraduate Studies at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where she has taught since 2011. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and was made an Honorary Member of RBC in 2001. In her former role as RBC’s first Head of Pedagogy (2011-2018), she significantly expanded provision for instrumental teacher education across the RBC curriculum. Luan is passionate about helping students to build their portfolio careers and her doctoral research focuses on facilitating the transition from student to professional through instrumental teacher education in conservatoires.

More about Luan