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Orchestral Performance (Strings) - MMus / PgDip

Developed in partnership with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), our MMus and PgDip courses in Orchestral Performance are for advanced level string players considering professional orchestral auditions and on the brink of a professional career....

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

Course overview

Developed in partnership with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), our MMus and PgDip courses in Orchestral Performance are for advanced level string players considering professional orchestral auditions and on the brink of a professional career. 

In addition to one-to-one specialist tuition, you will spend a significant amount of rehearsal time in the CBSO alongside one or more dedicated host players who will act as mentors. You may also be offered opportunities to play at the back of the section to gain further experience. In addition to developing your technical facility, musicianship, interpretative skills and stylistic awareness, you will expand your knowledge of orchestral repertoire, learn how to prepare for rehearsal in the most efficient way, develop strategies which will help you to integrate within your section, and build confidence in preparing for orchestral auditions.

You will also participate in additional performance activities within the Conservatoire’s String Department and the wider Conservatoire, including performance classes, masterclasses, orchestra and chamber music.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.

Both PgDip and MMus courses also provide excellent opportunities for you to develop other skills relevant to a future career in the music profession.

A separate postgraduate pathway is available for Instrumental Performers, which includes both solo and chamber music routes for string players (the latter for existing ensembles). 

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

  • Specialist individual tuition.
  • One or two dedicated CBSO mentors.
  • Regular opportunities to rehearse within the CBSO.
  • Access to a range of departmental activities and to masterclasses with distinguished visiting guest artists within the Conservatoire. 
  • Frequent chances to perform within the Conservatoire, including solo, chamber and orchestral opportunities. 
  • A core career development module designed to get your thinking about your future professional plans. 
  • The flexibility to choose from a broad menu of Professional Development modules designed to help you work towards achieving your personal career aspirations. 
  • In MMus, a core module designed to develop your skills as a researchers or informed practitioner. 
  • The possibility of transferring from PgDip to MMus once you have begun your studies (but before completion of the PgDip). 

Why Choose Us?

The opportunity to learn while playing alongside professional players in one of the UK’s leading orchestras is clearly an extremely valuable one. Furthermore, 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

Entry level is very high and auditions will be conducted by Section Leaders from CBSO and the Head of Strings at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Home student auditions will be scheduled live in Birmingham, while special arrangements will be made for EU/international students unable to travel to the UK.

You will present an extended piece such as the first movement of a concerto, play specific orchestral excerpts, and undertake some sight-reading.

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

You must have a minimum of IELTS 5.5 or equivalent in all four skills areas to secure a visa. 

You must have IELTS 6; or alternatively must have studied and completed a Bachelor’s degree in the UK.

International Students

Entry requirements here

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 30 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • TBC
  • 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*)
  • TBC
  • Apply via UCAS

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

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.

LinkedIn Learning

Free access to LinkedIn Learning, which offers over 5,000 in-depth and bite-sized courses.

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, including your own instrument.

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.

Instrument maintenance (optional)

Musicians are expected to cover day to day costs relating to their Principal Study discipline, e.g. keeping your instrument in good working order, replacing consumables, e.g. strings/reeds. It may also be necessary to purchase software or scores, for example.

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 string player following our Orchestral Performance pathway at postgraduate level, the Principal Study 1: Orchestral Performance 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 an orchestral string player, you will spend a significant amount of rehearsal time with the CBSO alongside one or more dedicated host players who will act as mentors, as well as opportunities to play at the back of the section. In addition to developing your technical facility, musicianship, interpretative skills and stylistic awareness, you will expand your knowledge of orchestral repertoire, learn how to prepare for rehearsal in the most efficient way, develop strategies which will help you to integrate within your section, both musically (in terms of blend, intonation and so on) and socially, and build confidence in preparing for orchestral auditions.

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
  • 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

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 string player following our Orchestral Performance pathway at postgraduate level, the Principal Study 1: Orchestral Performance 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 an orchestral string player, you will spend a significant amount of rehearsal time with the CBSO alongside one or more dedicated host players who will act as mentors, as well as opportunities to play at the back of the section. In addition to developing your technical facility, musicianship, interpretative skills and stylistic awareness, you will expand your knowledge of orchestral repertoire, learn how to prepare for rehearsal in the most efficient way, develop strategies which will help you to integrate within your section, both musically (in terms of blend, intonation and so on) and socially, and build confidence in preparing for orchestral auditions.

As a postgraduate string player following our Orchestral Performance pathway at postgraduate level, the Principal Study 2: Orchestral Performance module builds on the performance skills acquired in the Principal Study Project 1 module. The focus of this module is entirely on your own continued development as an orchestral string player, and especially on developing your capacity to develop your own playing within the orchestral context. The module clearly supports you in adopting an ever- increasing degree of professionalism in all aspects. Further experience within the CBSO will lead not only to the enhancement of your individual playing skills but to greater confidence in developing your own playing within the orchestra and a fuller awareness of the professional context. You will continue to advance your technical facility, musicianship and interpretative skills, and to further enhance, through research, your stylistic awareness and knowledge of the repertoire. A sound knowledge of standard orchestral repertoire in particular, familiarity with the typical orchestral audition process and experience of playing within a professional orchestra are all likely to improve your chances of progression into the profession.

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
  • 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

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 – both individual tuition and Departmental activity – lies at its heart.

Both Principal Study modules (PgDip students take one, MMus students take two) comprise two parts: an orchestral audition (there are different requirements for each module), and an assessment of your work in the orchestra. Preparation for these modules is supported by your individual tuition and mentoring sessions, as well as by your time in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and by additional experience you derive from taking part in Conservatoire departmental activities.

The Career Development module 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

While we do not offer the MMus part-time, there is some room for negotiation in how the course unfolds for a part-time PgDip student 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

Concert Hall - Copyright Hufton +Crow

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

Dr Louise Lansdown

Head of Strings

Louise Lansdown was appointed Head of Strings at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2012, after holding the position of Senior Lecturer in the School of Strings at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester from 2001-2012. Louise has past viola students working in orchestras, chamber music groups and in teaching positions across the world. She actively conducts recruitment for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire across the world and has recently made trips to China, Poland, Germany, South Africa, amongst several other countries. Louise is the founder and director of a major Outreach and Education Project called ARCO, which enables RBC students to teach online via video conferencing software to students at the Morris Isaacson Centre for Music, Soweto, South Africa. The project was launched in July 2015. She also collaborates with the South African National Youth Orchestra running “What it Takes” viola courses for young talented players across the country.

She has been involved with Pro Corda, the International Chamber Music Academy at Leiston Abbey in Suffolk, since 1999, having Directed the Junior (2009), Intermediate (2005-2008), Senior (2008-2012) and North Courses (2008-2012). Louise was appointed Director of Chamber Music at Pro Corda in 2008 and her role has recently changed to Assistant Artistic Director of Pro Corda and Director of the Conservatoire Chamber Music and Viola Courses. She has also initiated three further Conservatoire Instrumental Courses to be held at Pro Corda in collaboration with Birmingham Conservatoire for Violin, Cello and Double Bass, all starting in 2014.

Louise is the founder and President of the English Viola Society (now British Viola Society since 2012), started in September 2007, and was appointed Secretary of the International Viola Society in 2010. Louise has attended international viola congresses across the world and performed and delivered papers at congresses in Adelaide (2007), Arizona (2008), South Africa (2009), Wurzburg (2011), Rochester (2012), Krakow (2013) and Porto (2014). Louise was also a member of the jury for the Fifth Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition in 2007 and International Beethoven Viola Competition held in Hradec, Czech Republic in 2012. Louise is currently the Secretary of the International Viola Society and was nominated for the Council of the European Strings Teachers Association in 2015. She was invited to perform and give master classes at the first International Viola Workshop at Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing in October 2015 and the Guangdong Viola Society Festival in July 2016.

Louise was awarded a PhD from the University of Manchester in 2008 with the title: The Young Paul Hindemith: Life, Works, Relationships, Influences and Musical Activities until 1922.‘ Louise’s journey with Hindemith has now lasted many years, with visits to the Hindemith Institute in Frankfurt since 2003 and reveling in a lifelong Hindemith pilgrimage following the composer’s footsteps across the globe – this has involved research trips, recitals and master classes in Hanau, Mainz, Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany; Yale University and New York, USA; South Africa; Zurich and Blonay, Switzerland.  Louise has been supported by many of her viola students and other Hindemith admirers in her journey throughout the years. Many fruitful collaborations, exchanges and opportunities have resulted from these projects.

Louise plays on a French instrument made around 1750, previously belonging to Eric Rycroft and Cecil Aronowitz (first Head of Strings at the RNCM). She is also the founder of the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition for 21 and under violists, a tri-annual event to be held at Birmingham Conservatoire launched in October 2014.

Louise has had several articles published on Cecil Aronowitz and Paul Hindemith in the International Viola Society, Journal of the American Viola Society (2014 and 2016), South Africa Viola Society, English Viola Society and Australia and New Zealand Viola Society Journals, as well as the STRAD magazine (2009, 2013 and 2016) and the Hindemith Year Book (2010).

Louise sits on the boards of the Lionel Tertis International Viola Festival and Competition, European Strings Teachers Association, Lake District Summer Music and the Quartet of Peace Trust.

More about Louise

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