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International MMus student, Yu-Tzu Kung performing Persephassa by Xenakis at the CBSO Centre 2017. Credit: Upstream Photography

We aim to offer the most versatile training with employability being the main focus of our course. Our busy percussion department offers an immensely broad and thorough percussive education.

We have over a dozen highly acclaimed specialist tutors who are all working and well connected in the current music industry throughout the UK and overseas. Our syllabus is carefully designed to cover classical to commercial, contemporary to rock and pop, Cuban to folk, ballet to opera, outreach to solo percussion.

Enhance your musical career through a tailor-made timetable with individual tuition

We give every student a tailor-made timetable to allow them the opportunity to develop an excellent skill set in all fields. At the same time, we also encourage the students to specialise to enhance their employability.

To facilitate this, we give every student 35 hours of one to one tuition per year and then allocate those hours across the different disciplines as required.

Patrick Womack

Orchestral Percussion

Our extensive syllabus covers the most up to date symphonic repertoire. Whether our students are auditioning for jobs or freelancing in the real world, we aim to cover all the tricky hot spots alongside typical day to day orchestral playing. Percussion tuition tends to be shared between two tutors specialising in snare and tuned percussion (Adrian Spillett, CBSO) and auxiliary percussion (Andrew Herbert, CBSO). Senior students have the option to work with other tutors such as Chris Bradley (Opera North) to enhance their development.


The timpani tuition is geared towards using calf heads and the classic Berliner ratchet-pedal-system, a must for all keen timpanists. Tuition will predominantly be on our new set of 5 Dörflers and 5 Adams Philharmonic Classics. Undergraduate students will work with timpanist Matthew Hardy (CBSO) with tutors Grahame King (Birmingham Royal Ballet) & Patrick King (Welsh National Opera) an option for senior students.

timpani imageOur new Dörfler timpani, calf heads and the classic Berliner ratchet-pedal-system. Photo Credit: Adrian Spillett

Ballet and Opera

We are unique in being the first institution to offer a syllabus in Ballet and Opera repertoire. Students on this course have access to specialist tutors from whom they can learn about opera classics (from Puccini to less familiar Berg, Britten and Janáček) and Ballet classics (from Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky to Bernstein and Bliss). In addition, the students will be exposed to the different demands of both pit work and stage work. This course is aimed at senior students who wish to widen their experience and knowledge of this repertoire.

World Music

The Conservatoire rhythm percussion course is unique to each student in design and the most thorough of its kind. Alongside these tailor made courses, the Conservatoire assists with external study trips to Cuba, Brazil and Ireland. Students are also encouraged to attend external workshops in the UK with some of the country's leading exponents of World music.

This new and exciting syllabus offers tuition on a wide range of music from Havana, Matanzas, Bahia, Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuala, Haiti, the Middle East, India and Ireland. The syllabus covers styles including the cuban essentials - salsa, son, mambo, cha cha cha, timba, rumba, charanga and mozambique. Students can also study the sacred music of Brazil's candomble, Cuba's santeria and Haiti's vodou alongside guarapachangeo, carnival music and the carnatic music of south India. In addition, students can study contemporary adaptations of many folkloric styles as well as how they cross over into pop and folk music.


Contemporary Percussion

For those interested in Contemporary Percussion, we offer an exceptional course for senior students with tuition from Owen Gunnell (Colin Currie Group, Crash Ensemble, O’duo). This gives the students the option to specialise in repertoire including the likes of Ades, Andriessen, Boulez, Knussen, Reich and Ligeti.

Solo Percussion

In addition to the annual recitals, our annual Percussion Prize is sponsored by percussion retailers and manufacturers. It’s a great opportunity for the students to showcase their skills and to experience solo performing before a renowned adjudicator. Recent students have also gone on to perform in The Foundling Museum in London, The Pound in Corsham, Royal Spa Centre in Leamington, the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the CBSO Centre. Tuition is with namely Owen Gunnell, Adrian Spillett, Tim Palmer & Jason Huxtable (Maraca2 & World Percussion Group). Extra one-one tuition with our International Solo Percussion Consultant, Alexej Gerassimez is also available.


We also host masterclasses. Most years typically include over 150 hours of classes from both the department tutors and visiting specialists. Recent guests include Neil Percy, Pete Lockett, Sam Walton, Colin Currie, Alexej Gerassimez, Ronni Kot Wenzell, Paul Clarvis, Matt Skelton, Adam Betts, Tom Greenleaves and Nebojsa Zivkovic. Other classes include regular Practice Pad Workouts, Audition Approach, Rock and Film Timpani, Junk Percussion, Workshop Leading, Moeller Technique, West End Shows, Sight-Reading, Pedagogy, John Williams Film Music and numerous Auxiliary Percussion Methods to name but a few.

Percussion MasterclassAlexej Gerassimez masterclass, CBSO Centre 2015. Credit: Upstream Photography

Performance opportunities

We carefully manage the department's size to ensure that every student has ample performance opportunities and good access to the department’s own studios and practice rooms. Our dedicated Percussion Suite houses a large collection of instruments available for student use. 

As a percussion student, you'll have regular performing opportunities within the Conservatoire.

Ensembles include:

  • Symphony Orchestra
  • Opera
  • Thallein, the BCU Contemporary Ensemble
  • Wind Orchestra
  • Brass Band
  • Brass Ensemble
  • Baroque Orchestra
  • Percussion Ensemble
  • BCU Afrocuban Jazz Orchestra
  • Pops Orchestra
  • Composers Orchestra
  • Repertoire Orchestra
  • Final Projects Orchestra
  • Conservatoire Folk Ensemble

Percussion Ensemble

The Percussion Ensemble performs several times a year, from recently commissioned new repertoire to old percussive classics. In recent years, it has performed Reich’s Drumming, Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ, Mallet Quartet, Pieces of Wood, Cage’s First Construction and the UK premiere of Mason Bates’ Stereo is King. 2017 saw the ensemble perform the groundbreaking percussion sextet, Persephassa by Xenakis at the CBSO Centre with CBSO percussionists as part of the Centre Stage series. 2018 will also see the department perform a world premiere of a percussion quartet by Alexej Gerassimez, commissioned by the Conservatoire.

Percussion EnsemblesPersephassa by Xenakis at the CBSO Centre 2017. Credit: Upstream Photography


Our outreach programme gives our students the opportunity to develop their workshop skills and to lead projects in local schools, thereby reaching out to the community. Recently, students have worked not only with some of the UK’s most talented youngsters from both Chethams School of Music and The Purcell School but also with school children from some of Birmingham’s more deprived areas as well as an interactive Christmas Family Fun concert at the mac, Birmingham.

Outreach percussionChristmas Family Fun Percussion Ensemble Concert, mac Birmingham 2016 Credit: Upstream Photography

International Travel

In 2016, the department organised a learning exchange programme in Brazil. In Salvador, the students took part in a peer to peer learning programme with the Bahia Orchestra Project (Neojiba), a pioneer initiative modelled on the Venezuelan “El Sistema” program. Then, in Rio de Janeiro, they collaborated with the world-famous traditional Samba School, GRES Portela. In addition, the students had sessions with leading specialists and groups including Sebastien Notini (Contemporary Pandeiro), Ney De Oxossi (Candomble), Rio De Maracatu and Fabiano Salek (Samba De Roda) as well as seeing plenty of gigs.

InternationalRio de Janeiro, collaboration with the world-famous traditional Samba School, GRES Portela

In Easter 2017, the department traveled to Spain for an intensive batá drumming residency. Staying in a beautiful permaculture centre in the Andalucian hills overlooking the coast, the students immersed themselves in the magical and hypnotic rhythms of Cuban batá away from daily college life.

Summer 2016 saw MMus student, Danny Martinez travel with the Conservatoires' Thallein Ensemble for performances at the Beijing Modern Music Festival and Tianjin Conservatory. In December 2016, MMus student, Yu-Tzu Kung performed at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels.

In May 2017, the department entered 4 students for the Taiwan International Percussion Competition in Taipei resulting in them winning 3rd prize.

In June 2018, Millennial Percussion successfully made its debut at the Festival Ibérico de Música de Badajoz, Spain.  It performed an epic programme of Mikrophonie 1 by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Persephassa by Iannis Xenakis in the stunning Palacio de Congresos Manuel Rojas.  

Professional guidance and your future

Our orchestral students can take advantage of professional training schemes with the CBSO, Opera North, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Welsh National Opera with the Conservatoires WNO Side by Side scheme and the CBSO Youth Orchestra. In addition, senior students are offered funding towards extra work auditions/feedback sessions with numerous orchestras including BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

Conservatoire percussion graduates can be heard performing in London's West End, Alice Cooper, Andrea Bocelli, Chris De Burgh, U2 and Rodger Daltrey, The Who and with professional orchestras such as the LSO, CBSO, Ulster, LPO, RPO, WNO, BBCSO, OAE, LCO, BBCNOW, BSO, Aurora, London Mozart Players, National Theatre, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, RPCO and the RSC.

Other graduate successes of note include Andrew Herbert, appointed Principal Percussion with the CBSO, Patrick Womack won the 2nd Percussion job at the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra, USA and the Maraca2 Percussion Duo formed by Tim Palmer and Jason Huxtable, both of whom are Conservatoire percussion tutors and pioneers of the World Percussion Group.