Jazz - BMus

UCAS Code:
Full Time (4 years) (three years with direct entry to the second year, subject to ability)
September 2019

The recent launch of our Eastside Jazz Club has helped consolidate the integral role that Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has to play in a major UK city that enjoys a thriving jazz scene. While Birmingham’s jazz scene has been established over many years, our bespoke new venue strengthens the promise of an exciting future for Jazz in the city.

Our Jazz Department is based around the Club, where student musicians share a platform and get invaluable side-by-side performance experience with the best on the scene, whom we welcome to our stage on a regular basis.

This course meets with the needs of the modern jazz performer – it places emphasis on practical work, with the majority of time dedicated to one-to-one lessons, small group coaching and private practice. You'll study modules that have been specifically and skilfully designed for jazz musicians, and as part of your learning we encourage you to explore in depth the relationship between improvisation and composition, which is central to developing your individual voice. You will graduate as a versatile, professional musician who is knowledgeable about the entrepreneurial opportunities available to you, and aware of the commercial realities for musicians joining today’s UK jazz scene as a portfolio musician.

Delivered by performers, band leaders and composers who enhance their teaching with professional experience, insights and connections, the course hones both your performance and professional awareness. As well as having our own club that has taken its place on Birmingham’s vibrant jazz scene, our students enjoy professional experience opportunities with external gigs that familiarise them with the industry – for example through our partnership with Cheltenham Jazz Festival – one of many ways we prepare you for the future.

What's covered in the course?

You will be taught by performers, band leaders and composers, who are ideally placed to share their professional experience, insights and connections. With their guidance, you will hone both your performance skills and your professional awareness.

Why Choose Us?

  • You will work with some of the greatest musicians and study on modules that  have been specifically and skilfully designed for jazz musicians.
  • You will experience significantly more one-to-one tuition time than on a typical academic university music course – or indeed any other conservatoire courses.
  • Your course is professionally supported by Jazzlines, a leading jazz promoter and key contact for international masterclasses.
  • Our course prepares you for a portfolio career on the contemporary music scene, with performance at its centre. It will also give you transferrable skills, including team-working, adaptability, self-promotion, time management and critical thinking.
  • 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, seven recording studios, and more than 70 practice rooms, ensemble rooms and workshops; all acoustically designed to provide a music-making environment that is world-class.

  • We are proud to be a festival partner of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival; a partnership that gives our students an insight into how festivals are run, and some invaluable performance opportunities.

  • We have countless partnerships and long-established professional relationships with organisations including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Welsh National Opera, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Orchestra of the Swan and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • 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, seven recording studios, and more than 70 practice rooms, ensemble rooms and workshops; all acoustically designed to provide a music-making environment that is world-class.
  • Last year our musicians collectively earned over £50,000 by being hired to play at events through our Book a Musician service.

This course is open to International students

Conservatoire Right Column

Discover Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

Visit the School website

Where our students go

Our students have gone on to work with companies such as:

  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Beats City

And in jobs such as:

  • Freelance Musician
  • Director of Events Company

Entry Requirements

For insurance purposes, you must be at least 18 years of age by 1 September in the year of enrolment. Normally, you should satisfy one of the following:

Essential Requirements

GCSE passes in 5 subjects (grade 4 (C) or above, including English Language) and 2 passes at A2 Level (each grade E/16 points minimum)

Scottish Certificate of Education/Scottish Qualifications Authority Intermediate/ Higher/ Advanced Higher in 5 different subjects, of which 3 are at Higher level

An Irish Leaving Certificate with 5 subjects at grade C or above, 4 of which are at Higher level

An International Baccalaureate with a minimum of 24 points

All other non-UK applicants should have completed a course of secondary education at a high school/college/ conservatoire, including classes in music theory. You should normally possess a qualification which would be required for entry to a university in your home country

A standard in First Study equivalent to that of the Associated Board’s Grade VIII (Distinction): this may be demonstrated at audition or on your audition recording.

Candidates hoping to satisfy these requirements should note that successful performance at your audition is accepted as the equivalent of one A2 Level/ SQA Higher/ Advanced Higher/ILC Higher in Music.

Audition Requirements

You will be required to perform two contrasting pieces with a rhythm section (provided), one of which must be chosen from a list of standards, and one of their own choice.

You will also be asked to perform a short transcribed solo (drummers and vocalists excepted) and sight-read.

Pianists, bassists and drummers audition by taking their place in the rhythm trio.

Drummers will be asked to play through the chord changes of any of the listed standards at the piano.

Drummers must also take part in an interactive test, joining in with various grooves indicated by the piano and bass.

All candidates will be interviewed at audition.

Full details of our audition requirements can be found here.

English Language Requirements

International Students

Entry requirements here

GCSE passes in 5 subjects (including English Language)

Worried? Don't be!

Worried about exams? Don't be.

We've put together a whole host of resources including student tips and expert advice to help you nail your exams. You can even get a free revision guide.

Get exam and revision help

Don’t meet our entry requirements?

You could apply for a foundation course or a course at our International College. These routes have lower entry requirements and act as the bridge to a full degree. To find out more, please select your status:

Home student International student

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
BMus Sep 2019 FT 4 years £9,250 per year Apply via UCAS

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
BMus Sep 2019 FT 4 years £19,500 per year Apply via UCAS

The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

The deadline for on-time applications is normally on or around 1 October in the year prior to entry, followed by auditions in November (for those attending an audition in Birmingham). If you apply between 1 October and 4 January, you may be eligible for our late auditions in February, if places are still available. For detailed information, see our how to apply section.

Personal statement

UK / EU students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.*

The personal statement gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Course choice

Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?

Career plans

If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.

Work experience

Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.

School or college experience

Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.

Non-accredited skills or achievement

eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.

You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

*Non-EU students are not required to submit a personal statement when applying for this course.

Loans and Grants

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible undergraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Year one

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):

Principal Study 1
40 credits
Praxis 1
40 credits
Listening and Context 1
20 credits
Professional Portfolio 1: Community Engagement
20 credits

Year two

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):

Principal Study 2
40 credits
Praxis 2
40 credits
Listening and Context 2
20 credits
Professional Portfolio 2: Pedagogy and practice
20 credits

Year three

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 80 credits):

Principal Study 3
40 credits
Music Production
40 credits
Music Promotion
20 credits

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.

Collaborative practice
20 credits
Live Project
20 credits
Work Placement
20 credits
Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

Year four

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 120 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.

Optional modules
120 credits

In Year 4, all students will select a total of 120 credits which must include at least 80 and no more than 100 credits from List A and at least 20 and no more than 40 credits from list B.

List A

  • Principal Study 4: 40 credits
  • Principal Study 4: 60 credits
  • Final Project: 40 credits
  • Final Project: 60 credits
  • Major Project: 40 credits

List B

  • Further Pedagogy: 20 credits
  • Music, Community and Wellbeing: 20 credits
  • Language of Music: Specialisms 2: 20 credits
  • Contextual Studies: Specialisms 2: 20 credits
  • Professional Development: 20 credits
  • Work Placement: 20 credits
Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

Course Structure

We tutor you in several different areas of musicianship. You will get 30 hours of individual tuition in your first study area, plus five allocated student hours, which you choose to ‘spend’ how you wish.  This rises to 35 hours, plus five hours in your final year.

With the help of your tutor, you will develop a productive practice regime and lay down a foundation for technical skills and  improvisation processes.

Using a typical group of two or three frontline instruments, plus a rhythm section, you will receive intensive weekly coaching in your core repertoire. You will then go on to run your own small group, using your choice of repertoire and performers.

We encourage you to explore in depth the relationship between improvisation and composition, which is central to developing an individual voice.

You will also work towards a major project of your own devising, such as a recording, performance or  dissertation. This will need to reflect your specialist interests and career aims.

You can look forward to masterclasses and workshops led by acclaimed performers.

Conservatoire’s memberships

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is a member of Conservatoire’s UK (CUK) and Association Européene des Conservatoires (AEC).

CUK is the voice of Conservatoire education in the UK.  It represents the collective views of nine UK conservatoires and aims to develop the best training and education in the performing arts.

The AEC is a European cultural and educational network, which looks after the interests of institutions concerned with training students for the music profession.

Further study

We offer an exciting postgraduate jazz course, which is designed to take you one step nearer to achieving your professional goals and aspirations.

Student stories Harry Lightfoot

Composed the music for the trailers of three recent Star Wars movies, ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ and a number of Disney movies, among many more.

Harry Lightfoot is an award winning composer for film and TV. Since he graduated from BMus (Hons) Jazz in 2007, his career in composition has gone from strength to strength. As well as writing and producing epic orchestral and hybrid trailer cues, he regularly composes for TV advertising with clients includingMcDonald’s, Samsung, Netflix, Pepsi, Mercedes, Adobe, Milka, Axe, Giff Gaff, Harveys, Max Factor and many moreHe also created sound design for the BBC's ‘Original British Drama’ logo, the’ BBC Earth’ ident, and composed the theme tune for the critically acclaimed Britain's Big Wildlife Revival.

Employment Opportunities

One of the central aims of the course is to launch jazz performers into the music profession. You will have a chance to document your work as a jazz musician through a studio project in the third year. You will also design a major project in the fourth year around an area of professional practice of your choice.

As further professional development, you will look at contemporary role models in jazz performance, undertaking in-depth case studies of their careers. There are also classes providing advice on how to manage a freelance portfolio career in music, covering topics such as personal finance and tax, publicity and events promotion, applications to funding bodies, and bidding for commissions.


We have a  number of musical partners including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG), Birmingham Royal Ballet, Orchestra of the Swan, Birmingham Music Service, Jazzlines, and Town Hall Symphony Hall, with whom opportunities to perform occur.


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.


BCU Graduate+

Through our courses we give you the skills and experience needed to get a head start when applying for jobs. But we offer something extra too – Graduate+.

Our unique programme gives you the chance to develop valuable skills outside of the more formal classroom learning. We award points for Graduate+ activities (including firewalking!) and these can be put towards a final Graduate+ award.

More about Graduate+

Conservatoire Employability Feature Box

‘What next?’ music careers conference

We hold an annual careers event involving leading industry professionals who take part in panel discussions about the future of the profession and the opportunities available to Conservatoire graduates.

Read more 

Trips and visits

Recent trips have included opportunities to perform at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and to Norway and Italy as part of jazz exchange programmes. Our Ellington Orchestra were invited to Oxford to perform at Kellogg College.

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

The UK remains one of the world's leading study destinations

The UK remains one of the world's leading study destinations for international students.

The first-class experience offered by universities are reflected in the world’s largest survey of international students. International students are more likely to recommend the UK than any other leading English-language study destination.

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Popular home countries

Our students come from around the world but our jazz honours course is most popular with international students from:

Norway Flag


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

We have an outstanding team of tutors, all of whom are highly respected artists in their field. The fact that they come not only from the UK but also from the USA and Europe gives a real breadth and depth to the range of jazz music represented here, as well as greater scope for you to find a suitable mentor to watch over your individual development.

View the full list of Jazz Tutors and Guest Lecturers

Jeremy Price

Head of Jazz

Jeremy Price (born 1970) studied at Birmingham Conservatoire and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has since followed a career as a freelance trombonist and jazz educator. Jeremy has been Head of Jazz at Birmingham Conservatoire since the Jazz Department was established in 1999 and wrote the Conservatoire's first ever BMus (Hons) Jazz programme in collaboration with Mark Racz, now Vice Principal of the Royal Academy of Music.

Read Jeremy's full profile

John O'Gallagher

John O’Gallagher

Senior Lecturer

John O’Gallagher is a professional saxophonist, educator, and researcher from Brooklyn, New York. During his performing career he has appeared at numerous international jazz venues and festivals, and additionally on radio programs broadcast by BBC-3, RSI-Switzerland, and Radio France. The New York Times has described him as “an alto saxophonist of dry tone and daring temperament”. He has been featured with the Joe Henderson Big Band, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Kenny Wheeler Large Ensemble, and in numerous groups with artists such as Ben Monder, Tyshawn Sorey, Billy Hart, Ralph Alessi, Mike Gibbs, Bill Stewart, Donny McCaslin, Jeff Williams, Tony Malaby, Johannes Weidenmueller, Chris Cheek, Tim Hagans, Drew Gress, Mark Guiliana, Paul Dunmall, and Tom Rainey. His discography is comprised of more than 60 CDs. Recordings on which he has appeared have received one GRAMMY award, two GRAMMY nominations, and three JUNO award nominations. As an educator and clinician, he has mentored students at international conservatories and universities such as The New England Conservatory, The New School, Hochschule Musik und Theater (Zurich, Switzerland), Conservatoire De Paris (France), and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (UK). He is the author of the book Twelve-Tone Improvisation published by Advance Music.

Read John's full profile

Percy Pursglove

Jazz Tutor (Jazz Musicianship, Rhythm Class, Ensemble Coaching)

After graduating from the Birmingham Conservatoire’s BMus (Hons) Jazz course with first class honours, Percy obtained a scholarship to study Jazz and Contemporary Music at the New School University, New York City. During his stay in New York he performed with numerous ensembles including The Duke Ellington Orchestra at Birdland, Sweet Rhythm, the knitting factory and the Rene Marie Big Band at Town Hall.

Having returned from New York, Percy is now working as a freelance jazz musician/composer/arranger/recording artist (trumpet/double bass), visiting lecturer at the Birmingham Conservatoire, director of the National Youth Jazz Wales, artistic co-director of Harmonic Festival, music for youth mentor and improvisation clinician.

Some of the most recent artists and ensembles he has performed and recorded with include Evan Parker, Steve Swallow, Mark Dresser, Dan Weiss, Chris Potter, Django Bates, Bill Frissell, WDR Big Band, Vince Mendoza, Thomas Morgan, Peter Erskine, Claudio Roditi, Phil Woods, Matt Brewer, Amy Winehouse, Elbow and BBC Radio Big Band.

Read Percy's full profile