Brass Band Conducting - MMus / PgDip

  • Level: Postgraduate Taught
  • Starting: September 2020
  • Study mode: MMus - Full Time, Part Time
    PgDip - Full Time, Part Time
  • Location: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

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

As a Principal Study Brass Band Conductor, you'll be offered individual tuition from expert staff conductors, and will spend considerable time developing your directing techniques in rehearsal and in performance. In addition to attending and participating in scheduled brass band activities, you will be encouraged to explore other opportunities to engage with ensembles, as director or observer, both within the Conservatoire and with professional organisations such as Services for Education and Tredegar Brass Band. Brass Band Conducting students should also expect to attend classes/workshops of their peers studying other conducting pathways.

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.

What's covered in the course?

  • Regular individual specialist tuition. 
  • Access to the Conservatoire’s broad range of ensemble activities, including Brass Band and Brass Ensemble, Symphonic Wind Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, ‘Repertoire’ and ‘Pops’ Orchestras, and Thallein (Contemporary Music) Ensemble. 
  • Regular opportunities to rehearse and perform with ensembles within the Conservatoire. 
  • Regular opportunities to observe ensemble rehearsals, including sectional rehearsals directed by departmental heads or specialist guest tutors.
  • Opportunities to join orchestral and choral conducting classes. 
  • Bespoke support in musicianship and arranging.
  • 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. 

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Open Days

Our next Open Day for this course will take place on Thursday 23 January 2020. Visit us to get a real insight into student life at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

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This course is open to International students

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Speak to an expert

If you’ve got any questions about the course, we’d love to hear from you. Please email the Director of Postgraduate Studies: Luan Shaw.

Email Luan

Alternatively, you can register for our next open day.

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

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

International Students

Don't meet our entry requirements? You could apply for courses at our International College.

Apply now

  • UK/EU students
  • International students

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2020

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2020

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2020

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2020

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

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.

Completing your application

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

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on your course. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15. 

The additional costs listed here are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

Financial Support

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

Did you know that you can apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,906 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans

PG Dip

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

Principal Study 1: Brass Band Conducting
60 credits

As a postgraduate brass band conductor, the Principal Study 1: Brass Band 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 brass band conductor, you will spend considerable time developing conducting techniques in rehearsal and in performance, rehearsal management techniques, musicianship skills, score reading skills, programming skills, stylistic awareness and approaches to interpretation.

‘Brass Band’ here should be understood in a wider sense, since your experience (and assessment) is likely to also involve smaller ensembles within the Conservatoire’s Brass Department.

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

Career Development
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.

Optional modules
40 credits

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):

Career Development
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.

Principal Study 1: Brass Band Conducting
60 credits

As a postgraduate brass band conductor, the Principal Study 1: Brass Band 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 brass band conductor, you will spend considerable time developing conducting techniques in rehearsal and in performance, rehearsal management techniques, musicianship skills, score reading skills, programming skills, stylistic awareness and approaches to interpretation.

‘Brass Band’ here should be understood in a wider sense, since your experience (and assessment) is likely to also involve smaller ensembles within the Conservatoire’s Brass Department.

Principal Study 2: Brass Band Conducting
60 credits

As a postgraduate brass band conductor, the Principal Study 2: Brass Band Conducting module builds on the skills acquired in the Principal Study 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 conducting techniques in rehearsal and in performance, rehearsal management techniques, musicianship skills, score reading skills, programming skills, stylistic awareness and approaches to interpretation.

‘Brass Band’ here should be understood in a wider sense, since your experience (and assessment) is likely to also involve smaller ensembles within the Conservatoire’s Brass Department.

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)

Optional modules
100 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 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.

Download the course specification

MMus

PG Dip

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.

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 mentor (who speaks Mandarin)

  • A pastoral mentoring system in which you, as a new postgraduate international student, are mentored by continuing postgraduate international students

  • Additional academic skills support provided by expert tutors from the University's Centre for Academic Success, and by postgraduate academic mentors from among continuing postgraduate students

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

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

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 conducting course is most popular with international students from:

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Norway

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.

Ian Porthouse

Director of Brass Band Studies & Cornet Tutor

Ian Porthouse was born in Cumbria in 1967 into a family of musicians: his father was a cornetist and mother a pianist/singer.

At the age of five he began to take an interest in his dad's trumpet and joined Flimby Saxhorn Silver Band on 3rd Cornet where his father was principal cornet; within five years he would take over the end chair himself.

Also around this time Ian became a founder member of the Cumbria Youth Brass Band under Richard Evans, who was to have a big impact on his career.

At the age of 16, Ian became the leader of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and led the band for three years in total.

Richard Evans invited Ian to join the Leyland Vehicles Band in 1984 and within six months he was the new principal cornet at the age of 17.

In 1987 he went on to play with Desford Colliery Band under James Watson; the band became National Champions three years in succession.

In 1992, Ian was appointed Principal Cornet with the Black Dyke Mills Band, a position held by only five people in the previous 40 years, leading them to victory at the National Championships in the Royal Albert Hall in 1994.

During this time he played in such illustrious venues as the Carnegie Hall in New York and featured as a soloist with Phillip Smith, Principal Trumpet with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

In January 1995, Ian joined the Tredegar Town Band as Principal Cornet and resident conductor. He also conducted the Tredegar Youth Band and took them from National youth section to National 3rd section in two years.

1997 saw Ian accept an invitation to become Principal Cornet with the Yorkshire Building Society Brass Band under Musical Director David King. In that year, the band retained its European Champions title and became British Open Champion for the first time in its history, with Ian gaining the award for most outstanding soloist.

In 1999 Ian became musical director of Pennine Brass, taking them from the 2nd Section to the Championship Section in two years, including consecutive appearances at the National Brass Band Championships in 2000 and 2001, and numerous other contest victories, including the French Open title in 2001.

Ian gained another two National Championship wins with the Williams Fairey Band in 2002 and 2003 under Alan Withington.

Ian took up the baton with Tredegar Town Band in 2008 and has led the band to the National Finals every year since. Ian is also the only conductor ever to lead a band to victory at the Grand Shield and British Open in the same year with Tredegar’s memorable double in 2010.

Ian is currently Director of Brass Band Studies at the Birmingham Conservatoire and is in high demand as a professional conductor, tutor and adjudicator.

For more information on how to apply please visit our course page 

Luan Shaw

Associate Professor; Director of Postgraduate Studies

Luan is Director of Postgraduate Studies and Head of Pedagogy 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. She is passionate about helping students to build their portfolio careers and having recently completed research in this area via the MEd in Academic Practice at Birmingham City University, her doctoral research also focuses on facilitating the transition from student to professional through instrumental teacher education in conservatoires. 

An alumna of RBC, Luan became a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra and recipient of the Worshipful Company of Musicians Silver Medal soon after graduating in 1994. She freelanced with the CBSO and other UK orchestras for over 20 years and played principal clarinet for numerous Longborough Festival Opera productions including Wagner’s Ring Cycle. As a chamber musician, Luan has performed throughout the UK, on BBC Radio and at the Banff International Festival, and her research on Members’ Roles in Wind Quintets was published shortly after completing an MA in 'Psychology for Musicians' at the University of Sheffield.