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Professional Performance - AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8)

Support your developing career as a professional performer with Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's post-Masters, Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Performance. You can choose one of seven specialisms: Instrumental Performance, Vocal Performance, Collaborative Piano, Organ Performance, Chamber Music Performance, Opera Repetiteurship or Choral Conducting....

Studying with us in 2021/22

It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Information about the arrangements the University has put in place for the 2021/22 academic year in response to Covid-19 and the emerging variants can be found here.


Should the impact of Covid-19 continue in 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.

  • Award AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8)
  • Start date September 2021
  • Fees View course fees
  • School Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Course overview

Support your developing career as a professional performer with Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's post-Masters, Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Performance. You can choose one of seven specialisms: Instrumental Performance, Vocal Performance, Collaborative Piano, Organ Performance, Chamber Music PerformanceOpera Repetiteurship or Choral Conducting.

Our Advanced Postgraduate Diploma (APD) is at 'post-masters level' and is ideal for you if you are an advanced postgraduate performer who already has a Masters degree and are beginning to accept professional engagements. The course will help you to raise your performance standards to the next level, with highly specialised one-to-one tuition in the department most relevant to your specialism.  You can study full-time over 12 months (September-September) or part-time (2 years).

Balance your study with professional experience

The Professional Performance APD allows you to take on performance engagements both within and outside Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as part of your course.   Assessment focuses on your work in professional contexts, via a Professional Performance Portfolio module and a choice of External Engagement and Professional Project modules.   We also provide a Career Management and Self-Promotion module designed to help you deal with those niggling, but vital, non-performance aspects of your professional career.

If you're a home or EU student you have the option to study part-time, which allows you to take the course alongside your already-developing career. Assessment focuses on your work in professional contexts, both within the Conservatoire and externally, and we also provide a Career Management and Self-Promotion module designed to help you deal with those niggling, but vital, non-performance aspects of your professional career.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

  • Develops your already advanced skills with high-quality tuition and professional performance opportunities.
  • Leads to a practical and performance-focused post-masters level qualification (Level 8).
  • Helps support and advance your career as a professional musician or performer.
  • Gives you access to specialist, experienced tutors.
  • Provides numerous performance opportunities at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, including ensembles, coaching workshops and masterclasses.
  • Makes use of our excellent links with organisations such as City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG), Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Bach Choir, Ex Cathedra, Opera North, Welsh National Opera, and Orchestra of the Swan via our professional schemes.
  • Enables you to be part of a small cohort of colleagues who are also at the high, professional standard required to be admitted to this course, which is limited to a small number of students per year.

For further information about auditions, visit the Entry Requirements tab.

Entry Requirements

Academic and other requirements

A postgraduate qualification (preferably Masters level), normally (but not necessarily) specialising in performance and/or substantial, verifiable public performance experience at a professional level

You will need to demonstrate that you're able to perform at a professional level and should submit a biography and list of performances at the time of application.

You will need to demonstrate an awareness of what is required of the performer wishing to forge a successful professional career in the 21st century, and an open mind about developing your own portfolio of relevant skills and experiences, making clear your rationale for further study.

Applications are normally subject to a two-stage audition process with a preliminary round in November, and a final round in January. Please contact us before making an application.

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

Virtual Auditions

For entry in September 2021, virtual auditions are in operation. Please submit your audition video to conservatoire.admissions@bcu.ac.uk following the requirements below.

We know that attending a virtual audition will be a new experience for many of our applicants so we have prepared detailed guidance and advice on our Audition Advice page to help you prepare for your virtual audition and interview

APD auditions for September 2021 entry

There will be two rounds of auditions. Applicants must pass Round One in order to proceed to Round Two.

Round Two applicants will be invited to an interview in December or January. This could either be online or in person (if government guidance permits).

Pre-Audition Materials:
All applicants are required to submit pre-audition materials for consideration by the audition panel. These should be submitted to conservatoire.admissions@bcu.ac.uk at the same time as your application and include:

  • A full list of public performances given over the past 24 months, clearly indicating dates, venues and repertoire performed.
  • A current biography (of the kind that would appear in a concert/operatic production programme).

Round One:
For round one of the auditions process, you will be required to submit a video recording, the specific details of which are outlined below. Your videos will not be considered by the audition panel until they have received the pre-audition materials listed above.

Instrumental Performance

Instrumentalists should prepare a programme of 40 minutes. Your programme should include a major work and incorporate a variety of periods and styles.

Vocal Performance

Singers should prepare a programme of 40 minutes. Your programme should include music from works in at least three European languages, including English.

Organ Performance

Organists should prepare a programme of 40 minutes. Your programme should include a major work and incorporate a variety of periods and styles.

Collaborative Piano Performance

Collaborative pianists should prepare a programme of 40 minutes. Your programme may include a solo work of no more than 5 minutes, and the remainder should include either vocal repertoire, for example, German Lied, French mélodie or English song; or instrumental repertoire, for example a movement from a major duo-sonata or larger chamber work (strings and/or wind). Alternatively, a combination of the above may be presented.

Chamber Music Performance

Ensembles should prepare a programme of 40 minutes. Your programme should include three or four pieces/movements comprising a variety of periods and styles.

Opera Repetiteurship

Repetiteurs should prepare a short operatic extract lasting between 10-15 minutes. Candidates must play and sing in the vocal lines. The extract must contain at least two characters and be in a language other than English. Candidates should demonstrate an understanding of characterisation and dramatic context.

Choral Conducting

Choral Conductors are required to submit a Portfolio comprising the following items:

  • Sample video recordings (where possible) that feature you as conductor in rehearsal (amounting to a maximum of 30 minutes)
    • Videos may feature an ensemble of any size to include chamber-sized groups of a minimum of four musicians.
    • The camera should ideally be focused on you as conductor, and if possible on your musicians too.
  • A list of concerts performed/rehearsal engagements undertaken in the last two years with repertoire covered
  • A programming task: please include sample programmes for a) a lunchtime concert (50 minutes) and b) an evening concert (2 x 40 minute halves)
    • N.B. conductors are asked to programme a cappella or with piano or organ accompaniment only.
  • Programme note samples (for two different works drawn from the above sample programmes)
  • Concert reviews (if any)

Round Two:
Round two will comprise an interview with a panel, to include the Course Director, Head of Professional Development and Head of Department. Some additional requirements are set out below:

Vocal Performance

You will be asked to read short texts in French/German and/or Italian, and to undertake some sight-reading which will be sent to you in advance of the interview.

Opera Repetiteurship

Approximately one week before the interview, you will be given an operatic excerpt (which may include accompanied recitative) to prepare in advance. In the interview, this should also be both played and sung.

Choral Conducting

In addition to the interview, conductors will be asked to undertake musicianship tests which will be sent to you in advance. These will include:

  • Unaccompanied sight singing in your preferred voice part (to be advised in advance)
  • A short passage of four-part score reading in G and F clefs on the piano
  • You will also be given a few bars of four-part harmony to read which will be played four times with two or three significant mistakes for you to recognise.
  • You will also be asked fundamental questions about score preparation and your conducting decisions based on a score which will be sent to you to prepare in advance, approximately one week before the interview. Where possible, you may be asked to conduct it (or a section of it) to the piano and/or sing a phrase or phrases to illustrate your points.

English language requirements

  • IELTS 6.0 (5.5 in all components) or equivalent is required, or previous UK Batchelor’s Degree.
International Students

Entry requirements here

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8)

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8)

Starting: Sep 2021

  • 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.

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)

Whilst access to large instruments (e.g. pianos) is provided, it is assumed that all students will have their own "portable" instrument (e.g. violin, flute, tuba, etc.) with them.

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.

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.

How to apply

Please apply through UCAS Conservatoires using the links above. Our UCAS Conservatoires Institution code is B34.

At the same time as submitting an application, you should email the Conservatoire Admissions Office with the following:

  • A full list of public performances given over the past 24 months, clearly indicating dates, venues and repertoire performed.
  • A current biography (of the kind that would appear in a concert/operatic production programme).
International applicants

Your Stage 1 (preliminary round) audition should take place 'live' in your own country at one of the Conservatoire's established audition centres.  Where this is not possible, you should send an online link to a video recording.

Please note, however, that Stage 1 of the process will only be organised following receipt of your performance list and biography (see above).

If you proceed to Stage 2 (final round), we will contact you to request a further audition recording.  Where a face-to-face meeting is not possible, some appropriate means will be found to enable a follow-up discussion with you, eg Skype.

Please also note that whatever the timing of your audition/submission, no offers will be made until after the January audition period in Birmingham.

Completing your application

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

Completing your application

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

Course in Depth

Modules

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

Musicians who have already achieved a high standard of performance and who are preparing for life in the profession require time, expert guidance and high-profile performance opportunities to further develop and refine their skills and knowledge, and to broaden their experience of the concert platform. Zhe Professional Performance Portfolio module is designed to do exactly this. The two performance assessments within the Portfolio are effectively (unpaid) professional engagements which mimic the real-life situation, for example giving a public recital, preparing and delivering an orchestral audition or (for conductors and repetiteurs) leading a rehearsal or coaching session in a professional setting. The two performances within the portfolio are distinguished from each other according to content, and this is defined by the rubrics set out in the ‘Syllabus’ (see separate document) relating to each ‘specialism’. (Specialisms include, for example, Instrumental Performance; Vocal Performance; Collaborative Piano; Organ Performance; Chamber Music; Choral Conducting; Opera Repetiteur).

If any performer is to stand a chance of gaining a foothold in the profession, they need to be equipped with a range of skills over and above the ability to perform at a professional level.   One such skill is self-promotion – the ability to develop and maintain an online presence, to market your ‘product(s)’ and to network in order to build contacts. 

The Career Development and Self-Promotion module aims to expand your knowledge of the profession and help you to manage your career as a self-employed musician.   It serves a practical function in requiring you to do two things essential for the early-career performer seeking to maximize their chances of securing work: i) to ensure that you have an online presence befitting of a twenty-first-century professional musician; and ii) to build up a portfolio of evidence of professional activity which will inspire confidence in promoters.

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

If any performer is to stand a chance of gaining a foothold in the profession, they need to be equipped with a range of skills over and above the ability to perform at a professional level. They need to be able to work autonomously in their pursuit of artistic excellence, setting long term goals and planning intermediary steps in order to achieve them, whilst being critically aware in order to maximise their untapped potential and seek out possible career opportunities. The ability to secure professional engagements is essential if a performing musician is to forge a successful career. 

The External Engagement module is one of two optional modules on the APD programme (the other being the Professional Project module) and requires you to seek out an opportunity to perform in an external professional context. This process will help you to develop establish and maintain cooperative relationships both within the Conservatoire (e.g. through ‘Book a Musician’) and in the wider artistic community; the latter being especially useful post-graduation.  You will be expected to liaise directly with the promoter/organisation regarding all aspects of the engagement as appropriate, which, depending on the venue and/or nature of the performance setting, is likely to include some or all of the following: repertoire/programme planning, scheduling rehearsals and planning practice time, designing publicity materials, online marketing, organising ticket sales and/or refreshments. You will be required to reflect critically on the process of planning, promoting and fulfilling your external engagement. Critical reflection is an essential skill for a successful professional musician since it strengthens your capacity to pursue and realise your own ideas, thus informing your future career planning and continuing professional development.

If any performer is to stand a chance of gaining a foothold in the profession, they need to be equipped with a range of skills over and above the ability to perform at a professional level.  They need to be able to work autonomously in their pursuit of artistic excellence, setting long term goals and planning intermediary steps in order to achieve them, whilst being critically aware in order to maximise their untapped potential and seek out possible career opportunities.  

The Professional Project module is one of two optional modules on the APD programme (the other being the External Engagement module) and gives you the opportunity to undertake a self-defined activity entirely tailored to your own interests and career aspirations. This project may or may not have performance at its centre, but is instigated and driven by you.  The nature of the project is deliberately flexible to allow you freedom of choice in relation to your professional needs and interests. 

Designing your own project and seeing it through to completion will help you to develop establish and maintain cooperative relationships both within the Conservatoire and in the wider artistic community; the latter being especially useful post-graduation.  You will be required to reflect critically on the process of planning and executing your project. Critical reflection is an essential skill for a successful professional musician since it strengthens your capacity to pursue and realise your own ideas, thus informing your future career planning and continuing professional development.

If you're an instrumentalist, vocalist, collaborative pianist, organist, opera repetiteur or choral conductor, you will benefit from one-to-one expert tuition with our internationally renowned tutors during the course. Chamber musicians are entitled to both individual tuition and regular coaching for their ensemble.

The three modules which make up the course (two core, one optional) are interrelated and complementary. The flexibility of content is such that you are able to tailor the programme to suit your own needs and aspirations.

Course structure

The course revolves around your individual needs, strategic goals and enthusiasms. To get the most out of it, you'll need to be highly self-motivated and able to work on your own initiative.

There is an expectation that, with the support of your course tutors, you'll take advantage of being on the course to seek out and maximise professional development opportunities which will be strategically useful to your developing career. In other words, this is not a course leading to the start of your career, but one which you take alongside it in its early stages. The principal aim is that, when you graduate, not only will your professional life be well under way, but you'll also have developed the confidence and skills to go on shaping it.

Throughout the course you'll have expert 1:1 tuition and/or coaching in your Principal Study area.

Students on this course have the opportunity to organise weekly performance classes for their cohort. You will also have access to the Conservatoire's full range of ensembles, departmental workshops, performance classes and masterclasses. As an emerging professional musician, it is hoped and expected that you'll carve a distinctive niche for yourself within your department, becoming a role model for students at earlier stages in their studies.

During the course, you will undertake two performance assessments in a professional context within the Conservatoire. For full-time students these will usually take place in terms two and three; for part-time students, one assessment will usually take place in Year 1, and the other in Year 2. You will then have the option to undertake a third professional engagement externally (via the External Engagement module) or to undertake a Professional Project in an area closely aligned to your career aspirations.

Throughout the course, your work in performance will be supported by the Career Management and Self-Promotion module. This module is focused on providing you with practical preparation for the professional world and will be supported by individual tutorials and regular workshops for the whole cohort. 

CORE: Professional Performance PortfolioCORE: Career Management and Self-PromotionOPTIONAL: Either External Engagement or Professional Project
60 credits 20 credits 40 credits

Student stories

Di Xiao

Di Xiao

This intensive and inspiring course gave me the confidence and experience that prepared me for international competitions and, ultimately, the stage. Thanks to the mentoring and encouragement of the Conservatoire's staff I went on to win first prize in the Brant International Piano Competition in the year I graduated.

In turn, that led to a European tour as the UK's 08/09 representative to the European Concert Halls Organisation "ECHO Rising Stars" series during which I gave recitals at 11 of the World's most prestigious venues. The foundation provided by the APD enabled me to build a busy international touring and recording career which has included the release of 2 CDs (a third is under production), radio appearances for the BBC and Classic FM and collaborations with some of the world’s finest artists.

Chris Orton

Since graduating with the APD course prize in 2004, Chris Orton continued to pursue joint careers as a soloist and teacher.

Jack McNeill

I found the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s APD course an invaluable addition to my education as a performer. I received fantastic tuition and was constantly encouraged to look for and take hold of opportunities beyond my studies.

Employability

This postgraduate degree will help support and advance your career as a professional musician or performer.

You'll develop your already advanced skills with high-quality, 1:1 tuition and professional performance opportunities.

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

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:

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

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

Siân Derry

MA Musicology Course Director, Professional Performance - AdvPgDip Course Director, Assistant Director of Postgraduate Studies

Siân Derry is a Senior Lecturer in Music, and MA Musicology Course Director, Professional Performance - AdvPgDip Course Director and Assistant Director of Postgraduate Studies at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. She joined the Conservatoire in 2015, having previously taught at the University of Manchester.

Siân completed her BMus Hons degree as a pianist and MMus in Musicology at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and was subsequently awarded a Wingate Scholarship to undertake doctoral studies at the University of Manchester with Professor Barry Cooper. Her thesis is entitled ‘Beethoven’s Experimental Figurations and Exercises for Piano’. In 2013 she became a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Manchester for an AHRC-funded cultural engagement project, examining the history of music and music education in Manchester. Her research focussed specifically on the work and concert programming of Charles Hallé.

Siân has a broad range of research interests, including Beethoven, piano pedagogy and organology, critical editing and performance practices of the 18th and 19th Centuries. She is a founding member of the Manchester Beethoven International Research Symposia, established in 2009, and has presented on a diverse range of topics over this period. She is also a member of the Conservatoire’s Forum for Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Music.

More about Siân