Tag: People

Reflections of a Second Year


My first term as a 2nd year Music student at the University of Birmingham has been absolutely great, and I also couldn’t have wished for a better first year at the university! I still can’t quite believe how fast time flies by and that I’m not a Fresher anymore… I’m actually nearly halfway through my degree now, which is pretty scary! There were so many great things that I experienced in my first year as a Music student, but I thought I’d pick some of my top highlights to share with you…

Getting dropped off in Birmingham in September was such an exciting/scary day. I’m not the type of person to get homesick at all, but it was definitely sad to think that I wouldn’t be seeing my Mom and Dad as often, now that I was starting uni. However… I was welcomed into a new ‘Music family’ straight away and the close-knit community atmosphere is one of the things that I love best about our awesome Music department.

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I also literally mean that I had a ‘Music family’ as each Fresher gets paired up with someone from the year above who becomes your ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ and you may also have siblings. They helped look after us during the first few weeks of term and made us feel at home in the uni – many of them are now my closest friends. My ‘Music family’ gets along really well (I think!) and we’ve even had a ‘family dinner’ night, and a lovely day out at the Botanical gardens together at the end of last term. You may think that it’s a bit cheesy to have a ‘Music family’ but trust me, everyone loves it!

I’m really enjoying the course and looking forward to all this year’s new modules, but what I probably enjoy most outside of the academic course is performing. I play the violin and have had that chance to play in sooo many different things that I feel like I’ve been busy 24/7! Playing alongside talented musicians in the University Philharmonic Orchestra last year was absolutely fantastic – I had the chance to learn exciting new rep under the baton of an inspiring conductor and have tutoring from experienced members of the CBSO who coach us for some rehearsals.

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As well as the various orchestras I really love chamber music and was so happy that I managed to form a string quartet with friends last year. We’ve done a couple of gigs so far, and hopefully will have many more this year – it’s great fun playing together and earning money while doing something you love is definitely a bonus!

Living in Birmingham over the last year has been lovely – it’s such a vibrant city with so much music-making going on. With so much to do in the city, Music department and Music society, there is never a dull moment. I know that I definitely made the right choice in coming to Birmingham and I’m currently having a great time getting stuck in to 2nd year!

Why is Music considered a ‘Soft’ subject?


Medicine, Veterinary Science, Dentistry, Law and Music. Which one of these degrees stands out to you as ‘the odd one out?’. I can bet you it was music.

But, why?

As stated by Friedrich Nietzsche ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’- So why is it that music is considered ‘soft?’.
The main reason I have decided to write this post is after an incident I experienced at my school a few months back. A teacher, (who I shall not name) asked me what I wanted to study at university- naturally, I said Music. I received an odd glare and then later on in the conversation she stated that ‘if I wanted to do a degree that would mean I end up living in ‘poverty’ when I’m older, then I should ‘go ahead’ ‘.

First of all, really? Whatever ANYONE chooses to do with their life is their decision. It seems to me that at the school I attended, and other ‘private/public schools’ if the degree you wanted to study is not Medicine/Dentistry etc. you seem to get disregarded as somebody who is not worth taking an academic interest in- and I am sorry, but that is completely and utterly ridiculous.

But, back to Music…

Root position, Relative major, Con fuoco, Phrygian cadence, Neapolitan chord, Allargando, Tierce de Picardie (my personal favourite), Antiphony, Tonic pedal note, Diminished 7th…. Augmented 5th.

These, my friends, are many common terms that musicians come into contact with on a very frequent basis. If you don’t know what any of these mean- I think it’s a good indication to you that Music is not simply just listening& playing- it’s almost like a different language… a musical language!

Studying Music is not just as simple as ‘sitting around listening to piano music’ as I once heard someone say. Music is about practicing hard, immersing yourself in new music each and every single day, learning how to sight-read, learning music theory which is so complicated that it sometimes makes you want to pull your own hair out, composing pieces of music that actually have to come out of your own brain and much, much more.

All I’m trying to get across is that Music is so far from easy. Music is difficult- but if you have a passion for it- you’re set for life. I’ve had countless people come up to me and tell me to ‘do a proper degree at university and have music as a hobby‘. No. Why should I? Did anyone question you when you did your degree? Probably not, so why are you questioning mine? I think everyone deserves the right to study what they want to and I know that I cannot wait until 3 years time when I graduate as a bachelor of Music.

Finally- the job prospects of doing a music degree.. It certainly is not just a teacher.

-Music therapy -Private music teacher -Sound editor – A musician – Playing in an orchestra (BBC orchestra) -Working for a music company

… the list really is endless.

So to the teacher who told me I am going to ‘live in poverty’, and who then later told me that her niece who also did an ‘arty’ degree now ‘has a husband who can pay the bills whilst she pursues her dream’ can sincerely stop. I will most certainly not live in poverty, and I will most certainly be able to care for myself independently when I reach the age.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but, think before you speak- Music really is not as easy as it seems.


heatherHello, I’m Heather and I’m in second year studying BMus Music

Home town: Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Instrument: Clarinet and piano

My favourite piece of music: Rachmaninoff – Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini

Why I study music: I always enjoyed learning instruments and composing, and it’s a very varied degree in which I can do these things as well as develop academic skills like essay writing.

Hobbies: Baking, running, reading, board games

Fascinating fact about me: I have a minor obsession with sloths (I have a cuddly toy sloth called Slothgang Amadeus, and my dream is to go to Costa Rica to visit the sloth sanctuary).



Hi, I’m Sophie and I’m a fresher (first year) doing BMus Music.

Home town: I was born in East London, but I’ve lived in Bedford for most of my life.

Instrument: I’m a Soprano and I also play the piano.

My favourite piece of music: Tough question.. I like to think of myself as a William Byrd aficionado (even though I have a lot more to learn!).. So it would have to be ‘Civitas sancti tui’, but I also love ‘Versa est in luctum’ by Alonso Lobo.

Why I study music: It’s tough questions galore! I study music because it’s my absolute and utter passion. Music isn’t just a hobby to me- it’s what I want my career to be. Apparently at the age of 2 I was constantly singing ‘Frère Jacques’.. So I think it was pretty obvious from a young age I was going to end up studying it!

Hobbies: I’m a typical girl.. Shopping is most definitely my vice. However, I’m also known as a ‘petrol head’ at home- I adore cars. I have an ambition to be able to tell the make and model of every car I see… It’s a working progress!

Fascinating fact about me: I cried and practically hyperventilated when I met Eric Whitacre



Hi, I’m Will. I’m in second year studying BMus Music.

Home town: Lilleshall, Shropshire

Instrument: Guitar, Piano, Voice

My favourite piece of music: Richard Strauss – An Alpine Symphony, although I’m also rather keen on Mahler.

Why I study music: The course has a broad range of material which caters for everyone, and provides both academic and creative avenues to pursue. You also have the opportunity to take certain things which you learn in music and apply them to other things. Furthermore, the department as a whole has a very welcoming feel, and you’ll very quickly learn who everyone is and who to talk to if you need something.

Hobbies: Graphic design, video production, cross country running, motorsports, attending concerts and other music events, football

Fascinating fact about me: I’m part German (which hopefully means I’ll compose like Beethoven or something)



Hello, I’m Adele. I’m in second year studying BMus Music.

Home town: Lydney, Forest of Dean

Instrument: Flute, Harpsichord/Piano

My favourite piece of music: Sibelius Violin Concerto (or anything by Debussy will do for me)

Why I study music: It’s such a wide reaching subject, with what I think is the perfect balance of creativity, academia, and performing.  Plus, the course here at UoB is really varied so you experience everything, then can tailor your modules to your own preferences.

Hobbies: Recently discovered a love of cooking (on a student level I should add), reading, going to gigs, researching songs and bands to talk about on my radio show, and occasionally Skyping my parents so they know I’m alive (but mainly just to see my dogs).

Fascinating fact about me: Apparently I’m very very very distantly related to John Williams on my mum’s side…maybe



Hi, I’m Zoe and I’m in my first year studying BA Modern Languages & Music (French & German)

Home town: Northampton

Instrument: Bassoon

Favourite piece of music:  Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture – Glinka

Why I study music: The study of music unlocks a world of creativity that I have always found exciting.  Studying music provides the opportunity to explore history and cultures.  Music is a universal language and it is great when people from all over the world are able to connect through music.

Hobbies: Playing orchestral and chamber music.  Walking the dogs, and the occasional bit of knitting or anything arty and creative!

Fascinating fact about me: My favourite biscuits are pink panther wafers!



Hello, I’m Usha. I am a third year BMus Music student.

Home town: Bangalore, India

Instrument: Piano and voice

My favourite piece of music: Brahms symphony no. 3

Why I study music: I love it!

Hobbies: Music, badminton, reading, laughing, teaching, working with paints and paper to create something different

Fascinating fact about me: This will sound heavy but as intense as I am, I balance it out by having the courage to be absolutely silly. I love to laugh and I love myself to the point of conceit. I can’t love another as much and as often otherwise.



Hello, I’m Carolyn. I’m a second year BMus Music student.

Home town: Menai Bridge, Anglesey, North Wales

Instrument: Violin

Favourite Piece of Music: This is such a hard question! My favourite music is usually things I have played myself as they always bring back great memories as well as being great pieces of music. If I had to pick one piece only then I would probably choose Danzon no.2 by Marquez.

Hobbies: Apart from music, I really enjoy playing racket sports like tennis, table tennis and badminton.

Why I study Music: Ever since having my first violin lesson on my 8th birthday, I’ve loved music and never looked back! I enjoy the performance aspect of music the most but wanted to study Music at University to have the chance to enjoy a variety of aspects of music.

Fascinating fact about me: I love learning languages! I’m trilingual, being fluent in both English, Welsh and spoken Thai. I also studied German up to A-level and did a module of beginner Italian in my first year of Uni as part of my course, even though I’m a BMus Music student!


Blogging team

Welcome to the official blog for the Department of Music at the University of Birmingham! The blog was named by our students and takes its name from two notable people from our past (Bantock and Raybould – read more about them below) and “me”, as it is written by current students and staff and alumni.

The blog was set up to provide an insight into what it’s actually like to study Music here at the University of Birmingham and create an online community for our students, applicants, staff, alumni and beyond.

Find out more about:

  • What our students get up to on a day-to-day basis
  • What modules they enjoy
  • What opportunities they get stuck in to at the university and further afield
  • What Birmingham is really like
  • And much more!

It is also intended to provide advice and guidance for potential students, provide a behind the scenes look at the Department, showcase the successes of our alumni, and the research being conducted by the Department’s staff and postgraduate researchers.

We are:

  • Charlotte, 3rd year BMus Music
  • Zoe, 1st year BA Music & Modern Languages (French and German)
  • Will, 2nd year BMus Music
  • Carolyn, 2nd year BMus Music
  • Heather, 2nd year BMus Music
  • Usha, 3rd year BMus Music
  • Sophie, 1st year BMus Music
  • Adele, 2nd year BMus Music
  • Beth & Libby, editors

We are also keen to feature guest contributors, such as other students and staff from the Department and across the University and graduates.  If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with Beth – e.a.astington@bhama.ac.uk

Who are Bantock and Raybould?


Sir Granville Bantock had considerable impact on the University of Birmingham’s Department of Music during his time here from 1908 to 1934, much of which can still be seen today. His role was that of Peyton Professor of Music – in fact he held this role immediately after Sir Edward Elgar, who had not enjoyed university life and resigned the position as soon as he could.

Generally, Sir Bantock is credited with founding a more holistic system of musical education, providing a broadly-based and enterprising programme of learning: students studied a variety of styles and periods, with a notable stress on ‘modern’ music.

He is also attributed with the responsibility for the links between UoB and the Birmingham Conservatoire. In 1900 he had become Principal of the Birmingham and Midland Institute School of Music (which later became the Birmingham Conservatoire) and on joining UoB he began intertwining the educational work of the two establishments.

Many notable musicians visited the university under Sir Bantock’s reign – at the Triennial Musical Festival of 1912, the Music Department welcomed and entertained none other than Jean Sibelius, whom Sir Bantock had first met in 1905. The two became great friends, and Sibelius even dedicated his Third Symphony to Sir Bantock. Another major dedication to Sir Bantock was when Edward Elgar dedicated the second of his Pomp and Circumstance Marches to him.

Another of Sir Bantock’s connections to Birmingham was his influence in the founding of the City of Birmingham orchestra (later the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra), whose first performance in September 1920 was of his overture Saul.

ClarenceClarence Raybould was the first person to receive a BMus degree at the University of Birmingham. He was born in Birmingham and was a student under Sir Bantock and graduated in 1912.

Raybould went on to become a conductor, composer and pianist. Among his notable achievements are that he was assistant conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1939 to 1945, after which he became the first conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales in 1945, and was its principal conductor until 1966. In 1951 he also he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in their first concert in the recently opened Royal Festival Hall.