Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The First Week

Remember I mentioned time going quickly? Yeah, well it is already going so fast already - the first week has officially been and gone, so now things are starting to settle into a little more of a routine. If you are considering Music College, you will probably now be either going to open days for in a few years time, or racing towards that 1st October deadline for next year's applicants (which I wish you all the best of luck with) So, if you're anything like me, you might be wondering what is in store for you over the next three years of being an undergraduate. I might be able to help with sharing a little of the types of things you can expect to do as a first year in year one of undergraduate studies at a place such as Leeds College of Music:

Day to day, the days are significantly different from being in a school or sixth form in that no day has a defined structure. Some days you might have no lessons at all, others you might have one, and another you might have classes all day with rehearsals in the evening: it all depends on your course. The Classical course is quite a heavy weight subject, especially if you are a vocalist, so this means that you usually do have class every day, even if you only have one. Some of the classes/lectures I have include: Working in the creative industries, Language diction for singers, private tuition (in your specialist instrument) Musicology and harmony seminars. Those types of classes are all very much about music, but about aspects in so much detail that they all differ greatly and all have different tasks to be marked + assessed which will lead to my final grade at the end of the year. Due to personal levels of interest, I find that musicology and performance based classes are some of my favourites (although it can be quite intimidating at first to have to perform in front of your peers) and that I struggle more with things such as harmony, because notation has always confused me. So even in university studying something you love, there will still be some aspects you fall in-love with and still others you dislike; just like maths, science and English in high-school.

Rehearsal wise, here I have joined two choirs, both of which have rehearsals in the evening so this means that I have music to practice throughout the week. Luckily we are singing some Bach at the moment which I already knew quite well - but if given a text that you don't know well, before the next rehearsal you are expected to learn certain passages for the next time the choir meets (which we are usually notified of in advance) and we would also be expected to practice pronunciation and find a reliable translation so that we know what we are actually singing about. This is the same for performance based classes - as a singers, we are expected to always take several pieces ready for performance (or which we are happy to perform despite being works in progress) to every class. Usually we will be told the previous week what we will be doing the following week: e.g. bringing out the character in a piece, French music, strophic form - so that way we can plan in advance what would be suitable to take with us as an example. Already I have learnt a great deal from my peers in relation to repertoire - friends with similar voice types are able to share with me the types of things that might be good for my range of voice and vice verse. This all means though, that I do have quite a scary looking pile of music waiting for me each day to be practiced :

The number of assignments means that I have to do quite a lot of research, so even if there aren't many lectures during the day, it is a guarantee that I will have to do quite a lot of work, whether that be practice or researching the Baroque era for an essay I have to write. The Good news is that it is all worthwhile - stuyding all of this is stressful already, but I have to remember that I am studying what I love and not many people get to do that so I need to remember how lucky I am.

Although a short update about my week (which ended with a weekend of lots of travelling and rehearsals in Manchester before travelling back to Leeds for this week) I hope it enlightens you a little on what it is like to be a classical music student and what studying at somewhere like LCM can be like. Good luck with your applications and school work - Have a lovely week!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Surviving Freshers Week and Enrolment

Time here is already flying by so quickly - it doesn't feel like I got here two weeks ago, it feels much longer. And yet the newness is still clinging to things, like the packet of fine liners that haven't been opened yet and how neat everything is. But they do say start how you mean to go on so hopefully that counts for something. Because of rehearsals I have to go home most weekends, and I still find it strange to call two places home and see how different two cities can be - and also the fact that you can wake up in one and on the same day, fall asleep in another. Manchester is much different to Leeds - but both are equally beautiful in many ways, as you can see from the below photos of Leeds on a lovely sunny day last week:

So on to Freshers week, also enrolment week, which has been both fun and incredibly busy. Because of being at sixth form for two years and getting to know the place, I guess that I had forgotten just how much paper work there is to do when you start at a new place. And so much legal reading, especially in relation to the work you produce and learning how to use the VLE (Virtual learning environment) which with my ancient technology skills is something which is taking up 'the vast majority of my time' (Tim Minchin reference) Enrolment consisted of a welcome talk which was so warm - full of odd metaphors which got me talking to the people around me. Metaphors which, amongst others, compared us to characters from X- men and also our adventure through music to that of the 'rings of Saturn'. After that, the first lot of paper work was registering with a GP, before going on to another room to check through all our contact, payment, exam details and change anything or update anything or be told if there was a problem with anything (luckily, there were no problems that day which was a relief) and then photos were taken for ID cards, we went on to another induction talk and we were officially students. It still doesn't feel quite real - part of me keeps wondering when the date to go back to sixth form is. But everything takes a while to get used to. Especially when you get given harmony homework which is the scariest thing you have ever had to look at in your life:
But being here has inspired me a lot already - listening to more music, getting a lot of practice done every day, using the library and of course, listening to the soundtrack for the Chronicles of Narnia: the lion the witch and the wardrobe (my favourite film soundtrack at the moment and perhaps of all time) and sketching for no apparent reason (is the inspiration obvious?) :

The library we were introduced to on a separate day to our enrolment stuff. Because I study at Leeds conservatoire (opposed to just a regular university, like Leeds university) all that we study here is music, so the library is entirely books on music, CD's and filed sheet music, which is something quite incredible to actually see because there is so much in there it seems impossible that it could all be music. And it is also all organised so well - proven on the treasure hunt we had to go on to find books using codes to get more codes which we put together to get one big code which led us to a CD and once we found it we got a water bottle (it says keep calm and go to the library and everything!) The resources are obviously there to do the utmost best to help us with assignments (which have already been set, and some of them look quite ominous) as they stock all of our key texts in several different formats so something is always available if more than one person needs it (e.g. in a reading week) But there is also so much to learn - areas of music I have never had much access to before, such as jazz and music therapy and music business, are now all open to me in these hundreds of hundreds of books! Already I am reading a rather intriguing book I came across called 'Russian jazz - new identity'.

In addition to other small events to meet friends (there are lots of international students, particularly from Norway and my room mate is from Japan - it is incredible how I get to study with these crazy talented people, not just the international students, but all of the students, and I guess we are all international students - ok now I'm babbling...) my favourite event of the whole week was definitely the classical concert which featured students from the college and actually got me to listen to some flute music (not the biggest fan of the flute, perhaps because it was the first instrument I ever wanted to learn but my mum wouldn't let 4 year old me) which was perhaps the best thing in the whole piece. There was also a special guest, who's name you can see in the ticket below, who did beatbox flute! Not your typical classical concert, huh? It was good to see the contemporary mixed in with their older sibling composers and to see a new premiered work in the UK. Makes me realise over and over again how lucky I am to be here.

Plus the addition of being in a place near to events by Royal Opera North with the under 30 scheme makes me even more glad to be here! Hearing the music you love and living it and studying it - it is like being thrown into the deep end when you want to be a champion swimmer but don't quite know how to swim yet - exhilarating and mind numbingly terrifying all at the same time. Although saying all this now, I will probably be complaining that the work is hard and I am tired in about a week - but that doesn't take away from the special-ness of everything, it just means that the hard work is setting in as it should do, and is a sign that the place is officially becoming home. This weekend is full of concerts and rehearsals and next week is full of lectures, lessons, travelling and rehearsals, so it is going to be a plunge into the deep end alright! Tomorrow is the freshers fair, the last real event of the week, and my audition for chamber choir - wish me luck!

As for freshers week itself, some of you might not be there yet and are moving out over the next few weeks, or maybe you are already there and are wondering how to deal with it all - whether feeling over or underwhelmed. My advice to you would be:

1. Do the things that you want to do
Make sure that you get to events early if you know they are going to be busy, you don't want to be missing out on the things you are most looking forward to. These experiences will be the ones where you can find out most about clubs of interest, events that seem fun, and so on. Look through lists and the college website so you can try and create a list in advance of the stuff you definitely want to do before you look at what else is available. But do try to remember budget - although you want to have fun and attend as much as possible, your money has to last you now that you are a student so you need to be aware of what you are spending and thinking ahead. 

2. Try some of the things that don't seem as fun
This might be a concert with music you don't know as much about because you haven't been interested in it before, but might open you up to a whole world and wealth of new ideas that could benefit your studies and give you ideas for your projects and inspiration for collaborations with other likeminded musicians. Often trying things out of your comfort zone (as long as they are safe and within reason) are usually the things which will surprise you most, and lead you to have some of your best memories. You never know where things will lead you, as the poem 'the road less travelled by' reveals. So give those new paths a chance and don't dismiss them too soon!

3. Learn the fundamentals
Some of the events that also might not seem as fun are the mandatory lectures - things you would rather be in bed than at because you had a late night. But make sure you are up early, bright eyed and bushy tailed because these events are the most important things you can go to - both for providing all necessary information and getting access to resources that will make your actual first week after freshers much less stressful and much more organised. Also, in addition to this, make sure you create mandatory things for yourself to keep yourself healthy: eating well, sleeping well and so on.

4. Make friends
Take the opportunity to get to know people - everyone is in the same boat and, I know it has been said before but I am saying it again, they are just as nervous as you even if they might not seem it. Talk about anything and everything - you'll be surprised at the number of people who are interested in the same things as you: afterall, these people have chosen a similar, if not identical, path of study to you and are sure to have interesting opinions which will differ and add to your own and discussion, conversation and debate is the heart of all friendships. But don't forget your old friends, make sure to keep in touch with them to.

5. Be yourself
Above all - just be yourself and the rest will be as it will. If you stay true to who you are and don't disguise that, you will meet likeminded people and have the confidence to have an absolute whale of a time!

On a final note, to all of those of you who will be first years this time next year, I hope you are feeling confident and working hard at your CUKAS forms and personal statements (because you have the earlier October deadline than the normal UCAS deadline) If you would like to apply to Leeds College of Music, you can do so through CUKAS - and to find out more you can go to the website, order a prospectus or pop in for an open day (there are plenty of them coming up and an invitation day - so don't hesitate to get in touch!) 

Good luck!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Preparing for the AS - History (Modern)

Knowing a little more on the subject can be really helpful when applying for a course. Especially when you are choosing your AS levels. Traditionally, or at least in the beginning, I was going to study German, French, Music and History. In the end, I only studied three A levels - Music, Literature and History. Knowing what you will be studying can be hugely influential, particularly as the college you choose to go to does probably have a curriculum that differs to others, even if two colleges are on the same exam board that doesn't mean you will be studying the same content for both places. So I thought I would start this series of web posts to try and fill you in a little on the types of things you might be studying if you have chosen similar subjects to me.

In my first year of Modern History, our class sat two exams. The first exam was on the Vietnam war and the second paper was on 100 years of British history. American history was something I knew next to little about when I arrived, and it was interesting to discuss an aspect of history that is fairly new to the syllabus and is much more modern than things such as the history of the great war etc. But now my memory evades me and I cannot recall half of the things I learned - mainly because much of what we learnt was dates and statistics to include in essays - this was an approach to history that at the time I did not like, because I prefer to learn the content and then write about it, as I did at A2 level. For British history, we learnt a lot about politics, so this is a course which would be a good match for someone studying politics or business - many of the people in my class were. We learnt about the 20th century - about the equality of women, about the equality of people and classes, about laws passed, wars battled and elections (including the lib-lab pact, which was the first thing we learnt about)

Having no course work element to a course is something that many people avoided, but as a person who enjoys writing without editing, exams are kind of my thing. If you are of a similar nature, you would probably enjoy this AS and make the most of it. The two exams are usually only a day or so apart, so there isn't much time to revise them separately - they must be revised together. The way I managed this was by dividing the content into blocks and studying one block for an hour (say Asquith's government) and then studying the other block for the following hour (Johnson and his government) etc. Although the course is a lot of reading to do, the AQA text book is a really good source for the British history, and I think it was the Flanders text book I used for US history, this course does allow you a lot of freedom with the information you retain. Our teachers provided us with booklets for each aspect of the course and split it into six sections so that could be more organised in our research. This I found useful because it meant I could colour code and highlight (I learn things through colour, as you will know from my revision posts) and also because I could file any extra information or reading I came across more efficiently and revision was a much easier task. Organise your notes constantly throughout this course - the amount of content is not something you will be able to grasp in mere minutes. Make things less stressful for yourself in the long run by starting as you mean to go on. 

For the actual exams themselves, you will have to answer two or three questions - you will have a choice of which questions you do answer. When writing an answer to the question bear in mind three things: planning, evidence, explanation. Examiners have stated that students who spend five minutes planning before they begin writing are more likely to do better than someone who dives straight into answering the question. 
And although it might sound obvious, pick questions you are confident in answering! Too many of my friends saw a word they recognised and picked a question because of this. If you spend time planning, it will allow you the time to think over the best question as well. Structure your answer to have at least three points (one per paragraph) with evidence (a historian or statistic to show general knowledge) an explanation and a judgement. In your introduction, briefly mention the points you are going to say, and in your conclusion, weigh each point you have discussed in a little more detail than in the introduction to make your overall conclusion. Try to make one point your biggest factor. Do not use the first person (e.g. I think, in my opinion) in history, your opinion has to be omniscient - the point is to be as unbiased as possible and to find the most factually reliant answer to the question, though you can use your opinion and general knowledge to help you in that element - know your own opinions on things by doing as much extra reading an fact memorising as possible. The more general knowledge you possess without the book, the more likely you are to score brownie points by being to say who what when where and why as quickly as possible and in the most well structure manner. The more used you are to doing this in the timed essay conditions of the exams, the more likely you are to succeed.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Moving Out, Vaccine and Blogger of the Year - An Update

It's been quite a while since you last heard from me - but that next chapter officially began today (or partially anywho) so I figured it was time to write something to celebrate. Before I get into the moving stuff from today there are two things that have happened since the last time we spoke:

Firstly, I must say an absolutely huge thank-you to any one who voted for me for Blogger of the Year - because you I was lucky enough to come second place, which means a lot to me. This only makes me want to keep writing and writing, in the hopes that it makes you all as happy as that news made me.

Secondly, the meningitis vaccination. As someone who is absolutely terrified (irrationally) of injections, this was something which terrified me! Yet in the end it took less than a minute to actually have the injection, it didn't hurt (other than a headache as a result of my good companion aka Immune System) and I realised that the worst part of the vaccination was the waiting for it because anticipation always makes things seem much worse than they are, especially if like me you are a worrier. But if you have been offered the injection, especially if you are off to stay in halls or accommodation, I could not emphasise more to you how important it is that you over come that fear and go get that injection! You won't regret it: if you can overcome that fear for just a moment, you will be safe against a life threatening illness for all of your life - and with 90% of students getting freshers flu every year, it is important to help your immune system out as much as possible and give those memory lymphocytes something to hold onto when you don't feel so well.

Now that I have those two things out of the way, on with the events of today and how all of that went on:

This morning when I woke up I was so excited because today was the day I officially moved into my student accommodation over in Leeds. It took two attempts to fit everything in the car (cello, violin - the whole lot!) but after that, we were ready to go. It felt like a good omen that the sun was out and the sky was clear, so clear that you could see the tops of the hills and mountains miles away - the ones that everyone never knows the names of but can see and admire on a clear day. Plus the traffic wasn't all that bad, so things didn't take too long.

When we arrived, despite the google maps system throwing a tantrum somewhere in the middle, the first thing I did was get keys, give in details and go to look around the place where I am now to stay for a whole year. It was a pleasant surprise to find such a spacious place, with lots of shelving, a shower, and a welcome pack with maps, leaflets and those free key chains you know you'll never end up using. My favourite place so far definitely has to be the desk space, because it makes me feel so studious - even if I am just sat here looking out of the window:

After I had unpacked all of the things I had brought with me, me and my mum went to explore Leeds with the maps we had been given. There is lots of transportation (which is useful) trains and coach stations all rather close to home. The farmers markets are perfect and will definitely come in useful I think as not only are their products cheap, but many are organic and the farmers who are responsible for producing the food and other things sold get paid much more than they would if you bought it from a supermarket - though there are plenty of supermarkets here too. One of my favourite things outside of college that I have found so far are the pianos dotted around the city that anyone can just sit down and play. It adds a really open approach to music and trying new things that I don't think the industry has enough of: It feels right to see people not viewing the industry as something elitist or closed to them but instead as something fun to share with their friends - music as an opportunity not something to repress. There was one particularly good pianist in the train station playing some Debussy and I sat there quite a while just listening. Actually that reminds me of the one thing I am already missing about home - having a piano in my room and around all the time! Due to practice rooms being renovated, I shall be waiting quite a while yet to be able to go and practice there so in the meantime I am making the most of my flat space.

After we had a look around town, we went shopping properly for groceries. As you might know, I have a severe nut/peanut allergy and I am also vegetarian so food is always an issue for me and one that is quite hard to get around. But I am well stocked - no person could be more prepared to be locked in a room for three years with the amount of tinned foods (and vegetables especially) that I have in my cupboards. 

As a person who is quite nervous quite easily, I was easily nervous about everything today but it has again (like with the dread meningitis vaccine) not been quite as bad as I thought it would be, which is a relief. The one thing that is most worrying is getting to meet everyone - that is my new thing to be nervous about, but so far it is going quite well - my flat mate (the only one here so far) and her family seem like lovely people from speaking to them and we are both super clean and organised as far as I can see, so things should go swimmingly. We do have a mystery in our flat though - there are three rooms and neither of us have heard hide nor hair of them so we have no clue about who they are! Hopefully we shall get to know soon and they shall be just as wonderful as we hope. 

Only time will tell with things like friends and getting to know one another, and it is going to be hard at first but like with sixth form it shall surely get easier. It is just the living so close together thing I think that I need to get used to. And the key thing - remembering my keys is something I know I am going to be worrying about every minute of every day until the end of time, as if I wasn't enough before! But for tonight, with my comfort zone being a little too pushed, I am just going to have a little time getting used to my new home I think - listen to some music, make some dinner and have an early night because today has been a really long day. Although it seemed to go really fast, now that I am sat down, I feel the weight of running around and I cannot wait to sleep properly.

So far now, I shall leave my update there and get back to what is left of unpacking and then go to the common room. I hope you all have a pleasant move as well and that nothing is too troublesome! You'll here again from me soon.