Saturday, 30 January 2016

Update: Newspaper, Kings Singers and New Subjects

This week was a rather exciting one as I got my first article published in the college newspaper - Volume - which is published 3 times a year. This is very exciting, as a new job of sorts, and it was most exciting to get to hold the tangible edition of the newspaper in my hand and see what I had written. The pictures below show only part of it, so below I have put a copy of what I wrote:

Article title - Get involved! 

In the past few months, since starting my specialist music study at Leeds College of Music, I've explored what it's like to be a first year music student and tried to discover some of the opportunities that new students can take advantage of. 

Things to enhance curriculum work and things just for fun! One of the major things that I've realised is that specialising in study of one instrument doesn't limit the interests you have or the impact you can have on your own environment at all. Having a range of activities to fill your time with allows you to gain a wealth of knowledge and experience - to be involved with all the things you love and to not miss out on studying either. 

So here are four things I've been up to: 

1. A BAPAM (British association for performing arts medicine) programme has been launched this year at LCoM, and there is an increasing number of activities and work shops to take part in which help musicians look after themselves. The 'performance nerves' class at the beginning of this month helped students from all years and pathways to access the support they needed to feel more comfortable performing on stage - something that's really important as a musician! And after all, being able to unlock our full potential is one of the biggest reasons why we are here.

2. The LCoM student union newsletters students receive at the end of each month, alongside regular alerts of activities throughout the conservatoire, are the most useful ways to find out about things we might not usually. They promote all sorts of things from gig opportunities, to brand partnership days that come from the conservatoire's PR department - like the recent 1Xtra live sessions, where students got the opportunity to work with and speak to people like BBC presenter DJ Target and Island Record's A&R person.

3. This month, along with a few other students, I have been participating in the Temple Newsam project, working with dance students from the Northern School of Dance. This is a great example of how an email can turn into something life changing - after participating in the seventeenth century song class for LCoM's Creative Project week, this project was highlighted as an opportunity to put the skills gained during that time into practice. The project meant looking at the history of Temple Newsam house and bringing characters to life through music and dance, in period dress, to create a believable interactive experience for the audience. Being able to almost step back in time, to do something challenging and new simultaneously, was a major opportunity to represent the conservatoire and ourselves as musicians. 

4. For extra vocal and performance practice, and as I really enjoy what I study, I sing with the Halle Youth Choir which means I travel to Manchester a lot but even this is not limiting, though I originally thought that it might be. Yet I still have time between rehearsals and study to work with the student representatives, the UNITE green team and BAPAM. 

Also, if I can't get fully involved in something, that doesn't mean it isn't an opportunity - we can learn so much from others, especially here where staff and students share similar interests. For instance, in October Jakob Fichert and Jia Zhang performed an open rehearsal and concert based around classical solo piano pieces and duets, including one based on a Chinese folk song. There are frequently performances from our peers; the lunch time concerts, the Christmas opera, and all other orchestra, choral and soloist opportunities.

 Just because something is enjoyable and entertaining doesn't render it useless to your studies - from the piano concert, I learned so much about how a successful ensemble works. 

Always be interested in things around you, and what you're doing - a good attitude is a must in the music industry as confirmed at the recent PRS panel I went to. And keep your eyes open - golden opportunities are often hidden in plain sight. 

So when reading through your inbox, don't forget how much you might miss out on by scrolling too hastily (end of article)

So yes - that's that! I wrote this back in December, but the newspaper comes out in the new year, so this might explain why some of the things I might have mentioned above seem familiar as I have probably mentioned a lot of it in previous articles as examples or in updates.

In further news, I am currently looking into two things - the first is the Kings singers summer camp in London next year (which I am currently in the application process for and looks very exciting - there is also one available in the US prior to the UK school) and secondly, closer to hand, is secondary study! Yes - I have decided to carry on with violin (as this instrument I was trained in with a teacher prior to university, whereas with piano I have always been self taught) so this should hopefully further assist me in my studies. The more I sight read with an instrument, the better my ears are with harmony and my sight singing vocally also improves radically (it all fits rather close together)

I've also been studying a few short courses at local classes, in psychology, sociology, literature, mathematics and environmental studies, which are proving extremely interesting and beneficial academic balance to my rather performance driven work in class. These classes are diploma courses and will hopefully prove further beneficial in the future.

As for vocal practice, this week I am working on the Schubert (still, but it is never work you tire of) the Mozart requiem, some Bach, Scarlatti and my current favourite, two songs from the song cycle Along the fields by Vaughan Williams - a spectacular work, for solo voice and violin accompaniment, though I am hoping to work with a cello in my interpretation to make my recital a little different, though for my lunch time concert in a few weeks it will probably be performed with just the piano. You can hear the whole song cycle (I am singing the first two) in the recital video below:

Thank-you for all your support and for voting me blogger of the month for December 2015 - this news made me very happy! Please do keep up your suggestions and questions - it is great to see all of your ideas and to help the best I can.

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank-you!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Holocaust memorial day

Today is a day of great sadness, for today we remember those who died and suffered at the hands of the Holocaust and of Hitler. This tragic period of history is one we learn about in schools and in studies on a regular basis, so that sometimes the text book makes these awful events seem surreal, some horrific fiction we cannot believe could ever have occurred. But it did. And today we remember those who suffered at it's hands and we remind ourselves of the thing we should prevent from ever occurring again.

At college to mark this occasion, we have looked at the legacy and wealth of Jewish music and creativity - faith does not define us, but faith can inspire us as so many have proven. From the music of Gustav Mahler, to the haunting movies such as the Pianist, the genius inspired by this particular faith is often poignant and beautiful.

Perhaps one of the most well known victims of the Holocaust is Anne Frank, the daughter of Otto Frank who was the only member of his family to survive the concentration camps and return home alone, where slowly he rebuilt his life around the great tragedy which had occurred and put tremendous effort into allowing Anne's voice to speak to many who struggled at not only the hands of the Holocaust, but later those who would suffer due to racial discrimination in the fight for civil rights and equality, and to any who felt they were trapped and imprisoned by simply being themselves in as innocent and natural a way as possible.

Anne's diary is something positive in that she teaches us so much about what it is to live and to be good, true, kind, human. Despite the darkness of war and hatred, this never ruined her as a person and as she wished, her voice goes on living long after her death as a light from a time of such shadow and cold blooded crime.

You might think that because the Holocaust and Nazism and Hitler's regime are things of the past, it is important we move on from them now. And this is true - it is important that we don't let this horrific period of time rule us and dominate the society around us, for that was an aim of the Nazis. The reason we think of the Holocaust today, and for all those who suffer discrimination past and present, is to prevent such as a terrible thing ever happening again - as I mentioned earlier, if we are aware of such occurrences we can realise that we can prevent them.

Anne's is one voice in millions - 11 million people were killed including 5 to 6 million innocent Jewish people, though the figures will now never be fully known. All those lives stolen - but though they suffered great violence and horror, we as the present generation can remember them and continue to live for them. To not only prevent such tragedy, but to stand up for any voice which speaks cruelly, and to stop any hand which strikes in cold blood. We have the power to speak out and to stop this cruel treatment, but for today - we spare a moment to think of those lost - to think of their importance to the world, to think of those who fought to save those who survived, and for the luck we have of existing in today's world where such a thing will never happen again.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them
- L. Binyon 

If you would like to learn more about what the Holocaust was and when it occurred, you can read more about this period of history here:

Saturday, 23 January 2016

#Visiblewords exhibition, People's history museum and Mozart

This weekend has been so far rather a busy one - due to lots of practice and also a planned trip to an exhibition at the Royal Exchange theatre which just opened today. Carrying on from what I said in my last post, stories are an incredibly powerful thing and exhibitions such as this one go to show the power that the words of the youth can have - the importance of our voice as a generation as we continue to learn and grow as people, whether that be through sixth form, university or travelling. The words were lit up so brightly, it was impossible for them not to be heard:

I also added to this eye opening experience by visiting the peoples history museum on the opposite side of Manchester, encountering much of the city as I went:

Looking back over the city and over much of what was taught in the first year of A level British history, made me oddly nostalgic for learning things in the academic manner, yet at the same time very thankful to be where I am - studying music, making work I can be proud of and working towards a career and a future, finally, in a way I have longed to for quite some time. And all those people who helped to form things such as the NHS, or who fought for women's rights, or even developed the bathroom inside of the house, all of these people matter and are preserved in their dedication to bettering living standards, and lives in general of so many people. Without them and their efforts, our world would not exist in the way that we know it to today. So it makes me thankful as well as nostalgic, missing people I have never met - such as the amazing May Wollstonecraft who's work I have just become officially introduced too and am now reading through quite voraciously! To have found a new role model makes me quite excited about the whole topic of philosophy and everything she talks about and it is refreshing to discover a new interest in the midst of my primary musical obsession and love of other studies, also.

Today I have also been practicing quite a lot - the Christmas cold worked it's way round to me about a week ago so I am only just starting to sound like me again and not a croaky old frog, which is good but means a bit more work than usual spaced out over the day so that my voice won't go again. I've been looking at some Schubert (I won't write too much about him today... I got that out in my essay draft, for a while at least) and also some Mozart which we were given in ensemble class yesterday for our next exam at the end of the year. Although a Mozart fan to some extent, he has never been the top of my list of composers but he is very easy to like, both musically and sometimes as a person (afterall, no genius is easy to understand, so it is to some extent understandable why it can be hard work to just read about him and his life in content such as his letters home to his father Leopold) so I know a little of his work. However, to finally get to look closely at some of his requiem is humbling, intriguing and eye opening - suddenly I am plunged head first into some of the most difficult music I have ever had to sing. Yet I am having great fun, and frustration, so far at trying to tackle learning the basics (notes and rhythm) so that I can start adding in some ornamentation. As another member of my ensemble said though, 'Mozart is easy once you spot the patterns' so I have (top tip for singers!) been looking out for patterns and sequences and underlining them to make it more obvious - which has been extremely helpful in the sea of high semiquaver phrases (to continue the metaphor - waves)

On a final note, I have just received an email from college letting me know that I am now officially published in the first edition of the newspaper for 2016 - exciting! But more on this next week, for now I think it is time to get some rest before rehearsals begin tomorrow... Toodle-oo!

Thank-you for all your support and for voting me blogger of the month for December 2015 - this news made me very happy! Please do keep up your suggestions and questions - it is great to see all of your ideas and to help the best I can.

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank-you!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Update: The stories we tell

This month has been quite a bizarre mix of things and it isn't even over yet (so I am sure there is still much to come) After exams week/s were over, this week has officially been the first week back and getting back into the habit has been quite difficult at times. But I am definitely glad to be commuting as it gives my day more of a feel of schedule - I like having the new independent aspect to my study that university and degree brings, but it is also nice to retain that aspect of travelling to and from a place: to get to see my family and to do my work at my own desk. To be in two cities in one day sounds awfully poetic, albeit tiring, and it is mostly as poetic as it seems. Snow days obviously make the travelling more bearable because you get to see all these different places transformed - most of the time, it makes me feel like I have my own personal Louvre right outside the window. I can definitely understand why Monet spent so much time painting one object now, whether it be the cathedral outside his room or the snow or the sunset.

The past week class wise, I have learnt a lot about myself and where I am technically - which is strange, as usually this is something which comes to me gradually and which takes a long time to really take shape as an image in my head. But this week, as I mentioned, things have been flowing pretty quickly and suddenly I see exactly what it is I want to and have a plan on how to reach it. Through the piece Die Forelle by Schubert, there has evidently been a shift in my use of German and the articulation has improved much which is now allowing me the space to think about the control I have over the breath and expression - having one thing mastered and well understood gives me the leftover energy to concentrate on these other elements which my teacher so far agrees with me is working! It is great to know that finally everything is blurring a little more and my body is connected to the sound (things aren't too breathy, diaphragm working properly, all that good stuff!) and on top of this, I am seemingly producing a believable performance which makes me feel so much more confident about performing.

This is also down to good posture - a tip to all you singers, if you get offered the opportunity to use a physio therapy class, a speech therapy class or an Alexander technique session that take that opportunity and keep an open mind - you will learn so much and definitely won't regret it! One of my new aims is also to get to know what is actually going on when I sing - my teacher showed me a paper model of the throat and how the muscles move in order to sing healthily and how they might move if we are not applying technique correctly (etc) It makes what you are being asked to do much easier because it is easier to comprehend why your teacher is asking you to do something and how they want you to go about achieving a certain outcome.

I've also been reading a lot recently, both in and out of class, and am struck by the number of new stories (whether in poems or novels) it is possible for us to encounter in the present day. Likewise, it has made me think about stories, and how we share them. Whether that be the fictional or the non fictional, like me telling my mum about this amazing place me and my friends found one lunch time when we went for a walk around Leeds (a city thought we knew well enough but ended up with a pleasant surprise, as you can see below) My point is, as humans we have, or seem to have, an innate want to express our stories and to tell them to one another.

And so when we tell those stories, who do we tell them for? Why? It is fascinating the things you hear every day, from the lady at the bus stop who might tell you about what school was like in the 60's, to your dad telling you about what he wrote his dissertation on. Again, for want of a better phrase, my point is we have this amazing library in our head, and access to the libraries stored in other peoples minds and we share that in the most incredible way - through these stories we sometimes just tell to someone for no reason other than that it can be fun to share something you have experienced with another in that way. And to share perspectives is a truly incredible thing - reading and experiencing all these amazing things makes me think about what I want to do with my 'one and precious life' in more detail, and makes me want to begin telling my story in the best way I can possibly imagine.

Thank-you for all your support and for voting me blogger of the month for December 2015 - this news made me very happy! Please do keep up your suggestions and questions - it is great to see all of your ideas and to help the best I can.

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank-you!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The 'well rounded student' myth

Hello there! Today I was talking to a few friends who are currently studying their A levels and they were just asking me about my experience with university so far because they weren't quite sure if it was the right path for them or not. When I asked them why they were so in doubt, their response was 'well I don't feel I'm well rounded enough to get into a Russell group' which really shocked me - because where on earth did that come from? And then I remembered the pressure and stress of application and how things can seem at the time.

Let me inform you now, that the 'well rounded student model' we all aim to be - there isn't actually one set mould to fit : that image doesn't really exist. Every student is the well rounded student!

Having the perfect blend of extracurricular activities with your A levels (a mix of sports, science, baccalaureate subjects etc) might seem desirable - but would you honestly want to put yourself into too much extracurricular and end up not working as hard in class because you're twice as stressed and tired? Hopefully, you answered that question with a loud 'No' because you come first and any university would be mad not to want you studying there - that's the honest truth! If you're reading this, I'm presuming it is because you want to be that well rounded student and go the extra mile - like I said, because it is a myth, all I can do is tell you what universities look at when they look at you and your application and why this means you don't need to be overly 'well rounded' :

1. Commitment and Potential

When reading through a personal statement, they want to see what exactly it is you want from the course and how you feel it could benefit you. You being happy makes them happy because it means you will be making the most of your environment and experiencing what it is they set out to design as staff for students. In your personal statement, they want to see that you are committed to your chosen pathway and they don't want to see lack of confidence or self doubt. This can be particularly hard if you aren't used to talking about you, so listen to what your friends and family suggest if you are struggling and use this to put together a confident and optimistic sound that is you. Because you want to sound like you - different, refreshing and unique. By showing that you aren't afraid to be confident in your own skin, it will become easier to express your potential for what you do by revealing your attributes and how they relate to your field. For example, talking about your commitment to drafting essays for class or articles for the school newspaper could reveal that you would make a great journalism student as you have the potential to create efficient, good quality written work in a short amount of time because you are committed to your studies. The more they see of your reasoning and explanation, the more they will be interested in you for the course. Vice versa - if you seem unenthusiastic for what you are entering into, they may not take you as seriously which is why it is important to capture their attention and really be heard through your personal statement so that you can express further your motivations in interview.

2. Grades

The scariest of the factors is the grade element - but you have so far achieved your AS, so this is promising! If you keep up your hard work from the previous year then you should pass your A2 exams with flying colours - but keep your head in the game and try not to let the results be the be all and end all. Obviously it is important to you to do well, but don't let the grades begin to define you. Instead see them as an opportunity or a path in a wood - as Frost said, there were 'two roads' and you have the power to choose your path (there isn't just one) but all metaphors aside, don't let the grade predictions go to your head because in reality, they don't exist yet and the only way you can make them into a reality is to stay focused and put the extra work in you need in order to feel comfortable in all areas, whether it be your performing or your written essays in a short space of time. Make sure you are getting the help you need, don't be afraid to ask for it either. It is one of the bravest and best things you can do to maintain sharp focus and know to ask for help as soon as you need it, opposed to delaying it the nearer it gets to exams as you will make things more difficult for yourself the longer you leave it. Also keep organised - the easier access and the more fun you make your work, the more you will want to put in the revision hours and extra focus.

3. Balance

This is where I suspect the myth comes in of there being a 'well rounded student' because it seems they are so well balanced they are almost computer instead of human. They are the polymaths of the world - people such as Stephen Fry, who simply seem to be good at every task they take on. Firstly, let me remind you never to judge a book by it's cover. Someone else might seem perfect in class, but in actuality they might be really nervous about exams and that might impact on their performance in the test. Also success is not immediate, it comes with much hard work and no student ever automatically took to something such as mathematics straight from being born: not even a prodigy would be a prodigy without the hours they have to put in to maintain their skill and study. So what I want you to know is that balance is all about Balance - not about being well rounded, but about having balance in what you do. Being able to show that you can split your time between two things, such as a choir and class, without it impacting on another. Being able to show that you can work well simultaneously in a few things (opposed to lots and lots of 'well rounded' activities) and succeed in them, both literally in the outcome and also in what the experience of things teach you - because although grades matter and explanations of the skills you achieved, experience is also something which will allow you to develop as a person and will balance you naturally without you even having to try if it is the right thing to be doing. So breathe, keep doing whatever it is you are doing (You're definitely doing something right, it got you this far so far!) and remember that this:

Actually looks much more like this to the people reading your application and personal statement:

4. Passion 

Combined with potential, your passion is what makes you into Iron man aka it is what makes you into the ideal student. Because no student got anywhere without passion. Hawking would not currently be the genius he is if it were not for his passion for his studies and the learning that he continues to inspire in both himself and others. We all need passion, whether we be training to be a dancer, a teacher, a chef, a tailor or a brain surgeon, for without it we have no reason to want to pursue it. The passion will be what shows you you are applying for the right thing and it will be what comforts you and motivates you through the difficult exam season leading into the long summer that winds up the path to university. It is what allows you to grow up those awe inspiring qualities of bravery, strength, brains, brawn, and all the good stuff. Show your passion - through your love of writing an essay for class, or for the early morning swimming training - whatever it is that makes you passionate and shows that off, write about it and let them know - let them see the you that exists in reality. Because you are better than any 'well rounded' student could be.

In reality you are you, and believe me when I tell you that that is more than enough.

Thank-you for all your support and for voting me blogger of the month for December 2015 - this news made me very happy! Please do keep up your suggestions and questions - it is great to see all of your ideas and to help the best I can.

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank-you!

Monday, 18 January 2016

The power of words

When we write, perhaps we take for granted how lucky we are to have those words and the education behind them. Through language, and the subject worlds we have built via this, we can communicate and accomplish so many incredible things; aspects of culture varying vastly - from the intricate architecture of beautiful cathedrals to the recipe for croissants that will make them taste just right.

 Today is the day of the year that I celebrate and am most grateful for many things, especially language, education and the power of human strength - for today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day: A man who became one of the most well known activists and speakers of the civil rights movement in America and essentially, across the entire globe. We think of him today and the impact of his words and dedication - the famous 'I have a dream' speech 1963:

The world is not entirely ideal: there will never be complete calm, but there will always be people, from Luther King to Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Pankhurst (to name just a few) who will speak speak out and inspire what is right so that gradually, as with the civil rights movement, things will change for the better. 

And in the modern day with access to education, we all have that power to make a positive change - ultimately, to make a difference. It is there everywhere we turn in forms of inspiration and encouragement - just yesterday I was watching a movie from last year called 'the boy choir' in which a conductor speaks to the trebles telling them not to worry about their voices breaking because :

Some of you will become altos or basses and some of you will become dentists. My point is, there will be other gifts in your lifetime. And when they arrive nurture them, the way you've nurtured this one. And when you go out there I want you to really feel where you are and celebrate yourself. It's fifteen minutes of your life and I want to celebrate you. 

It might not seem much but those words really strike me as an individual and make me feel to some extent my own power and the excess of that small amount of frail importance I hold as me. 

As a university student, my inspirations and my ability to make a potential difference are what challenge me and keep me motivated. It's why I think a lot of you are currently so eager to apply to university and get started with this new chapter of your lives. For anyone of us could become a performer, scientist, teacher, lecturer, mathematician, writer, or researcher who may inspire many future students in progressive study producing new evidence and theories interconnecting many fields and how we look out from them at our surrounding environments - and at humanity itself. This doesn't just got for music as you can see - we all have that potential in any area and university is just one step in the long journey to creating a better world. I mean just look at Malala - an inspiring young woman who has a gift for learning which she's used so bravely to encourage other girls to stand up for their right to equality and education:To stand up for what they believe in. 

These incredible people of all ages, both past and present, are inspirations in their own right, who have made an impact on many and importantly, on few - for it takes a great deal of time and courage to get people to not just listen but to hear - especially to the extent Martin Luther King achieved. 

So today, I too have a dream - that our generation and all who follow, will make tomorrow a future worth fighting for, worth wishing for and worth believing in. 

Martin Luther king Jr. 1929 - 1968

Thank-you for all your support and for voting me blogger of the month for December 2015 - this news made me very happy! Please do keep up your suggestions and questions - it is great to see all of your ideas and to help the best I can.

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank-you!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Update: Shakespeare, Bronte, Chopin, exams and me

Also known as New Years Resolutions and my first real post, after the last one on commuting, of 2016 - so an official Happy New Year! As you can guess from my previous statement, I am setting out with high hopes for achieving a lot of goals this year, though my main resolutions are:

1. To read 100 books (18 in so far, thanks to the train journeys)
2. Visit 10 new places in England (Including Stratford upon Avon and the Bronte Parsonage because this year is after all the bicentenary of Charlotte Bronte and also the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare's death)
3. See a Shakespeare play (King Lear in April - so excited)
4. Travel more (plans so far for America, Ireland and Austria at least!)
5. Have a better sense of schedule in all senses
6. Learn as much new stuff as possible!

Going on from number 6, I have currently been trying to make the most of having further access to a piano by practicing theory where I can hear it (my imagination is terrible, with the exception of sight singing which doesn't really count, right?) and also broadening my range of piano pieces. The last set of grade 8 piano pieces that I learnt have now been transferred to a newer syllabus, which I must say is far more exciting than the previous, so currently the work in progress is the sensational piece that is Chopin's waltz in B minor (please excuse the squeaky piano and the misread notes - again, my sight reading leaves much to be desired) :

Other than all of these fun things, I have also been getting through a rather stressful few weeks in terms of college - not that it isn't fun, more that it is tiring in the long hall so I am trying to power through and to keep motivated. It is afterall, the two weeks that make up the gloomy exam weeks! I have had three exams in total: A technical assessment, a WITCI presentation and an ensemble exam - all of which I have no clue of in relation to how well I though they went which worries me more than the actually exams themselves, so we'll see. For the technical assessment, we had a viva voce, some sight singing (which was a Russian piece with a confusing intro in Eb so that when the key change occurs in the first bar of singing, we would be tricked into singing Eb instead of the printed E natural ... sneaky!) For the pieces that I performed, I sang the fifths exercise from Vaccai (which wasn't too bad) and a short relatively unknown piece from the Handel opera Xerxes - Atlanta sings, with a little bit of recitative, of her love for the boy her sister is trying to woo to be spiteful. It is a very fun aria, only brief, but full of tricky little phrases which dance about - more like an instrumental melody than, I suppose, one fit for a vocalist - which is why I believe Handel is the composer us vocalists most want to succeed with because, the more we succeed with winning the audiences favour for Handel the closer we are to actually conquering the maestro's fear instilling stereotype.

As for WITCI, our business concept was called Orpheus - the aim being to be a collaborative composition group for films and video games (a market which is quite niche in the modern day) this I found quite tricky to put together as it isn't something you can practice too much and there is a thing as over-thinking or over-practicing a presentation such as this one... But it went surprisingly well, with our note cards never really needing to be used, everyone speaking positively without too many nerves, and our pride of place - the presentation itself, in all our carefully colour coded slides, informing the panel of how we intended to put things together from all points of view (e.g. legal, promotion strategy, and so on) This module taught me a lot about what it is to be a musician in the modern day and how much self employment can be a good thing, not necessarily a bad, in that it puts you in a position where your motivation is your main reason to focus on your responsibility as an earner and a worker. It is truly valuable to have a class such as WITCI to teach us a little more about employment and what exactly the world will be like when we enter into the job market. It is good to know that there will not be too much of a shock (I say that now... we'll see what I think when I actually do go looking for full time work after graduation)

But it was the ensemble performance which I was most proud of - to see my class mates come such a long way is truly inspiring. There is also something about singing with others which makes it so much more enjoyable - the stress and nerves completely evaporate, leaving your mind free to take in everything, to just let you feel where is you are and how wonderful it is what you are doing - and when the music starts, you are lost in the communication, concentration and beauty of the sound. All the work seems to have been for naught for the thoughts flit from your mind, the floor disappears from out your feet and you are soaring on this sound that floods from you as if from no where. Those 'golden moments' are the ones I value most, and there were several in this performance I think I will strive to achieve always when singing on my own. The pieces we sang were Flotow overture for the second act of Martha, a rather obscure piece which made it even more delightful, a madrigal called Adieu (actually in English - which made me very happy!) and Brahms' choral piece 'Der Abend' , full of Greek myths and legends, condensed to a quartet with a pretty legato pedalled piano line, which really seemed to work in a polyphonic sort of sense in sections such as the miniature duets (usually split between high voices and low voices for contrast)

So yes, overall things are looking up a little - cannot believe it is the second half of the academic year already! That time seems to have just flown by. I also handed in my essay for musicology and was only one mark from a First on my critical reflection for the seventeenth century song module. I am looking forward to writing the review for the next project as I got my first choice, which is 'working with children - music education' Education is such a powerful thing to be able to provide and so I am looking forward to learning more on how to be a better teacher!

Thank-you for all your support and for voting me blogger of the month for December 2015 - this news made me very happy! Please do keep up your suggestions and questions - it is great to see all of your ideas and to help the best I can.

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank-you!

Saturday, 9 January 2016


In my past articles, I have talked about university and finding what is right for you - not being too near or too far, having the type of content you want to experiment with and being generally at home and happy in your place of study. All of this important in ensuring that you are happy in your working environment and feel prepared to engage in discussion, essay work, projects and so much more beyond your classes. University can be on the first places you create contacts who may later be the people you end up working with and definitely life long friends. Currently, I am commuting from home to college due to familial issues, so I thought I would go into this a little more than I previously have done as before now I only knew it was like to commute on a bus to the other side of Manchester. Now I am dealing with a similar thing, which is at the same time a whole other kettle of fish, so here are some of the things that I have learnt about commuting which you may want to bear in mind when you are applying and deciding on where to study:

1. It can be cheaper to commute - Expense 

Rent in many places can be expensive as there are so many students looking for a place to stay during their studies that maintaining the cost is the only way to keep halls and flats running for longer periods of time. So if you are near a train or bus station that can get you to your place of study, this is quite often cheaper. Buses offer weekly passes, or even day savers (stage coach) which will enable you to travel without having to buy a ticket every time you get on the transport. Likewise, trains also offer weekly or monthly passes. I've also found it extremely useful to have a rail card (16-25) which can help with prices in relation to peak time trains - having a discount makes these a lot less pricey which is especially useful on longer journeys as, though you may board a train early in the morning meaning it is not peak time, you may have no clue what time you need to transfer trains on the way home which could mean you have to pay again for another ticket. But yes, overall it has proven so far to commute from Home to Leeds than to pay for student accommodation.

2. Travel time 

You have to be able to acknowledge the fact that unfortunately we are not from Harry Potter and cannot just close our eyes and arrive at the place we imagine - transport time can be gruelling some times, if it is a long journey and you have a headache for example. There are many ways to make the most of travel time though - if you are happy to accept that journeys are going to take up much more of your time than you may previously have been used to, you will be able to make the most of the time you are on public transport. Having a lap top bag comes in useful, as does having access to your public library (I get through around a book a day on public transport, as well as plenty of college work) so that you can have plenty to read. And if in doubt ,just have lots of bright things to cheer you up when you feel a little gloomy - my current method is colourful notebooks and, like I mentioned previous, books books books! :

3. Forms of transport 

As previously mentioned, there are all sorts of forms of transport, so it can be useful to experiment with all the different options before you decide more firmly on one. National express can be great for getting home on the holidays or on a weekend, but when the traffic is busier during the week, buses can take much longer which might result in lateness. Trains are ideal in this instance for long distance journeys particularly as, it will enable you to not have to travel for as long or in as much of a rush as you might have to do with a bus - this can also save you lots of time (e.g. a 2 hour train ride is sometimes a 4 hour car ride) Cycling is useful and can be used to move from place to place (there are even fold up bicycles now!) and car driving is luxury due to insurance. So make sure that you look at, identity and weigh up all of your options before you settle into a routine.

4. Places

Commuting from home allows you to have the comfort of the place you have grown up in and the immediate support of your family, as well as being able to reach places (in my incident) such as libraries, choirs, rehearsals etc - you get the best of two different worlds, which can be well worth the transport. One of the things I have enjoyed the most about commuting so far is the sheer amount of places I get to see, even if it is mostly through a window on a rainy day - there is some beautiful scenery and a wealth of history just outside and it has encouraged me to explore new places and get involved in many things - including making plans to see places such as the Bronte parsonage and the home of poet laureate Ted Hughes!

5. Family 

My reason for commuting isn't entirely based on one reason, but is largely due to needing to help my family right now - and being able to be there for them has been extremely important to me. But being supported by them constantly and knowing that I am going to see them every day has hugely helped with university overall and has taken a lot of pressure off me that I didn't even know was there. I am not the sort to get home sick, but I understand now what people mean when they say that there is no place like home.

Thank-you for all your support and for voting me blogger of the month for December 2015 - this news made me very happy! Please do keep up your suggestions and questions - it is great to see all of your ideas and to help the best I can.

If you like, you can click  Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank-you!