These days, most people learn to play the violin as a beginner at school or through one to one music classes, sometimes even by using online apps and videos on beginner violin as learning resources. But why not take lessons in playing violin and further your skill in a traditional musical instrument in a more specialised way – at a conservatory?
A music conservatory, also known as a conservatoire or conservatorium, is actually a music school but usually adapted to the tertiary education sector. These educational institutions are specialised in the study, training, and research of music, including stringed instruments. Other names for a conservatory are a music academy, a college of music, a music department or a school of music.
Whatever your chosen establishment calls itself, you can rest assured that it will offer so much more in terms of music resources thanks to its deep connection with the arts, in particular music.
Some students will start their love affair with learning the violin at a young age, playing music like ‘twinkle twinkle little star’, but more often than not they will pick up the string instrument and fall in love during either their primary or secondary education and decide there and then that they want to continue to learn to play the violin and improving with violin classes beyond their school years.
While many teenagers are faced with the question of applying for university or college or going straight into the world of professionalism by finding a job, those with musical talents might be looking for an alternative option that enables them to focus all of their attention on their acquired performing abilities.
Music conservatories are normally exclusively focused on music, sometimes even specific genres like string instruments. Photo credit: Ian D. Keating on Visual hunt
Many conservatories are exclusively focused on music, motivated to inspire young musicians, some of which are only dedicated to certain genres of music or particular instruments. Others may cover a wider spectrum of talents, such as drama and the performing arts.
Conservatories are the perfect choice for those who wish to excel in composing music, conducting or developing their composition to a professional standard in the hope of entering the industry as a musician or in a related role.
During a typical conservatory course, your violin teachers will teach you how to read music, how to use your bow and rosin, ways to improve your posture, and how to make beautiful music. You will get used to practicing on a regular basis as part of an ensemble as well as in one to one sessions with your music teacher.
Most Bachelor of Music degrees, like many other subjects, take around three years to complete which is no different for conservatory-level courses. That said, some music academies may offer non-academic qualifications that are solely performance-based (as opposed to academically-focused) and offer pupils the title of a diploma holder, which may or may not be an equivalent of other recognised qualifications.
If you think three years sounds like an awfully long time, just remember that you will be learning about the history of the violin, ways of playing violin, methods of learning how to play violin (like the Suzuki method), studying old violin players and composers such as Bach, and all the while seeking progression in your own violin playing.
Historically, professional violinists would have primarily been taught via apprenticeships or via private instruction but some were indeed trained at instructional conservatories or church cathedral schools.
Vivaldi was once associated with an orphanage named ‘Pio Ospedale della Peta’ (or, ‘la Pieta’) in Venice, an orphanage that was famed for taking in illegitimate, orphaned or abandoned young girls. Vivaldi became affiliated with this establishment thanks to the numerous classical music concertos and symphonies he composed and performed for students and faculty members. These 16th-century orphanages, called cori and ospedales, were dubbed the precursor of modern conservatories.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, state-run music conservatories began to pop up across Europe, with the first in Paris emerging in 1811 and, in London, twenty years later. The first Belgian conservatory was founded in 1832. ‘The Leipzig Conservatory’, founded in 1843 by Felix Mendelssohn, gained international recognition for its next level tutoring and became a model for many more conservatories like it.
One of Europe’s renowned music conservatories was set up in Leipzig a couple of centuries ago. Photo on VisualHunt
These early European conservatories were funded by governments in order to preserve music culture within each country, each of which has its own musical identity. The schools were free for all and didn’t discriminate on social class or natural talent. It was in the late 1800s that the most influential music conservatories made an appearance in the US: ‘Oberlin’, ‘Boston’, ‘Cincinnati’, ‘New England’, ‘Chicago Musical College’, and ‘Peabody’.
Today, only the most talented of individuals within the field are accepted in music conservatories, which seek to produce excellent professional musicians. This is why being accepted on such an accomplished course is such a rewarding yet challenging experience.
So, if you feel that you are one of the gifted few who can be accepted on a conservatory course and who can benefit from this opportunity to learn from the best and most crafted, then why not go that next step and look into how you go about enrolling?
Applications Via UCAS
For courses starting in 2019 (you are probably too late to consider applying for 2018 entry now), you should have submitted your application to UCAS no later than 1 October 2018 at 18:00. There are, of course, some exceptions so do contact your chosen place of study if in any doubt. Full details can be found on the conservatoire websites.
If you miss the deadline for applications for your music course, then it is up to you to go to your chosen establishment and ask if there are any vacancies remaining before applying. UCAS will still process your application, but it might be a waste of your time and efforts if the course is already full and unable to consider your application.
Start your journey in the best way possible, without being late! Start counting down the days now and don’t lose the tempo in your motivation and dedication!
For overseas students, you will need to leave yourself enough time to complete your application and have it reach the correct department before the deadline. Any queries should, therefore, be resolved in plenty of time.
An Overview Of The Application Process
When applying for a music course at a music conservatory or academy, you will need to follow a strict set of guidelines. You will, first of all, provide your personal details, qualifications and your course choices along with a carefully written personal statement which will be used to convince the panel that you are a great choice for the course.
It is no good simply mentioning terms in your repertoire like being familiar with vibrato, intonation, pitch, pizzicato or octave, you must display a real understanding and mastery of violins, tuning them and creating violin music.
It’s important to take time writing this personal statement and reading it over, rather than being too eager and rushing the greatly important process. It is recommended to have more than one person read your statement too to ensure that you have been able to incorporate enough knowledge and enthusiasm in your written craftmanship.
Then, you will need to pay an application and audition fee, depending on your chosen course and conservatory.
All applications will require an academic and a personal or practical reference to be sent by post or email.
Be sure to do your research when applying for universities or music conservatories as requirements vary. Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 on Visual Hunt
When looking for courses, don’t forget to study the entry requirements to ensure that you are applying for courses that you have a good chance of getting a place on. Remember, you have the option to apply for up to six courses, so you can choose courses with different entry requirements (yet still apply for ones that you will be eligible for so that you don’t waste an option).
Now that you know what a music conservatory is and how you can apply to study under its roof, let’s take a look at some of the most popular UK conservatories, categorised by region:
“As a student in the Strings Department at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, you will be part of a dynamic and exceptionally supportive student and staff fraternity. Strings Staff include and internationally renowned performers and pedagogues.
We foster creativity and individuality through our bold and varied performance programme offering a wide-ranging agenda of solo, chamber music and orchestral performance opportunities, many internal and external recital possibilities and frequent from international artists and visiting tutors.”
This music academy does not offer undergraduate courses in Strings however it does give learners the opportunity to take lessons in their instrument and to get the chance to play it in an orchestra. The String School Orchestra performs twice yearly and is free to join as part of their Tuesday String School (or half price if you take violin or cello lessons at the Conservatoire).
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama/ Coleg Cerdd a Drama Cymru
“The String Department at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama is one of the most dynamic of all UK conservatoires. Our students are immersed in a stimulating, collaborative environment, experiencing high levels of engagement with the music profession throughout their studies. In areas such as orchestral training and chamber music mentoring, we offer students an unparalleled training experience with numerous and diverse performance opportunities. Our highly personalised approach emphasises the development of individual career pathways through bespoke opportunities and tailored tuition.”
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Bachelor of Music with Honours
“The BMus undergraduate programme is a four-year, full-time course for talented performers and composers of the future. From the very beginning of the course we treat you as an individual, emerging professional, and we’ll work with you to ensure you develop your potential.
We are the only conservatoire in the UK to give every performance student a 90-minute individual lesson every week during the academic year. Our students work with personal tutors on a one-to-one basis during these lessons, improving performance and musical skills tailored to individual interests and overcoming technical and creative challenges.
The curriculum is centred around performance – it’s what we do. RCS programmes over 500 performances each year: students perform in orchestras, concerts, ensembles as well as supporting performances for the School of Drama, Dance, Production and Film. Likewise, composers will hear their works performed and recorded by student performers and visiting professionals.”
Leeds College of Music
At Leeds College of Music, you have the option to enrol on any of the below music-related courses, each lasting 3 years:
-BA Hons Music (Classical)
-BA Hons Music (Business)
-BA Hons Music (Jazz)
-BA Hons Music (Folk)
-BA Hons Music (Popular)
-BA Hons Music (Film Music)
-BA Hons Music (Production)
-BA Hons Music (Song Writing)
Important notice: This establishment is still accepting places for 2018 through UCAS Clearing!
Guildhall School of Music and Drama London
London College of Music
Royal Academy of Music London
Royal College of Music
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
As you would expect, there are several opportunities in the capital to attend a high-quality music conservatory. Above are examples of the top London music academies for string players and other passionate musicians.
Royal Northern College of Music
“An undergraduate programme is the right level for you if you are looking to embark upon your first degree.
At the RNCM we offer three undergraduate programmes:
Bachelor of Music with Honours (BMus)
A four-year BMus programme with a broad range of studies and performance opportunities. A 3-year intensive pathway is available for outstanding applicants.
Bachelor of Music with Honours in Popular Music
A unique four-year programme for aspiring popular musicians, delivered at the RNCM, Blueprint Studios and Lever Street Studios.
Graduate Diploma of the RNCM/Bachelor of Music
A four-year programme, informally known as the ‘Joint Course’, which offers a unique opportunity to study on two programmes alongside each other at the RNCM and The University of Manchester.”