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BMus (Hons) Jazz

Studying Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, you will experience a high level of training aimed at cultivating your development as a creative and versatile jazz performer. 

Overview

Our Jazz department, led by Professor Tommy Smith OBE, one of the world’s leading saxophonists and artistic director and founder of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, is vibrant and energetic, and continues to produce successful musicians and new voices within the UK jazz scene.

The BMus programme explores jazz in the broadest possible terms, and provides the opportunity to play, perform, compose and record in many different jazz styles and settings. It is the first and the only full-time degree-level jazz course in Scotland and offers many creative and artistic opportunities to you as a performer across a wide-ranging curriculum.

You’ll receive tuition from some of the finest jazz musicians and educators in the UK and benefit from the highest amount of contact time offered anywhere in the UK, with 90 minutes of individual lessons per week on your principal study instrument. The opportunity to study a second instrument is also made available across all four years of study.

The programme is delivered to a small, focused cohort of students in each year group that form a unique ensemble and grow together throughout the BMus jazz pathway. As a student, you are also encouraged to interact with other year groups and students from other disciplines across the RCS in the spirit of our cross-disciplinary curriculum.

Through class teaching in our dedicated jazz studios, you’ll study the essentials of chord-scale harmony, improvisation, classic repertoire, composition, history, music business and arranging. Our vision of jazz is comprehensive and inclusive, and you’ll be introduced to the full range of contexts from solo and ensemble work through to big band settings.

Studying Jazz at the Conservatoire provides numerous opportunities to perform both in and out of the institution. On campus are our RCS Jazz Orchestra, Jazz at the Chimp, and Blue Monday concerts, featuring students and tutors, often performing alongside special guest performers. There are also opportunities to perform and tour with the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra, and to sit in on rehearsals with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and their international guests, plus audition for a side-by-side experience with the SNJO.

The important details

UK Applicant Deadline:
2 October 2023

International (including EU) Applicant Deadline:
1 December 2023

Institution Code:
R58

Programme Code:
303F

Audition Fee:
£65.00

Application Fee:
£27.50


Welcome to the Jazz Department

Watch our short video for an introduction to the Jazz department at RCS.

We spoke to some current jazz students about what makes RCS special and how their time here has prepared them to graduate into a career in the industry.

Why Study Jazz at RCS?

The Jazz department at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland offers unique opportunities to learn, perform, and develop as a jazz musician. Our distinctive approach sets us apart, with benefits including:

Students are performing jazz music on stage

One-to-One Tuition


As part of your studies, you will receive unparalleled one-to-one tuition, with 90-minutes of lessons on your principal study per week during term time, learning from the best educators and most highly acclaimed jazz performers in the UK.

Students are performing jazz music on stage

Performance Opportunities


Studying Jazz at RCS, you’ll have ample opportunity to hone your craft through performance, including our Fridays at One and Blue Mondays series’. There are monthly opportunities to perform in ‘Jazz at the Chimp’ events, featuring student-led projects. You will also be able to audition for the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra and perform regular concerts around Scotland. 

Diverse Programme of Study


Undergraduate music students can take advantage of learning within this unique Scottish conservatoire and undertake a module within traditional music, enabling you to broaden your repertoire, musicality, and ensemble arrangement practices. 

Students are performing jazz music on stage

Location and Facilities


You will study in Glasgow, with hundreds of jazz gigs, concerts and events taking place each year, and home to the Scottish Jazz Festival. You will also work in dedicated jazz rehearsal spaces, and record and mix your own music in our recording studio with a full-time professional sound engineer.

Two people are sitting next to pianos on stage

Masterclasses


You will experience regular masterclasses with internationally renowned artists, performing alongside them and benefiting from their professional experience and knowledge. Past guest teachers include Jazzmeia Horn, Jacqui Dankworth, Bob Mintzer, Mike Stern, Makoto Ozone, Courtney Pine, Branford Marsalis, David Liebman, Peter Erskine, Paolo Fresu, Randy Brecker, Lucy –Anne Daniels, Bill Evans, Kurt Elling and Arild Andersen

A student is playing saxophone

Professional Partnerships


You’ll benefit from our close links to the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and its international guests, enabling you to attend rehearsals and performances, and observe professionals at work.

Meet the Head of Department

Tommy Smith is a Professor and Head of Jazz at RCS and the director of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. In 1998, he became the youngest-ever recipient of an honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in recognition of his extraordinary artistic achievement. In 2019, Smith was awarded an OBE for services to Jazz from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Smith holds honorary doctorates from Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Edinburgh. 

Smith’s early years include prolific achievements such as receiving international awards, appearing on national television and radio programmes, and touring with the European Youth Jazz Orchestra. By age 16, he released his first two albums – ‘Giant Strides’ and ‘Taking Off!’. His reputation continued to grow following his studies at Berklee College of Music. 

In 1981, Smith won the Best Musician Trophy at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. He established the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in 1995, Spartacus Records in 2000, founded the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra in 2002, and developed Scotland’s first full-time jazz course. Smith has been with RCS since 2009. 

Tommy is looking at the camera. He is holding a saxophone.

Meet the Staff

  • Dr Colin Broom

    Composition Lecturer and Jazz Coordinator

  • Paul Harrison

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Peter Johnstone

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Tom Gibbs

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Ryan Quigley

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Tom MacNiven

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Gerard Presencer

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Laura Macdonald

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Konrad Wiszniewski

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Kevin MacKenzie

    Lecturer, Guitar

  • Mario Caribe

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Alyn Cosker

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Rachel Lightbody

    Jazz , Voice Tutor

  • Gordon Campbell

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Andrew Robb

    Lecturer, Jazz

  • Nadja von Massow

    Lecturer, Jazz (Music Business)

Masterclasses and International Workshops

  • David Liebman
  • Bill Evans
  • Arlid Andersen
  • Makoto Ozone
  • Jacqui Dankworth
  • Kurt Elling
  • Paolo Fresu
  • Peter Erskine
  • Randy Brecker
  • Jazzmeia Horn
  • Laura Jurd
  • Lucy-Anne Daniels
  • Gwilym Simcock
  • Geoffery Keezer

Industry Connections

The Jazz department maintains close ties with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. This relationship with what many consider Europe’s foremost contemporary big band has given students in Jazz at the Conservatoire access to performances and rehearsals by:

  • Kurt Elling
  • John Scofield
  • Gary Burton
  • Joe Lovano
  • Gunther Schuller
  • Benny Golson
  • Jazzmiea Horn
  • David Liebman
  • Mike Stern
  • Branford Marsalis
  • Georgia Cécile
  • Laura Jurd
Students are performing jazz music on stage

Graduate Destinations

Our Jazz graduates have been recipients of the prestigious Yamaha Jazz Scholarship, with bassist David Bowden and pianists Peter Johnstone and Utsav Lal obtaining scholarships. Other graduate destinations from the programme include:

  • Fergus McCreadie Trio (graduates Fergus McCreadie, David Bowden and Stephen Henderson) – won 2019 Scottish Jazz Award for Best Album.  
  • Fergus McCreadie – won Scottish Album of the Year in 2022 for his album Forest Floor, which was also shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. 
  • Strata (formed of graduates Liam Shortall, Fergus McCreadie, Joe Williamson, Mark Hendry and Graham Costello) have received excellent reviews for their album Obelisk, which was also nominated for Scottish Album of the Year in 2019 
  • Utsav Lal – performed at the Carnegie Hall in New York City 
  • Peter Johnstone and Utsav Lal – recorded a CD for the cover of Jazzwise magazine; performed at the Houses of Parliament 
  • Brodie Jarvie and John Lowrie – performed at the London Jazz Festival, as well as presented their own jazz concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow 
  • Brodie Jarvie, Michael Butcher and Stephen Henderson – performed in Hanover as part of the UNESCO City of Music and Creative City Network 
  • Joe Williamson and his group Square One released their debut album in 2017, following their win of the prestigious Peter Whittingham Jazz Award 
  • Ewan Hastie won BBC Young Musician of the Year 2022 
  • Many graduates and their bands have featured on BBC Jazz at the Quay, including: Square One, David Bowden’s Mezcla, Fat-Suit, Strata, and Joe Williamson 

“Costello’s Strata has been setting a standard of musicianship that has seasoned observers talking about Glasgow as a jazz hotbed of approaching New York proportions.”

– The Herald on graduate jazz band Strata

Fergus is playing piano. The photo is black & white.

Programme Structure

The BMus (Bachelor of Music) is a four-year degree programme. Each year of the course is worth 120 credits. The number of credits for each part of the course corresponds approximately to the time a student might be expected to spend on it. 

You will tackle the fundamentals of jazz composition and expand your knowledge of jazz repertoire in simulated live performance sessions. You will also develop your aural awareness, sight-reading, sight-singing and musical dictation skills. You will be given a broad overview of the history of jazz from its origins to Free jazz and you will look ahead to working in the music business learning how to create a biography and an invoice. 

  • Jazz Theory & Composition 1 (+ Harmony 1) 
  • Jazz History Through Performance 1 
  • Rhythm Section Skills 
  • Music Business 1 
  • Jazz Ear Training Through Performance 1 
  • Jam Sessions 

Your jazz composition skills are at the core of your learning in year two: you will perform your own compositions and write for a jazz ensemble. Performance sessions will focus on learning classic jazz repertoire, melodies and chord progressions completely by ear. Underpinning this will be the development of your historical understanding of jazz from Mingus through to Acid Jazz. Music business classes will cover topics such as performance contracts, riders and stage plans. 

  • Jazz Theory & Composition 2 (+ Harmony 2) 
  • Jazz History Through Performance 2 
  • Music Business 2 
  • Chord Scale Harmony 
  • Jazz Ear Training Through Performance 2 
  • Jam Sessions 

You will continue to develop and integrate your understanding of all areas of jazz composition. For the first time, you will create a jazz arrangement for a big band and get to grips with producing jazz in a recording studio. Your ear training skills will be further developed with a focus on conducting, rhythmic duets, and sight-singing.   

  • Jazz Theory & Composition 3 (+ Harmony 3) 
  • Jazz Ear Training Through Performance 3 
  • Arranging For Big Band 
  • Latin Ensemble Repertoire 
  • Jam Sessions 

All of your composition skills will be put to test as you compose and arrange original works for a jazz orchestra. You will also further develop your jazz production skills in the recording studio through your own sessions. As you prepare to graduate, music business classes will focus on developing a personal website with our expert web designer. 

  • Jazz Theory & Composition 4 (+ Harmony 4) 
  • Advanced Ear Training Through Performance 
  • Composition For Jazz Orchestra 
  • Music Business 4 
  • Jam Sessions 

Entry Requirements

Academic Requirements

  • Scottish Highers — 3 passes (grade C or above)
  • A Levels — 2 passes
  • International Baccalaureate — minimum score of 24 with 3 subjects at Higher Level
  • Recognised equivalences (EU and International Entry Requirements)

We welcome the Scottish Baccalaureate and will accept combinations of Highers and Advanced Highers.

We offer a flexible approach to students taking Higher over more than one academic year and/or who achieve their qualifications in more than one sitting.

Within the minimum academic entrance requirements listed above, the subject recommended are:

  • Music at Higher, Advanced Higher or Advanced level or equivalent
  • English at Higher, Advanced Higher or Advanced level or equivalent

 

English language requirements

The language of study is English. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of proficiency in English. We accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Level 6.0 (with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component) is required of applicants to the School of Music. 

Music requirements

A strong indication of potential is sought at the entrance audition for this programme. Successful applicants will normally be of a standard at least equivalent to Grade 8 with Distinction of the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music in their Principal Study. You can apply and audition without having obtained Grade 8 with distinction, however as an indication only, applicants are normally expected to have reached this standard in their performance.

Direct entry 

Applications for direct entry beyond Year 1 will be considered on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the Royal Conservatoire’s Recognition of Prior (Experiential) Learning policy. If you wish to apply for direct entry, please mark the point of entry on UCAS Conservatoires application as 2 or 3. 


Fees & Funding

Tuition fees

  • Scotland: £1,820
  • RUK: £9,250
  • International (including EU): £27,968

Funding & Scholarships

You can find out about the funding and scholarships available for studying at RCS by visiting our dedicated page:

Funding & Scholarships

Cost of Living & Programme Costs

In addition to tuition fees, it is estimated that you will need between £11,200 and £15,300 per year to live in Glasgow, plus programme costs. Much will depend on your lifestyle and whether your course runs for three or four terms. 

Programmes within the School of Music have a range of associated costs related to the specific activities required and advised by the programme team. You can find an indication of these costs below: 

School of Music Programme Costs 


How to Apply

Apply via UCAS Conservatoires

Applications are made through UCAS Conservatoires website. The UCAS Conservatoires application system is separate from the main UCAS undergraduate application system. If you wish to apply to conservatoires and universities within UCAS, you will need to register for both services.

You can read our guidance about using UCAS Conservatoires on our dedicated how to apply page.

We do not offer deferred entry. If you wish to commence in 2025, you must apply next year.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland institution code is R58. You will also require the following programmes codes to apply: BMus (Hons) Jazz: 303F OR Joint Principal Study (Hons): 301F 

The closing date for on-time BMus Jazz applications for UK students is 2 October 2023 and for International students is 1 December 2023. If you submit your application after this date, we cannot guarantee that your application will be reviewed by the audition panel. If you do want to submit a late application, you must contact admissions@rcs.ac.uk in the first instance to check we are accepting late applications

Application/Audition fees

There is a UCAS Conservatoires application fee of £27.50. In addition to the application fee, each conservatoire charges an audition assessment administration fee. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland charges an audition assessment administration fee of £65 for this programme.

We recognise that auditioning and interviewing for conservatoires, drama and ballet schools can be costly. The audition assessment administration fee charge allows us to offer a thorough and positive experience to all applicants and we encourage you to get in touch to ask the panel questions and find out more about the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to see if it is the best place for you.

We are committed to ensuring fair access to a conservatoire education for students who have the talent and potential to benefit from it, regardless of their background. In support of this, audition fee waivers are offered to applicants whom financial hardship may be a barrier to auditioning. Please see the audition fee waivers document for more information.

Policy

We have a number of policies and statements which you should read when applying to study at the Royal Conservatoire.

Please select the links below to read each policy.

References

It is your responsibility to ask two separate referees to write references and ensure that these are sent to RCS.

The references must be written by two different people and we will not accept references from family, other relatives or close friends. You can submit your UCAS Conservatoires application form and send your references at a later date, but they must be received prior to your audition date.

UCAS Conservatoires provides reference forms for you to download and send to your referees for completion.

Selection process

Applicants are selected first and foremost on the basis of merit and potential. However, due attention is also paid to the range of Principal Studies accepted in order to ensure the optimum experience for each student and to sustain the critical mass required for curricular activities, such as the symphony orchestra and choral activities.

Please note that the Conservatoire is obliged to offer one audition date per application. If you are unable to submit your application/audition recording by the deadline date above, you must email us immediately stating the reason. We have a specific period allocation to audition and all on time applications will receive a decision before Christmas. If your audition recording is delayed, there is a risk that places will already have been taken and your application may not be considered in the first round of scholarship allocation.

BMus Joint Principal Study (JPS)

The Joint Principal Study pathway is intended to cater for the needs of individuals who are equally accomplished in two Principal Study disciplines (e.g. Flute and Composition, or Trumpet and Conducting, etc.) and who wish to maintain this intense level of dedication in their musical studies. Please note that Conducting is only available as a Joint Principal Study and Jazz Performance is only available in conjunction with Conducting or Composition.

The selection process for applicants applying for Joint Principal Study is the same as that for other applicants; please prepare for two separate in-person auditions, or, for International applicants, please submit your audition recordings via Acceptd for each principal study. Applicants to the Joint Principal Study pathway who are successful in only one of their Principal Studies may be offered a place on the relevant ‘single-study’ pathway (i.e. Performance, Composition or Jazz).

You can find out more about our Joint Principal Study pathway on its dedicated page:

BMus (Hons) Joint Principal Study

Audition Information

The BMus Jazz pathway audition is designed to assess an applicant’s improvisational skills.

All auditions are planned to take place in-person at our campus in Glasgow in November 2023.  Should you apply on time, you will be e-mailed directly with details of your audition date and time, and your UCAS Conservatoires track will be updated with this information.

International applicants are welcome to submit a recorded submission via Acceptd.

Recording Guidelines:

When setting up for your video recording, your body (typically, from about the waist up) and instrument should be the focal point of the frame. The committee wants to be able to see not just your face but how well you navigate your instrument.

The video recording should be provided in ONE continuous shot without separate tracks for different musical pieces.

Please begin the recording by introducing yourself to camera and stating what you will be performing. You can take a little time between pieces so long as your body must remain in the frame.

For any pieces that were written for your instrument and piano accompaniment, you are encouraged to perform with piano accompaniment (whether live or pre-recorded) if practical for you. Be assured, however, that if this is not possible for you, then you will not be disadvantaged in any way.

For more information on recording a video audition, Guitar Lecturer Matthew McCallister reveals his top tips on recording your music audition online:

Details of the repertoire requested for your in-person audition/recorded submission can be found below:

1. Set repertoire of Oleo by Sonny Rollins (Rhythm Changes)

  • Key: Bb [Vocalists choose their key]
  • Tempo: Medium to Fast
  • Melody Form: AABA (32 bars)
  • Improvisation Duration: Minimum 3 x AABA

Aims:

  • Introduce your performance
  • Play original improvisation interacting musically with live musicians or with an Aebersold play-a long (Vol. 6 Track 10, Vol. 7 Track 5, Vol. 8 Track 9, Vol. 47 Track 1)
  • Drummers play melody rhythmically, comp time, and improvise over form
  • Chordal player must comp on one chorus

Avoid:

  • Electronic play-a-longs like iRealPro
  • Transcribed or pre-prepared solos

2. Your own choice of a Jazz ‘standard’ that contrasts Oleo.

Aims:

  • Perform a contrasting piece (Even 8th, Latin, Ballad, 3/4, Original, etc.,)

Avoid:

  • Rhythm Changes or Blues

More from the Jazz Department

Matt holds a sxophone while standing in a wheat field.

RCS Ambassador: Matt Charmichael


Learn more about RCS Ambassador for Jazz (Saxophone) and BMus (Hons) Jazz Alum, Matt Charmichael on his ambassador profile page.

Why RCS?

We are the only place in Europe where you can study all of the performing arts on the one campus. There is a distinctive creative energy at RCS and you’ll be made to feel part of our inclusive and diverse environment from the very beginning of your studies.

Our graduates are resourceful, highly employable and members of a dynamic community of artists who make a significant impact across the globe.

At RCS, students develop not just their art but their power to use it.

Find out more 

A ballerina wearing a teal dress jumps over the Kelpies monuments in Scotland during a grey day.

World Top Ten


We were voted one of the world’s Top Ten destinations to study the performing arts (QS Rankings) in 2024, the eighth time we have been placed in the top ten since the ranking was established in 2016.