The Vocal Performance department is ambitious on your behalf and seeks to find ways for you to discover and fulfil your potential as a singer and independent, distinctive artist. The department numbers around 100 first study singers on BMus and MMus courses, with a further 20 singers taking the advanced MMus Opera route. Our team of tutors and coaches aim to help you find and release your own true unique voice, establishing a technique which can serve you reliably, with a sense of freedom.

The department is led by Scott Johnson, and Elizabeth McCormack. Working closely with the Head of Opera, Philip White, it has an excellent and committed team of tutors, many of whom have worked and continue to work at the highest international performing levels and who are able to offer a range of specialisms.

Underlying the performing, teaching and coaching activities within vocal performance is a simple idea: that each singer must find the mode of learning and developing which really works for them. This means that though much of the department activity will be comparable to what happens in other conservatoires throughout the world, here in Glasgow our approach is student-centred and we aim to respond to the differing learning styles and needs of individual singers. In practice, this means that we are a holistic and highly inclusive department. So, if you learn best by example and demonstration (a very common way of teaching singing), that will be available to you from our team of internationally experienced singer-tutors.

If you really want to understand more of the detail of how the classical voice functions and what constitutes healthy, sophisticated singing via a good working knowledge of the physiology and acoustics of the voice, that is also available within the department. If you sing better and reach artistic and technical progress via imaginative and emotional concepts this is also a proven way of accessing professional levels of singing, which is much used in the teaching and classes here. And of course, the truth for many students is that they benefit from the mixture and depth which combining these approaches can achieve. In one session you might be refining the detail of a language and exploring the full emotional depth and connection with text. In the next, you could be working on your breathing technique to secure a better supported appoggio. Or you might be refining the precision and quality of resonance in your vowels using the latest analytical equipment showing precisely what your voice is doing. These elements are taught via the two 45-minute singing lessons given each week and the additional classes for repertoire and performance, with also a special class called ‘Basis of Vocal Technique’ where students work as a group on the ideas and skills which they are encountering in the one-to-one lessons. We are practical and we use what works!

In addition to this very full and rounded approach to developing your voice, we believe that quick and valuable learning takes place via a multiplicity of performance opportunities. Each year, therefore, we devise a programme of concerts, operas, recitals, competitions and masterclasses that enable students to participate at appropriate levels. There are very few formal restrictions to these opportunities; for example, even undergraduates may take part in full operatic productions where this is desirable. Our curriculum structure includes credits for Performance Folio activities, in which a student can offer a very wide range of performing. This might take the form of solo performance, or taking part in a chorus or ensemble working at a professional level, or it might be an adventurous new work which combines different arts disciplines.

Institution Code:


Programme Code:


UK Deadline:

2 October 2023

International Deadline:

1 December 2023

Programme Structure

For all four years of the course there are frequent singing lessons, and classes in Performance. Considerable importance is attached to these Performance classes, which are masterclass-type sessions, bridging the gap between the studio and public performance situations. Students choose and prepare repertoire which is then performed, involving peer assessment, under the expert guidance of a tutor. The class builds performance skills, confidence and experience. It engenders active, positive self-reflection and critiquing, and helps build a strong supportive environment amongst peers. The whole group is involved in the discussion of performances, thereby benefiting vicariously from each individual’s experience. The expert tutor’s role is crucial in providing guidance in discussions, as well as more obviously direct coaching. Depending on repertoire, each student receives about 15 — 20 minutes as the performer, timetabled on a rotating basis. View the course overview here.

In Year One, Italian is developed through both Sung Diction and repertoire classes. In addition students study the International Phonetic Alphabet. In each year singers have training in Physical Movement designed to prepare them for stage work. The unique Basis of Vocal Technique class is a three year course designed to methodically bring together and share the information and experiences acquired in the 1:1 lessons in the group situation under the guidance of an experienced expert. A major goal is interrelating theory and practice of vocal technique. The students will also participate in an Ensemble and Duets class.

Students learn by observing one another, and from group discussion which engenders a very high level of reflection. The material is structured so that any gaps in the student knowledge base are identified and corrected as the course progresses. Students’ powers of observation, diagnosis, and prescription for improvement are developed.

The assessments happen at the end of each of term one and three with requirements for singing in Italian — both song and recitative, a Handel aria (or similar) and native language repertoire. In addition students choose a vocalise for assessment from any of the standard sources, such as Vaccai. The Basis of Vocal Technique is in three parts for the year and these are: 1) Release and Coordination for Alignment — the whole body; 2) Release and Coordination — the throat, jaw, tongue and palate; 3) Breathing — anatomy and function.

In Year Two, as the voice develops, students undertake more demanding repertoire and start the study of English Song and German in Sung Diction classes and coaching in Lieder. The assessments require a Baroque aria (usually with ornamented DC) and Lieder as well as ‘own choice’ material. Students are also expected to offer folksongs, but with the developed technique of the classical singer. The continuing Basis of Vocal Technique classes are again in three sections:  1) Vowels and legato. Complex vowels and maintaining the singer’s formant; 2) The role of consonants in singing voice production; 3) Achieving agility and vitality. The trill and mordent. Introducing the messa di voce.

French is commenced in the Year Three. Students must study both the language and its repertoire — Mélodie. The first assessment at the end of the first term is a short recital of folksongs and French mélodies. At the end of the year students perform a 25 minute solo recital which has to include French Mélodie and also an item in post-Romantic period style. This final year of the Basis of Vocal Technique class covers: 1) Range extension and voice unification; 2) The passaggio zone in differing voice types; 3) Technique and repertoire relationship explored. Problem-solving via repertoire.

Year Four is the culmination of the undergraduate course and there are some additional classes in this year. Instead of the Basis of Vocal Technique class, students have classes in Oratorio repertoire and Opera Scenes the latter receiving a formal assessed performance. Two recitals are required, with the mid year one being 30 minutes and the final recital 35 minutes in duration. Choice of material is free, but programmes need to make a coherent balanced short recital with appropriate variety.

Our internationally renowned programme provides students with the artistic and academic skill set to forge a singing career at the highest level.  The Vocal Performance department will be headed by a new collaborative team consisting of Scott Johnson, and Elizabeth McCormack for the Academic Year 22/23. The programme benefits from the combination of each Head of Department’s area of expertise, creating a nurturing environment that not only encourages development, but also allows every student to discover their individual musical voice.

Vocal Performance Staff

Repertoire Coaches
Recent Masterclasses
  • Dame Gwyneth Jones
  • Dame Felicity Lott
  • Patricia MacMahon
  • Sir Thomas Allen CBE
  • John Treleaven
  • Malcolm Martineau
  • Lisa Milne MBE
  • Rosalind Plowright
  • Barbara Bonney
  • Roderick Williams
  • Jane Eaglen
  • Christine Brewer
  • Dame Ann Murray
  • Simon Lepper

Graduate Destinations

The vast majority of undergraduates choose to go on to further study once they have completed their four year course. Whilst some like to take advantage of the fact that this department can offer them a complete journey — commencing with the Year 1 BMus, moving onto the MMus Performer course and finally into the Opera Studio MMus Opera course and thence into the profession — others at the end of their undergrad years like to audition for places in other Conservatoires, Colleges of Music and similar departments abroad.

The department has an enviable record in achieving scholarships and places on courses beyond our own doors. In recent years these included the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music, the Jacobs School of Music (Bloomington), Indiana University and the Konservatorium Wien (Vienna).

In 2017, three alumni were finalists in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition — Catriona Morison, Anush Hovhannisyan and Dominic Barberi — with Catriona winning both the song prize and the overall competition first prize, becoming the first British singer to ever win. Svetlina Stoyanova won the prestigious German competition, Neue Stimmen, whilst still a student with RCS.

Recent graduates have been offered places on the Covent Garden Jette Parker scheme, the National Opera Studio, the Welsh International Academy of Voice, the International Opera Studio Staatsoper Berlin, the Salzburg Festival Young Singers Project, Opera Studio Bregenz Festival, the Verbier Academy, as well as contracts in fully professional houses including the Royal Opera House, Staatsoper Berlin, Deutsche Oper Berlin, English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera North, Welsh National and Royal Opera Den Norske.

Why Choose Us?

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is consistently ranked in the World Top 10 for performing arts education (QS World Rankings 2023)

  • Two 45-minute one-to-one singing lessons each week
  • Unique classes specifically on the basis of vocal technique
  • Students are taught how to understand the vocal mechanism
  • Imagination and artistry are seen as crucial components in the curriculum
  • Numerous diverse performance opportunities
  • Extensive choral and ensemble activity including RCS Voices, the RCS Chamber Choir and BBC Choir of the Year, Les Sirènes
  • Regular masterclass schedule featuring renowned artists; recent artists include Sir Thomas Allen CBEBarbara BonneyChristine BrewerMalcolm Martineau and Dame Gwyneth Jones
  • Strong industry partnerships including Scottish Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Bayreuth Festival, British Youth Opera, and both the Samling Academy and Britten Pears School, all of whom regularly visit RCS to audition

Virtual Tour

Explore the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in our 360 virtual tour. You’ll be able to see our rehearsal and practice rooms, professional performance venues, production workshops, editing suite, ballet studios and more.

Entry Requirements

General Academic Entrance 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.

Subjects recommended

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

  • History at Higher, Advanced Higher or Advanced Level or equivalent
  • English at Higher, Advanced Higher or Advanced Level or equivalent
  • The study of Gaelic and/or another European language at least to National 4/5 or Standard Grade/GCSE
Other Standards

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.

Language of Study

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.

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.

Non-Standard Entry

We welcome applications from individuals whose academic qualifications or English language qualifications do not match (in terms of equivalence) or fall short of the normal entrance requirements, where specified*. Having satisfied the Audition Panel that they meet the selection criteria and demonstrated that they have the capacity to pursue the proposed course of study, such applicants will be considered through examination of contextualised data provided in accordance with the Non-Standard Entry Policy. The appropriate Head of Department/ Programme will make a case in support of the applicant for consideration by the Directors of the Schools and Convener of the Quality and Standards Committee.

*Note that UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) imposes minimum English Language qualifications in respect of international (non-EU) applicants who require a Tier 4 Visa to study in the UK.

Mature Students

RCS welcomes applications from mature students, i.e. students over the age of 21 at entry to the programme. Whilst the selection procedures will still be applied, consideration will be given to appropriate artistic experience not normally expected in school leavers, which is deemed to compensate for any lack of traditional entrance qualifications. Successful mature applicants, as for all other applicants, must convince auditioning panels that they have the ability and potential to cope with the demands of the programme. Their progress, especially in the early stages of the programme, will be closely monitored and appropriate advice and support given.

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. There is a UCAS application fee of £27.50 to register to use UCAS Conservatoires.

To begin a new UCAS Conservatoires application, you will need to register. You can read the UCAS Conservatoires’ advice on completing the UCAS Conservatoires application. If you need assistance with your application, you can contact UCAS Conservatoires team by telephoning (Monday to Friday, 8.30 — 18.00). Phone 0371 468 0470 from within the UK or +44 330 3330 232 if you are calling from overseas.

Application deadline date

The deadline dates to apply and submit your audition recording can be found in the table below –

UCAS Conservatoires Application Deadline  Audition Recording Deadline
UK Applicants 2 October 2023 2 October 2023 (for applicants unable to attend an in-person audition)
International Applicants 1 December 2023 1 December 2023

International student applicants

We are aware that international students may struggle with the UCAS deadline. As a consequence, we have set an additional deadline of 1 December 2023 for international students.

If you submit your application after this date, we cannot guarantee that your application/audition recording 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. Late applications will be considered on a case by case basis and may not be considered in the first round of scholarship allocation.

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.

BMus (Hons) Performance: 300F

Joint Principal Study (Hons): 301F

Book an advice lesson with one of our Music tutors

An advice lesson gives you the chance to experience having a lesson at the Conservatoire and provides a great opportunity for you to gain some expert advice and insight. Advice lessons normally take place from late August to early October and are dependent on staff availability. Book your advice lesson here or e-mail our team for further information at hello@rcs.ac.uk.

Application Fee

There is a UCAS Conservatoires application fee of £27.50. In addition to the application fee, each conservatoire charges an audition assessment administration fee. For RCS, the audition assessment administration fee is £65 per programme applied for. Fees are not refundable. The fees are paid via the UCAS Conservatoires website and not directly to RCS.

Audition Assessment Administration fee

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland charges an audition assessment administration fee of £65 per course.

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.


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).


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. For those submitting a recording, the deadline dates to apply and submit your audition recording can be found in the table below:

UCAS Conservatoires Application Deadline  Audition Recording Deadline
UK Applicants 2 October 2023 2 October 2023 (for applicants unable to attend an in-person audition)
International Applicants 1 December 2023 1 December 2023

International student applicants

We are aware that international students may struggle with the UCAS deadline. As a consequence, we have set an additional deadline of 1 December 2023 for international students.

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 below:


All decisions will be posted on UCAS Conservatoires following your audition or recorded submission via UCAS Conservatoires track (you will need your username and password). We aim to post outcomes before Christmas.

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

The panel are keen to hear you perform at your best, so choose music that suits your voice and enables you to show your individuality as a performer.

You should prepare:

  • three classical pieces in contrasting styles and moods, at least one of which should be in English and one in a foreign language
  • a short poetry or prose reading in English lasting no longer than 2 minutes

You will be asked to choose the first piece you wish to sing, the panel will then choose a further one or two pieces. A typical programme may include an English art song or Folksong setting, an Arie Antiche and a German Lied or French mélodie; and a short poem in English.

Candidates may be asked to respond to some simple aural skills tests, limited to:

  • singing or clapping back a short melody
  • singing an unaccompanied scale or arpeggio

We do not issue specimen aural tests prior to the audition.

Following your Audition

All decisions will be posted on UCAS Conservatoires following your audition via UCAS Conservatoires Track,  (you will need your username and password). You will also receive notification from UCAS Conservatoires when decisions on all your choices are available.

Please see below for an explanation of UCAS Conservatoires codes:

Guaranteed Unconditional (GU) RCS is satisfied from the information you have given, that you have already met the conditions for entry. Unless your application and/or qualification are subsequently shown to be fraudulent, a guaranteed unconditional offer is binding.

Guaranteed Conditional (GC) RCS has made the offer subject to you meeting certain conditions such as examination results. Conditions can be viewed via UCAS Conservatoires Track. Unless your application and/or qualifications are subsequently shown to be fraudulent, the offer is