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BMus Vocal Studies

Introduction

The Vocal Studies 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, led by Professor Stephen Robertson (Head of Vocal Studies) and Philip White (Head of Opera) 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 studies 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 breath 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 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 – 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 make 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 professional level, or it might be an adventurous new work which combines different arts disciplines.

Our unique relationship with Scottish Opera has enabled many students to benefit from taking part in productions in fully professional theatres with the orchestra and production team from Scottish Opera, and the on-going Emerging Artist scheme provides an extra level of training beyond postgraduate work.

Interested?

Hear from our lecturers and students who are all part of the Vocal Studies course. You can also like us on Facebook to keep up to date with the course.

 

Introduction

The Vocal Studies 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, led by Professor Stephen Robertson (Head of Vocal Studies) and Philip White (Head of Opera) 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 studies 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 breath 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 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 – 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 make 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 professional level, or it might be an adventurous new work which combines different arts disciplines.

Our unique relationship with Scottish Opera has enabled many students to benefit from taking part in productions in fully professional theatres with the orchestra and production team from Scottish Opera, and the on-going Emerging Artist scheme provides an extra level of training beyond postgraduate work.

Interested?

Hear from our lecturers and students who are all part of the Vocal Studies course. You can also like us on Facebook to keep up to date with the course.

 

Programme structure

For all four years of the course there are two singing lessons per week, 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.

Year One

In Year one Italian is developed through both language 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.

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 two 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.

Year Two

In Year two as the voice develops students undertake more demanding repertoire and start the study of German in language 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.

Year Three

French is commenced in the Year three. Students must study both the language and its repertoire –Melodie. The first assessment at the end of the first term is a DVD submission which has to demonstrate various specified aspects of vocal technique, spoken/declaimed song texts in the three languages studied (Italian, German and French) and a short performed recital. At the end of the year students perform a 25 minute solo recital which has to include French Melodie 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

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.

Staff and masterclasses

Head of Vocal Performance: Professor Stephen Robertson MA (Oxon) FRCO LRAM ARCM

Head of Opera: Professor Timothy Dean BA ATCL ARCM

Vocal Performance Coordinator: Dr Ralph Strehle

Consultant Visiting Artist in Vocal Performance

Lisa Milne MBE

Coaches

Principal Coach – Paul Plummer MA (Oxon) FRCO

Julia Lynch BA CPGS

Michael Bawtree MA, MMus, FRCO

Jacco Lamfers

Ingrid Sawers ARCM, MA

Visiting Coaches – Fiona MacSherry, Duncan Williams, Patricia McMahon

Accompanist – Repertoire Coach

Julia Lynch BA CPGS

Acting

Mark Hathaway

Physical Performance

Rosina Bonsu

Alexander Technique

Isobel Anderson

Language Coaches

French
Professor Christopher Underwood

Italian
Patricia Hay DRSAMD, Patrizia Dina (guest coach)

German
Helen Lawson, Julia Lynch BA CPGS

Language Tutors

Dr Gabi Maas D.Phil (Oxon) (French)

Dr Ralph Strehle (German)

Svetlana Zvereva (Russian)

Dr Elisabetta Toreno (Italian)

 

Masterclasses

All students can attend and take part in masterclasses as appropriate. Masterclass guests have recently included Dame Gwyneth Jones, Dame Felicity Lott, Patricia MacMahon, Sir Thomas Allen, John Treleaven, Malcolm Martineau, Rosalind Plowright, Barbara Bonney, Roderick Williams, Jane Eaglen and Christine Brewer.

Many of these not only give the oft-encountered three hour public format but also give coaching sessions and teaching in closed situations where students can really feel that they can risk trying a new challenge. Many of our masterclass givers return more than once to further pursue the work which they have previously begun.

Why choose us?

  • 90 minutes of 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 Sirenes
  • Regular masterclass schedule featuring renowned artists; recent artists include Sir Thomas Allen CBE, Barbara Bonney, Christine Brewer, Malcolm Martineau and Dame Gwyneth Jones
  • Strong industry partnerships including Scottish Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Bayreuth Festival, British Youth Opera, and both the Samling and Britten Pears School, all of whom regularly visit RCS to audition

How to apply

Before applying we recommend that you follow our Applicant Guide journey which provides all the essential information regarding entry requirements, and the full application and audition process.

Begin your Applicant Journey here.

 

Making your application

Applications for the BMus programme should be made through the UCAS Conservatoires website. There is a UCAS application fee of £25 (which is in addition to the audition fee) which allows you up to six choices of programme of study.

Preparing for an interview

The audition/interview panel will take account of all aspects of the applicant’s profile i.e.:

  • performance at audition/interview
  • commitment to the particular programme
  • potential to benefit from the programme
  • academic qualifications
  • personal statement
  • performance qualifications
  • performance/practical experience
  • references
  • contextualised data

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.

Entry 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

Subject recommended

  • Music at Higher, Advanced Higher or A Level or equivalent
  • English at Higher, Advanced Higher or A Level or equivalent
  • The study of two foreign languages (German, French or Italian)

Other standards

A strong indication of potential is sough 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 Schools of Music in their Principal Study.

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

Entrance to the Conservatoire is based on talent, potential and ability, therefore consideration will be given to relevant experience which is deemed to compensate for any traditional education. We accept a wide range of qualification, including international qualifications. If you wish to check the suitability of your qualification/experience, please contact us ( admissions@rcs.ac.uk ).

English language

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).

Other equivalent English Language qualifications may be considered, please contact us (admissions@rcs.ac.uk ) for more information.

  • IELTS – 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component

 

Fees & scholarships

Tuition fees for academic year 2017-18

  • Scottish/EU Students – £1,820
  • Rest of UK (RUK) Students – £9,250
  • International (Non EU) – £15,513

Scottish/EU students

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) will pay tuition fees for all eligible full-time Scottish-based and other non-UK undergraduate EU students, who are studying in Scotland at degree level for the first time. Students should apply to SAAS for payment of tuition fees even if they are not applying for any other means of support. Eligible students can also apply for student loans through SAAS . For further advice and to check eligibility contact SAAS directly on 0300 555 0505 or visit their website .

Rest of UK students

Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland studying in Scotland will be eligible for the same funding/loan package that they would benefit from if they attended an institution in their home country. For further advice please visit student finance England , student financeWales , or student finance Northern Ireland as appropriate.

International students

Students from outside the EU typically fund higher education by a variety of resources, depending on the home country. More specific information on funding options relevant to specific countries can be found here .

Scholarships

Any potential student who auditions for a place at the Royal Conservatoire will automatically be considered for a scholarship. They are awarded on a combination of talent, potential and financial need. More information about Scholarships is available here

Sources of external funding

For more information about alternative funding sources, including external scholarships and bursaries, please visit here.

The Conservatoire’s International and Student Experience team are available to advise and assist applicants and current students in respect of queries about funding your studies at the Conservatoire. Please email or telephone +44 (0)141 270 8281/ +44 (0)141 270 8223 for further information.

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 B Mus, moving subsequently onto the M Mus Performer course and finally into the Opera Studio M 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).

Facilities

The facilities which the department enjoys are excellent. In addition to the expected range of well-equipped teaching studios, singers have the benefit of the Alexander Gibson Opera School – including the Opera Studio. The Stevenson Hall, and the New Athenaeum Theatre are also used by the Vocal Studies department giving students invaluable performance experience.

The Ledger Recital Room is used for many classes and competitions. Additionally, those involved in opera performances in collaboration with Scottish Opera would normally expect to perform in the fully professional theatres of the Theatre Royal (Glasgow) and the Festival Theatre (Edinburgh). Recently we have also undertaken performances in Glasgow City Halls (home of the BBCSSO) with a commemorative performance of Verdi’s Simone Boccanegra and Stravinksy’s Les Noces. Other venues which have housed opera and concert performances outside the RCS campus include the splendid early Gothic Glasgow Cathedral, St Mary’s Cathedral, Paisley Abbey, and the concert halls in Perth and Aberdeen.

Students also have access to expertise amongst staff in Spectrographic Analysis of resonance and vowels, with the ancillary information that can be utilised using Electroglottogram information. These two advanced software-based tools can often make yet clearer what is being studied and understood using excellent traditional methodologies.

Images and videos

Così fan tutte

Sir John in Love

Le Nozze di Figaro

Opera Scenes

La Clemenza di Tito

Merry Wives of Windsor

A Midsummer Night’s Dream