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MMus/MA Vocal Studies

Introduction

The vocal 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 B Mus and M Mus courses, with a further 20 singers taking the advanced M Mus Opera route. Our team of tutors and coaches aim to help you find and healthily release your own true unique voice, establishing a technique which can serve you reliably, with a sense of freedom. The department, led by Stephen Robertson (Head of Vocal Studies) and Timothy Dean (Head of Opera) has an excellent and very committed team of tutors, many of whom have worked and continue to work at the highest international 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. 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 varied performance opportunities. Each year therefore we devise a programme of concerts, operas, recitals, competitions and master-classes that enable students to participate at appropriate levels.

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 post-graduate work.

Introduction

The vocal 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 B Mus and M Mus courses, with a further 20 singers taking the advanced M Mus Opera route. Our team of tutors and coaches aim to help you find and healthily release your own true unique voice, establishing a technique which can serve you reliably, with a sense of freedom. The department, led by Stephen Robertson (Head of Vocal Studies) and Timothy Dean (Head of Opera) has an excellent and very committed team of tutors, many of whom have worked and continue to work at the highest international 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. 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 varied performance opportunities. Each year therefore we devise a programme of concerts, operas, recitals, competitions and master-classes that enable students to participate at appropriate levels.

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 post-graduate work.

Programme Outline

The Master in Music in Performance (singing) and for advanced students, the Master of Opera, share some aspects. Students on both courses receive two singing lessons a week, which enables them to feel that they are in regular, frequent contact with the expert tutor who is guiding their vocal and artistic development. Whilst students who enter at this level will have already developed a level of sophistication in their singing and vocal technique, many know that they need further work and refinement to help them towards entering the profession successfully. We think this generous provision for one to one study is essential in building the advanced progress required for this level of study.

There is a wide range of ancillary work undertaken in classes (‘Supporting Studies’) for both courses. Languages taught in classes include Italian, German, French and Russian, with the mechanics of each language taught by native-speakers. There are in addition associated repertoire classes for each language coached by an expert who has specialised in that area of repertoire. The weekly classes in Performance offer coaching in a master-class-type situation where any aspect of the performance may be discussed and developed. Each student is allocated a coach for the year for them to work with on a one to one basis. There are also classes specifically in audition skills, Alexander technique, movement, acting technique and French phonetics (for those who need the latter). The range and variety of performing opportunities is extensive, with full productions of operas (usually three a year), oratorios, song recitals, and special projects which are unique to a particular year – often associated with a particular anniversary. These often bring students into contact with a range of external visiting conductors, directors, singers and coaches.

For those on the M Mus Performer course there is a very wide variety of assessment options –mostly conducted at the end of each year. These include, Solo Performance, Opera Scenes, Chamber Performance, Lecture Recital, Opera Audition, Studio Recording, Song Performance, and New Work. In Year 2 in addition is the possibility of undertaking an Independent Project. In both years, if a student is cast in a role or as a soloist in a main production/concert, this can be used for formal assessment.

The Opera course follows the intensive learning-by-doing pattern which is common in opera studios. MMus Opera is a highly focused programme providing opportunities for performance across a range of operatic styles and theatre settings. Our close relationship with Scottish Opera has provided collaborations annually on joint productions at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal and Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. The Conservatoire has a fine Theatre in-house which was modelled on the European traditional opera house design and which allows students to experience the type of environment which they are likely to encounter throughout Europe – it is regarded as a ‘gem’ of its type. Students enjoy frequent access to Scottish Opera rehearsals, and there is a successful shadowing scheme plus regular coaching from Scottish Opera staff. Each year we also run the Emerging Artist programme. In partnership with Scottish Opera it’s an opportunity for our graduates to audition for a year’s full time employment with Scottish Opera following their studies. The opera students find themselves immersed in scenes and full productions at a professional level, working often with a variety of guest directors and conductors who are distinguished practitioners. We aim to achieve a balance between creative work supervised and led by our own full-time staff which can achieve in-depth knowledge of each student, and fresh input and inspiration from guest directors and conductors, who introduce students to contrasting approaches direct from the profession. Students work intensively with a range of professional coaches on their repertoire preparation, have the benefit of strong links with the profession and we are regularly visited by companies and agents. Each year there are three sets of scenes and three productions. In 12-13 the operas were Monteverdi’s Poppea, Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor. For 13-14 we are performing Monteverdi’s Ulisse, Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, and Puccini’s La Rondine. The planning of repertoire is specifically tailored to student aptitudes and strengths and each student on the course is guaranteed a minimum of two roles in the full operas during their time on the course. The evidence of the strength of this course is amply demonstrated by recent successes of students going onto prestigious further work, for example on the Jette Parker programme at Covent Garden and taking up solo contracts at major houses such as Deutsche Oper Berlin. The course is designed for those who are thought to be at an appropriate level to enter the operatic profession upon completion of the course and advice and help is given to facilitate this.

Staff and masterclasses

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

Head of Opera: 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.

How to apply

Applications for the MMus/MA Vocal Studies programme should be made through the UCAS Conservatoires website. There is a UCAS application fee of £24 (which is in addition to the audition fee) which allows you up to six choices of programme of study.

Before applying we recommend that you read the Guide for Applicants which provides information regarding entry requirements, and the full application and audition process. Please download the Guide to Applicants – MMus/MA here.

Late applications may be considered, find out more on our Apply for Music page.

Entry requirements

  • Normally a good Honours (at least 2.2) degree, or its overseas equivalent, in a subject area relevant to the demands of the programme

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 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 admissions@rcs.ac.uk for more information.

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

Audition Requirements

Audition requirements are given in the MMus-MA Guide for Applicants 2015-16, which can be found at http://www.rcs.ac.uk/studyhere/how-to-apply/music/.

Fees and scholarships

Tuition fees for academic year 2016-17

  • MMus Vocal Performance (2 years) UK/EU Students – £8,649
  • MMus Vocal Performance (2 years) International (non-EU) – £18,192
  • MA Vocal Performance (1 year) UK/EU Students – £11,844
  • MA Vocal Performance (1 year) International (non-EU) – £20,400

Scottish/EU students

New Scottish and EU domiciled students may be eligible for a Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan. All eligible students will be able to apply directly to Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for a non-means tested loan of up to £3,400. See the following website for further details of the PSAS scheme:

http://www.saas.gov.uk/full_time/pg/index.htm

Scottish domiciled postgraduate students on eligible courses can also apply for a Postgraduate Living Cost Loan up to £4,500 towards living expenses. This is in addition to the existing loan available towards the cost of their tuition fees.

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

As RCS is Scotland’s only Conservatoire many students are involved in professional music making in the busy artistic activity outside the Conservatoire, which may range from something simple such as solo singing for a choral society or small Cathedral ensemble, or a main work with the BBC or RSNO, or at the Edinburgh Festival. The Song Studio recital series is extremely popular with audiences and provide a fully professional outlet for this repertoire.

Varied recent highlights from the vocal department have been:

  • Verdi Gala Performance in City Halls with Scottish Opera orchestra in a concert performance of Simone Boccanegra.
  • Performance of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire using a group of singers rather than one soloist.
  • The female choir called Les Sirenes won BBC Choir of the Year 2013 conducted by Andrew Nunn.
  • Poulenc Gloria in our own concert hall, with Nicholas Cleobury conducting.
  • Operatic productions have included both Monteverdi operas, Poppea and Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito and Die Zauberflote, Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor and Puccini’s La Rondine
  • Chamber Choir – a Britten recital, and a concert of French choral works including the Vierne Messe Solennelle and Faure Requiem (commemorating World War 1).
  • Stravinsky’s Les Noces, with both chorus and soli from the Conservatoire.

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 space there. The Conservatoire Concert Hall, and the Theatre are used by the vocal department giving students the valuable performance experience. The Ledger Recital Room is used for many classes and competitions. In addition 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). In the past year the department has also undertaken performances in Glasgow City Halls (home of the BBCSO) 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 main Conservatoire building 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 if Windsor

A Midsummer Night’s Dream