Friday, 11 December 2015

What's next?...

Recently I was lucky enough to be given a guaranteed unconditional offer to my conservatoire, meaning I no longer have to worry about my A level results as my place is confirmed.  As happy and really quite amazed, let's be honest here, as I am, it has put me in a stuation that is totally new to me - theoretically, right now I could drop my A levels and 6th form, gve up practising flute and, money problems aside, go and live in Venice for a year.  Obviously I'm not actually going to do that but still it's got me thinking.  I've never been in such a priviliged position before - there's always been something I have to work for or a plan that could fall through so having the knowledge that whatever happens in the rest of my year, whatever my A level results are, I'll have a place waiting for me to study flute is really the loveliest feeling!

I do realise that after finishing my undergraduate degree, I may want to do my masters and I may need to have good A levels for this so I'm still going to work as hard as possible to get the best grades I can, as well as the fact that, after music, linguistics is my favourite subject and as I'm doing two A levels in English Language & English Literature, so why wouldn't I want to continue with and work hard at them?!  I am really struggling to keep on top of sixth form work at the moment though - juggling flute practice and essay writing etc... is so difficult!  I'm thinking next term should be easier though: with the break Christmas will hopefully provide and the relief after finishing all my auditions will make the term so much less stressful!

Most of all, I want to cover as much as I possibly can regarding flute before my course starts, so that I'm as ready as I can be to start.  My main flute-specific goal is to increase my sound - I've got several performances and auditions for performance opportunities coming up hopefully this will all help.

I'm not sure how far I will end up following this plan but I'll keep you posted!  How are you going to fill your time until you start uni?  Do you have any exciting travel plans or work experience in store?

As always please leave comments if you have questions - I'm happy to help in any way I can.  If you could like to vote for me as blogger of the month, please click here.  Thank you! 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Application and Audition Advice: Part 2

Here is the continued list of points from my last post, this time covering my auditions:

  • Due to some complications, I wasn't able to tell my flute teacher I was applying for conservatoire until 2 weeks before I submitted my CUCAS application in October which, as you can imagine, left little time for preparation.  One thing that I'm really glad I did during this time was check all the conservatoires' websites and make a note of any specified pieces or scales.  I think this is one of the most important things to do - there's nothing so stressful as discovering you have to play a particular piece or study, two weeks before the audition.
  • I really struggled when deciding where to apply - I knew I wanted to apply for conservatoires but I was so torn between Royal Academy, Royal College and Royal Scottish!  I spend quite a lot of time researching the areas, accommodation and general living costs and I'm really glad I did as aside from helping me deicde where to apply, I learned some useful info about the other colleges I'm likely to apply to for postgrad.
  • When I'd decided on my choices and sent my application, it was such a relief as I was able to concentrate solely on preparation so I'd really recommend getting your application done as early as possible.  Obviously I wouldn't advise rushing it but as soon as you know what you want to study, get your personal statement done and start looking at colleges!  It really does take more time than you think...
  • This sounds crazy but, on a more practical note, if you need photocopies for the audition panel (and by the way, unless stated otherwise, they only require ONE copy between them) get them done as soon as you can!!  I swear the most stressful thing about this term was photocopying a piece the night before one of my auditions - just don't even go there...
  • Pick pieces you love - in the end you're there because you love singing/playing your instrument.  If you can really show the panel how much passion you have for what you play, you're already half way to being accepted, and if you're not then it was just another chance to perform what you love!
  • Make sure you eat on the morning of your audition - I really struggle to eat in the mornings anyway so during my journey I just kept snacking on little things whenever I felt I could.  Carrot sticks are the way to go...
  • Take full advantage of your warm up time: the time each college allocates varies a lot -Leeds gives a luxurious 25 minutes, Wales give 20 minutes and Trinity give 15 - so you need to plan exactly what you need to do when you get in there and know what's most imporant for you to cover if for some reason your time is cut short.  You may of course find you don't need all the time - if you're honestly feeling confident about something, don't push it.
  • Most of all - I wish you all the luck in the world and I hope it's an amzing experience!

Thanks for reading!

As always please leave comments if you have questions - I'm happy to help in any way I can.  If you could like to vote for me as blogger of the month, please click here.  Thank you! 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Application and Audition Advice: Part 1

It's so weird to think that my application process is now basically over!  For some reason I'd imagined it dragging on forever - preparing for audions, auditioning, waiting for results etc.. but in actual fact it's only been around a month!  I've compiled a list of points regarding my experience of applying (most apply to Universities as well) and auditioning that I hope help you in some way:

The Application

  • Don't be put off somewhere because it doesn't have the same prestige as other conservatoires/universities.  People seem to think to study classical music properly, you need to go to Royal College, Academy etc... and that lesser known conservatoires like Leeds College of Music are easier to get into.  If you read the UCAS statistics it's actually quite clear that this is NOT the case - in 2011, Leeds had over 100 applicants for their postgrad study programme: of these, only 38 were offered a place.  
  • This may seem obvious but do your research into the area and make sure you're be happy living for three or more years.   You may want to consider some questions like these:  
How far is it from my current home?
How easy would it be to get back home if I needed to?
How warm/cold is it and will I be ok with that in Winter?
How expensive is it?
How far is the accommodation from my place of study?
How large/small is the city?
  • Look in-depth at what exactly the course can offer you - check out optional modules, second year opportunities, who your tutors will be and what they specialise(d) in etc...
  • Although this sounds somewhat negative, find out if they offer good courses for any other subjects you're interested in.  I hope you will love the course you end up studying but it's good to be perpared in case it doesn't work out and you want to switch subject.  
  • Don't ever be put off a subject or universtiy because someone doesn't think you'll do well enough or work hard enough.  Only you know what you're capable of so always make sure you do what's best for you.  I made the misake of listening when I was advised not to apply to conservatoires because I wouldn't get in but I decided, just in time, not to listen to this and applied any way.  I'm so glad I did! 
  • When you have made your decision and are happy with it, start you personal statement as soon as you can - it'e tempting to put it off but actually, it can be a really enjoyable experience if you give yourself plently of time.  

Next time I will cover the auditions - thanks for reading and I hope you found this helpful! 

As always please leave comments if you have questions - I'm happy to help in any way I can.  If you could like to vote for me as blogger of the month, please click here.  Thank you! 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

UPDATE: Offers and Decisions

I just wanted to write a quick post as a lot has changed for me with regard to conservatoires in the last couple of weeks.  First of all - I got an unconditional to Leeds College of Music!  I got home for my Saturday music college to find the letter waiting and I actually cried when I found out - I'm just so happy!  I also found out later in the week that I didn't get into Wales.  This is absolutely fine as, in the end, I wouldn't have been happy going there and was also slightly uncomfortable about being that far away from home in my first year away.

I've decided to cancel my auditions to the Royal College of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire.  As much as I love what both of these colleges have to offer, I've kind of realised that Leeds was my first choice and I no longer want to go anywhere else.  After spending a couple of months just playing the same pieces, scales etc... I really want to go back to just learning flute again - of course, I've learned a great deal from my auditions and from the intensive work preparation the auditions demand but I really enjoy working on technical exercises, studies and general technique and really just want to learn as much as I possibly can.  I am in no way suggesting readers of this should do the same unless, like me, you know it's absolutely the best thing to do.  I think auditioning at several places is a wonderful way to experience the colleges and teachers so if I wasn't 100% happy with my choice, I would still go ahead with the others. 

Thanks for reading!

As always, please leave a comment if you have any questions - I'm happy to help in any way I can. 

The Audtions: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Three weeks ago I attended my audition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.  I was particularly looking forward to visiting Wales and this conservatoire as almost all my flute teachers studied there or with the teachers there.

To get to the conservatoire we had to walk through Cardiff's glorious park - the conservatoire is situated right next to it.  This was, I think, the best part of the day for me - seeing the park in the Autumn colours and light was wonderful and I would love to play flute there sometime.  When we arrived at the conservatoire, we couldn't quite work out which door we were supposed to use but two of the students let us and and were so friendly!  They introduced themselves and wished me luck for my audition which I thought was so sweet and meant a lot to me that day.  In fact, everyone we met while in Wales and at the college was lovely - it just seemed like such a great place!

I had to check in for my audition in the conservatoire cafe and I was grateful of the chance to sit down for 10 minutes after the rush of our journey.  To be honest, having already got Leeds audition out of the way, I was feeling a lot more relaxed and didn't have the stress of not knowing what to expect.  I was taken to the cluster of practice rooms to wait until the flaustist before me had finished warming up and during this time I was able to meet my accompanist and chat to some of the students already studying there.  My rehearsal went really well and I made sure I went through the diminished 7ths and melodic minor scales as these tripped me up slightly at Leeds.  After running through these and my pieces a couple of times, I didn't really feel there was much more I could usefully do before my audition so I went down to the audition room early and waited outside for a couple of minutes.

The audition room in Wales is normally used for recitals, small-scale concerts etc... so it had a lovely acocustic.  My two pieces went well and I really enjoyed playing them although I don't think the room was quite right for the fast movement of the Faure - it had just the right level of echoe for the slow movement and the Bach but, from my perspective, some of the runs and fast passages of the Faure were lost in both the piano and flute parts (and after hours of metronome and performance work, I know this wasn't my fault...).

There were two people on the auditioning panel: a flute teacher and the head of Woodwind.  After I'd finished my pieces, the flute teacher gave me a short sight-reading test which was lovely and was in a similar style as Faure's Fantasy so I really enjoyed it!  Afterwards, I was given a rhythm test which was so easy but counting to three was apparently just too much for me that day - he moved on quickly...  I was then given a line to sight-sing - the line was really quite low for me (I have a soprano voice with a terrible low register) but was just a simple rising Bb major melody so wasn't too bad.  When I'd sung it through, he asked me to study singing instead!  This really threw me as I was totally unprepared for it and actually thought I'd sung the line really badly anyway.  I'm not sure if that was meant to be a reflection on my voice or my flute playing but as I've only been singing for a couple of years and am really not particularly good (whereas I've been playing flute for nine years), I was slightly down about it afterwards.  They finished by taking through some simple interval and chord tests.

At the end they invited me to sit down and I assumed they would ask me some general questions about my musical interests etc...  Instead, I was given the opportunity to ask them any questions.  I asked them about being able to join in with other instruments and ensembles and they seemed really quite unimpressed with that and expressed some near annoyance when I mentioned I played double bass and harp too.  This kind of put me off the college as I strongly believe you can be as good a musician if you don't have experience with other instruments and aspects of music.  They didn't actually ask me anything about my flute, music experiences/interests or persronal statement as I'd expected but one technique they did use, was to spend quite a lot of time suggesting I studied another of my intsruments - this made me feel really uncomfortable and if I was a less confident flautist, I actually think it could've significantly knocked my confidence.  I found out afterwards that it's a technique they sometimes use to test your dedication to the instrument you've chosen - but to me it seems like a really negative way to find out.

I think this was possibly the weirdest audition I have ever experienced and I've come away having absolutely no idea how it went.  I have learned several things from it though so am definitely grateful for the opportunity but if I get an offer, I won't be accepting it unless it's my only conservatoire offer.  This is just my opinion and feeling towards studying there but I know it's an amazing place to study so please don't be put off applying there - it's just not right for me.

See you next time!

As always, please leave a comment if you have any questions - I'm happy to help in any way I can.