From music conservatoire auditions to consultation lessons,
student Sophie Oliver shares her experiences.
Hello, my name is Sophie and I am now a second year student at the Royal Academy of Music. I started the cello when I was six years old and have always loved it; I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music. However, I was not sure whether to take the university or conservatoire route!
I originally applied in 2018 to study music at four universities (Royal Holloway, Southampton, Bristol and Birmingham), as well as the four London conservatoires (Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Trinity Laban, Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music).
The music audition
My first audition was at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. For this we were required to prepare a study, the first movement of a concerto and another contrasting piece. I played the first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the first movement of Barber’s Cello Sonata and Popper Study No.10. There were three people on the panel in my audition and at the end I was asked a series of questions. These included why I wanted to study at Guildhall and which professor I would want to learn with. They also asked if I had any questions (it is fine to say that you don’t!).
My next audition took place at Trinity Laban and this followed a similar format, although we didn’t have to play a study. Instead they gave us sight- reading which we had a chance to look at in the warm up room. We also had to do an aural test at Trinity (your place doesn’t depend on this!). The Royal Academy of Music also had an aural test as well as a written test- this is just to gauge everyone’s ability. Again, your place does not depend on this. My last audition was at Royal College of Music. This did not have an aural or written test, but they did give a short sight reading in the audition.
Each conservatoire does provide its own accompanist; however, I brought my own as the Barber Sonata has a fiendishly difficult piano part! Remember to thank your accompanist after you have played and before they leave the room in your audition. The panel really notice details like this! Some conservatoires also ask you to come back for a second audition, usually on the same day. This can be to arrange a scholarship, but this is not guaranteed. Try and be positive about the audition experience- the panel want you to do well.
After I received my offers, I knew I wanted to pursue the conservatoire rather than university route- I wanted my focus to be on my cello playing rather than a broader music degree. I then booked consultation lessons. Some people had booked these before the auditions; however, I did all of mine after. I went through the list of cello professors at each conservatoire and arranged lessons with those I potentially wanted to learn with. When having your consultation lesson, remember to ask the professor any questions you might have. I wanted to gain an insight into their teaching and technique. Also, I wanted to know how they manage teaching and a performing career (be aware that some professors can have a heavy performance schedule and may frequently be away).
I was delighted with my offers and scholarships! I am now studying with Josephine Knight, Alfredo Piatti Chair of Cello, at the Royal Academy of Music.
You may also be interested in: First Year Experiences at Music Conservatoire