Monthly Archives: August 2020

Interview with Bernice Chitiul

This interview took place online on 25 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Bernice Chitiul.

Ian Pace: Today’s interview is with Bernice Chitiul, who graduated from the BMus programme in 2017. Bernice is an opera singer, who debuted as the Queen of the Night, in Mozart’s Magic Flute, with the Welsh National Opera Orchestra. She is also a pop singer and was a contestant in the Romanian National Selection for 5 consecutive years. She also works as a songwriter, Vocal/A Level & GCSE Teacher and music/video producer. See below for some links to films of Bernice.

(Bernice singing Vivaldi)

(A very different video from 2012)

IP: Bernice, it is great to see you again! Tell me some more about your musical background before you came to City? You were a renowned pop singer in Romania, then went to study at the Purcell School in London, yes?

Bernice Chitiul: My parents have been a source of musical inspiration since I was a child. They were a successful band until I arrived and ruined it all 😃 Of course the attention has shifted upon me ever since and my first original song was recorded by the time I was 4 years old entitled ”A Little Star”. I had a competition every week in Bucharest and for the rest of the days I would practice hard to get good results. I hardly had free time to spend with friends or for summer holidays. Even the Summer holiday was indeed spent at the sea side but for the Summer Contest that was happening there. This however implied that I would not be allowed to sunbathe, swim or enjoy the sea side because it would affect my singing performance as the salty air would affect my vocal folds 😃 Splendid. Most often competitions were on TV and I started making connections and so I was then invited to different Shows. Eventually I had to choose between X Factor and The Voice by the time I was called by the producers. This then led to the Eurovision Participations and slowly introduced my songwriting. On one of the shows I sang ”It is a man’s world” – James Brown & Pavarotti version which implied some classical singing too. I tried to experiment with classical singing back then, I fancied the idea of being an opera singer. One member of the jury said that If SHE could not combine both Pop and Opera singing techniques, she doubts that I will be able to. That was – funnily enough – the reason why I came to London and began my classical career 🙂 To try and see if it indeed is true. I went to Purcell School – in 2013 I had my first classical performance at the Wigmore Hall, which gave me an incredible boost in classical singing, and then chose to study at City University of London to get my 3 years intake of musical ”food” 🙂 Of course after a Master degree in Opera at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama let’s say that I master both pop and classical technique and yes, it is possible. It is thus best to believe in ourselves and work towards making our dream come true whatever that may be!

IP: How did you find the adjustment between the two very different types of singing, not least in terms of the physical requirements on the voice?

BC: I was so passionate about this aspect that I chose to reinforce the idea that a complete artist should be able to perform any type of music genre. I have outlined a journey from Pop to Jazz, Musical Theatre to Classical Singing in my major presentation at City University of London during my final year of study. I have explained the difference between the singing techniques and demonstrated it within a performance each. After doing my 5 years research, I then could shift from one technique to another easily. It feels like maths or music theory – once we use the perfect equation we will get the right result. Before I struggled having my larynx tired after singing only 20 minutes now I can sing as long as I wish and my voice will not get tired. Of course one needs to understand the difference between the tension on the vocal folds in both Pop and Opera.

IP: What made you choose City for your undergraduate studies?

BC: I chose City University because of the variety of modules it provides. The advanced Music Theory along with the Studio Recording/Music Production and Performance modules seemed to be just perfect for me. Also the Classical Style, 19th Century Opera Music and Composition module shaped my mindset completely to a higher level – just perfect for my next destination: Masters Degree.

IP: How did the ‘academic’ modules you studied (including studio-based ones) relate to what you were doing as a singer?

BC:The Music Theory module helped me understand the harmonic world and express myself better when talking about why the arias I sing the most are so touching. Also it enabled me to communicate with conductors and musicians in their musical language more efficiently. It enhanced my sight reading and not last, given that I am a songwriter too, I was eager to find smarter ways to compose music and approach interesting chord progressions.

The Composition and Studio Music Production added more boost to my songwriting and confidence.

The Classical Style module introduced me to relevant historic composers who made it in the music industry in a very clever way. One of the composers which had an impact on my songwriting and singing career was Haydn. He had to adapt to the English short and harmonically simple music, compose for the audience, sacrifice his vast harmonic knowledge to compose simple music, get the English audience’s attention/praise and progressively along the years make his compositions elaborate and longer. He educated his audience, and he succeeded. We all need to adapt and learn to smoothly elaborate any musical opportunity.

The 19th Century Opera Music module was a very concentrated package of information of about 60 renowned operas including music theory details, historic background, vocal analysis down to even the collaborative process between the composers and singers. This module was such a great knowledge boost to the Operatic world that was waiting for me just around the corner 🙂

IP: How about your ensemble work relating to African, Latin-American and other traditions?

BC: First of all I am very thankful for the fact that I was given the opportunity to coordinate my own ensemble module in the first year, called Berliozya. It gave me an opportunity to work with musicians, understand how to deal with individual musicians, organize/report rehearsal times and concerts. I also thank the members of the ensemble for choosing to be part of my module and taste how it would be like to work with other musicians within an ‘Opera House’ setting.

I totally loved being part of the Latin-American ensemble as I made progress in improvisation and complex rhythm writing. I also was very proud to find that later after I graduated I found myself knowing the most important songs that all the Latin American ensembles sing. I could very easily join them. It also helps me as a teacher – as I believe understanding rhythm is a key role in a successful musician and have a vast knowledge of Latin Music harmony too. Gamelan was a great ensemble to be in as well as it opened my musical horizons.

IP: What would you recommend to others thinking of studying music as part of higher education?

BC: I would recommend them to take into consideration that it may take a lot of effort, practice, sacrifice and patience. Sometimes we would have to adapt to new circumstances and if we do not have opportunities – to learn how to create them. For sure once one will finally make it, one will have a tremendous sense of achievement. City University of London would be the best place to study at as it is focused on individual careers with a lot of options to choose from. The teachers are interested in everyone’s achievement and very supportive.

IP: Bernice, thank you so much for this interview. Do you have any further links you would like to share with us?

BC: hank you for this conversation and thank you for keeping an eye on Alumni Students. Here is a performance I had at Eurovision 2018 in one of the most touristic salt mines in Romania. It was a great but also scary experience as this was a couple of miles underground. While I sang the high operatic parts my heart was in my mouth 😹


Interview with Anna Vaughan

This interview took place online on 22 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Anna Vaughan.

Ian Pace: Anna Vaughan graduated from the BMus course at City in 2017, and is currently doing a part-time masters at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where she focuses on performance. During her studies she is doing a lot of educational work, focusing on the Kodály method, which she learned at City. She is currently working on a project funded by the Weingarten Scheme to get Kodály-inspired learning into primary schools. She has also been working as an ambassador for The Benedetti Foundation working alongside violinist Nicola Benedetti. Performance and Education are the two main driving forces in her career at the moment.

Anna, thank you for doing this interview! Could you tell me a little about what role music played in your education and wider background prior to coming to City?

Anna Vaughan: I was lucky enough to be in a musical family. Both my parents are incredible musicians and my father is a composer. Listening to all sorts of music was a huge part of my childhood. My parents took me to lots of concerts. I started to learn the violin in primary school, followed by the piano in later years. I played in the local orchestras, leading the South Cheshire Youth Sinfonia then co leading the Cheshire Youth Orchestra. I also got taken to the pub at a young age to play with the folk band in the local village. This was great fun!!

In terms of education in schools, there was a small music department at my school. However, I was involved in all the music activities and opportunities like playing at the Montreux Jazz festival or in Venice Cathedral. Opportunities like these helped inspire me to continue do music into later life.

That’s just a small snippet of my musical background prior to City.

IP: Can I ask what in particular attracted you to City, as you were from a family in which I would imagine there was a greater awareness of the various options available?

AV: I wasn’t prepared to go to a conservatoire at the time. Universities seemed to give a more all rounded degree. London itself was a big attraction. Specifically at City, the fact that all the tutors very active outside the university in what they were teaching was appealing. In comparison to other degrees, City offered such a wide range of modules. This was especially helpful as I did not really know what I wanted to specify in before coming to City. Alongside all the academic opportunities, the performance opportunities were attractive. Firstly the performance space was very unique but also the ensembles that City offered were incredibly varied. These were the main things that attracted me in comparison to other music degrees.

IP: Tell me some more about the types of modules you took, and areas you studied, during your time at City?

AV: First year was a great all-round year. Music in Oral Cultures (music around the world), Investigating Western Music (history of western music from 1450), Materials of Tonal Music (general harmonic analysis), Practical Musicianship and Composition.

I then went to do a study abroad semester in Australia at the University of Queensland. Here I studied about aboriginal and indigenous music, popular music and performance. I was fortunate enough to play in the orchestra they had there and in a quartet. At the end of the semester we played in the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

I then returned to City in January and continued to study Orchestral and Instrumental Studies and Sound, Music and Moving Image.

In the third year I studied, Sound Art and Technoculture, Historical Performance Practice alongside my major projects.

Each year I took part in all the ensembles possible. These included African Drumming, Latin Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Balkan Ensemble, Middle Eastern Ensemble, Experimental Ensemble. And of course Balinese Gamelan!! These ensembles were so vital to my passion for performance.

As you can see, my degree became an incredibly diverse degree.

IP: How do you feel those diverse elements related to one another? Nowadays you are focusing on classical violin, yes? But has your work studying music from a plural range of cultures impacted upon that, or for that matter some of the other stuff you did when looking at music and the moving image, or historical performance practice, for example?

AV:To be honest Ian, at the time the reason I took the modules was because I thought they were so diverse and not really relatable. However, as time went on, I began to realise that the influence from music in oral cultures for example had an impact on my views for orchestral and instrumental studies. Or the things I learnt in Historical Performance Practise informed a lot of my views for Sound, Art and Technoculture.

The main impact that these diverse modules has had is the impact on my performance skills. Yes I am a classical contemporary violinist. I play a wide range of genres but focus on this in my Masters. I feel like the diverse elements of my degree has given me the tools to appreciate different genres, be able to adapt in different musical situations for example being in a recording studio, collaborating with composers, creating new music. I can make informed musical decisions due to all the knowledge I have required. All modules have had a huge impact on my tools for performance.

IP: What types of solo performance work were most important for you during your time at City?

AV :For solo performance, the masterclass workshop we got with Susanne Stanzeleit was very inspirational. The fact that we got professional tutors who were leaders in their field became vital to my success. I became very interested in contemporary music and the help I got from you Ian (Head of performance at the time) enabled me to progress in that particular area.

However, I would like to say that the ensemble opportunities I was given gave me the confidence to progress in my solo performance. There’s something to be said about the importance of ensemble playing for a solo musician. You learn an incredible amount playing with people and city offered a huge amount of that for me.

IP: And you’ve gone on to work more with Susanne, I think, since leaving City?

AV: Yes, I began getting lessons from her once I had graduated. I had private lessons with her during my time educating in London and performing with orchestras before I got into Birmingham to study a Masters. She is now my tutor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

It was a very important contact to have as it has now lead me onto where I am now in my career. I’ve found that a lot of people I met at City have lead me onto great opportunities later on in my career. Susanne is a prime example.

IP: Returning to contemporary music, which type of work, say written since 1945, have you found most of interest to you?

AV: In my second year, I performed John Cage’s Six melodies for violin and keyboard, composed in 1950. I still work on this piece as I became transfixed by its folky yet still atmosphere. I recently performed this again at Birmingham.

I also became very interested in Lutosławski’s compositions after playing Subito for Violin and Piano. I became fascinated in his orchestral works after this.

Playing Steve Reich’s Violin Phase was an amazing experience at City also. The tech team made it possible for me to explore my interest in Violin and electronics music.

IP: City is certainly a department at which, in recent years, a lot of faculty members are actively involved with new music. Do you think that sort of wider culture there inspired this type of interest?

AV: Yes completely. I was able to get the support from so many lecturers like Tullis Rennie, Claudia Molitor, yourself and many more! In the experimental ensemble, we played many new compositions. Something that hugely inspired me was playing at IKLECTIK. Having opportunities to meet and play the compositions of Michael Finnissy also ignited a passion to collaborate with composers. Creating sound walks with Claudia again widened my passion for contemporary music. All these elements of new music allowed me to narrow my passion from a broad background of knowledge. Contemporary music can be quite daunting to approach however the staff at City gave me the tools and the listening to grow my passion for it.

IP: Is there anything you would do differently if you were eighteen again now, knowing what you do? What would you recommend to others at that age considering studying music in higher education?

AV: I would change my view on myself. I had a bad habit of thinking everyone was better and I wasn’t good enough. This changed as I slowly began to find out what I wanted to do and what was unique about my musicality. You have to constantly ask yourself ‘okay what am I going to contribute to this industry’. I wish I didn’t follow what other people were doing as much.

I would tell others at the age of 18 wanting to go into music to please please please take advantage of as many opportunities as you can. I would also importantly say, your passion is important. Don’t play or create things just because other people are. Do what you have a passion for and what you feel is unique to you. Contribute to the music industry and community, don’t battle or compete with it.

IP: Do you have any particular abiding personal (not about study) memories from your time at City?

AV: Something that’s nice about City is its not a big music department. You got to know everyone. Lots of social nights in London with everyone and events at uni like the Christmas Cabaret where potentially too much wine was consumed? If that’s ever a thing.

IP: Anna, many thanks for doing this interview.

Interview with Hannah Rose Wood

Ian Pace: Today I’m very pleased to welcome back another recent graduate, Hannah Rose Wood, who completed the BMus course in 2019. After graduating, Hannah did a PGCE in Secondary Music at UCL Institute of Education, and recently qualified as an NQT Secondary School Music Teacher. She will start a new job in two weeks time at a local secondary school in Essex.

Hannah, it is good to see you again! You graduated just a year ago, so I imagine your time at City must still be quite fresh in the memory? Is there any one experience in particular which might serve as the epitome of your three years with us?

Hannah Wood: Hi Ian, thank you for having me! Yes, my time at City is still fresh in my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at City and it opened my mind to lots of different music and musical perspectives. City offered numerous different modules, equipping me with new skills and knowledge in many areas, that I can now take forward with me in my teaching career. One of my highlights has to be playing in the Balinese and Javanese gamelan ensembles led by Andy Channing, performing in concerts and at the Christmas cabaret.

IP: I believe Javanese and Balinese gamelan became a quite central part of your musical interests, yes? Had you any experience or knowledge of these before coming to City?

HW:  Yes definitely! I had virtually no knowledge of gamelan before joining City, only one taster session at the Southbank Centre, on a school trip. I joined both the Balinese and Javanese ensembles at City and developed a love for gamelan, which ended up becoming the focus of my dissertation. My dissertation title was: ‘How Javanese gamelan music has influenced rhythmic aspects and temporal perceptions in Lou Harrison’s Music for Gamelan with Western Instruments’

I took a different approach away from arguments of exoticism, instead exploring models of musical time. My fascination with concepts of temporality and rhythmic analysis stemmed from Newton Armstrong’s module ‘Rhythm’, which was definitely my favourite module from my time at City, as it opened my mind to different musical perspectives.

In my dissertation, I explored temporality in gamelan music from a rhythmic and analytical perspective, analysing two pieces of Javanese gamelan music that I played in City’s Javanese gamelan ensemble. I applied Jonathan Kramer’s theory of vertical and linear time and Harald Kreb’s theory of metical consonance and dissonance and rhythmic strata to these pieces and then applied my findings to two of Harrison’s works, which combine western and non-western musical features. I concluded with how his works can be perceived from perspectives of directed and non-directed linearity and vertically and ultimately how these differing transcultural concepts of time make Harrison’s work intriguing.

I also explored gamelan music for one of my compositions for my major project composition. I created my own pelog scale using quarter tone fingerings, which I played on my flute.

IP: That was an exceptional dissertation, for sure. Have you continued with any gamelan-related activities since finishing at City?

HW: Thank you! During my teacher training at UCL IOE, one of our sessions was a gamelan workshop at the LSO. It was great to play some gamelan again and catch up with Andy.

IP: What attracted you to City and the BMus course, when you were considering possible choices of where to study?

HW: The main reason was definitely the modules and ensembles on offer at City. Other places I looked at had less variety and didn’t have an orchestra. When I joined City, I really wanted to play in an orchestra, and that was something City offered. It was a great experience to be able to play in the chamber orchestra concerts that City held at St Clement’s Church. I also wanted to live in London, which has a wide and diverse music scene. I often watched the weekly concerts put on at City and attended a gamelan concert at the LSO.

IP:  As well as employing theoretical models for studying rhythm, and your gamelan experiences, were there other new perspectives or approaches you discovered during your study?

HW: Absolutely! At Sixth Form, composition was something I struggled with and did not enjoy that much, but this completely changed when I joined City. I would never have imagined that I would end up taking composition as one of my major projects before City! The lecturers provided me with a new outlook on composition, teaching me new skills and giving me ideas. In my major project ‘Disparate but connected: An exploration into the combination of contemporary techniques with historical models from European and non-European music’, I sought to integrate contemporary techniques that create sonorous and interesting effects with pre-existing styles of music, including Japanese shakuhachi music, European Medieval and Renaissance period music that used a cantus firmus and lastly gamelan music.

IP: As you are about to start teaching at secondary level yourself, what would you say should be the priorities in terms of music teaching and provision there?

HW: As music is an embodied practice that places emphasis on practical and creative aspects, I believe it is important to teach music musically, through active involvement. Learning through actively playing and listening can deepen understanding and without it, music can become disconnected from its context. In my second school training placement, the school used a Musical Futures approach and their lessons were very practical and encouraged creativity. The pupils were very engaged and their understanding was deepened through performance. This led to a research project I completed entitled: ‘Investigating teaching strategies for whole class ensemble lessons in a year 7 class at a mixed state free school’. I argued about the importance of active musical learning, evaluating different approaches to whole class ensemble teaching, that I incorporated into the design of a unit of work that I can use and continue to develop in my future teaching career.

IP: With that in mind, at tertiary level, do you feel there are separate benefits from university study, which is conventionally more focused upon scholarship and theoretical study, without excluding but with a less exclusive concentration upon practice, and that at a conservatoire, in which practical work plays a much more central role?

HW: I think you would definitely gain different benefits from each, however, I do feel that there were a variety of practical opportunities at City. In lectures, it was never simply just theoretical, everything was in a musical context enriched with listening examples and sometimes occasional practical demonstrations. Of course, it would depend on what modules you select, but I feel that there should be a good balance between theory and practice, and theory is equally important at both secondary and tertiary level.

IP: What would you say to someone aged around 18 considering studying music in higher education? 

HW: I would definitely say yes! I would ask them what it is they want to get from higher education and what their aspirations currently are for the future. Of course, they might not have a set career in mind and their interests may change throughout their time at university, which mine did. Nonetheless, it is important to pick a university that offers what you are interested in and also offers new experiences. I think students have very different experiences at different universities and I would encourage them to look at what modules and ensembles different universities offer. In my opinion, City certainly offered a wide and varied programme of modules and ensembles and I would certainly recommend City to future students.

IP: Hannah, many thanks for giving your time to do this interview! I hope everything goes well with your new teaching job!

HW: Thank you Ian, it has been a pleasure to be involved in your interviews!

Interview with Eloise Ruth Garland

This interview took place online on 15 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Eloise Ruth Garland.

Ian Pace: Hello again, all! I’d like to introduce you to another graduate of City’s BMus who has kindly agreed to do an interview, Eloise Ruth Garland, who graduated in 2016. Eloise is a professional musician, teacher, producer, and Deaf awareness campaigner based in London. She works alongside a number of charities and organisations to promote full inclusion and access to music for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. She is also Associate Director of Audiovisability, a professional music and arts platform for Deaf and hearing professionals to showcase their work. In 2017, Eloise presented the radio documentary Listening Without Ears, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as part of the station’s The Art of Living series (see the link below). The documentary explored ways in which people with hearing loss engage with music and sound, and challenged listeners to consider music appreciation from another perspective.

Eloise, you came to City from Chetham’s School of Music. What made you choose us, and how did the nature of your music study at university differ from what you had previously experienced?…

Eloise Garland: Hi Ian – hi everyone! Thanks for having me today.

That’s right; I was a student at Chetham’s before coming to City in 2013. One of the primary reasons I chose City was because it seemed to offer the best of both worlds; I knew I didn’t want to pursue an undergraduate degree at a conservatoire, but equally I wanted the opportunity to continue developing my performance skills to a high level. City’s BMus course offered the environment and resources to take performance to the next level in more academic surroundings without the intense pressures I had felt previously at a primarily performance-based school.

IP: And as the course progressed, did you find it was as you expected, or different in some ways?

EG: The course exceeded my expectations – not least due to the wide variety of modules to choose from, spanning all areas of music.

The first year offered a range of core modules designed to widen students’ perspectives and experiences of music as a whole. The musicianship classes were something I hadn’t quite experienced before – they were very challenging at first, but helped me to get a grasp on some of the areas of music that, as a violinist and singer, I hadn’t had the opportunity to develop previously (for example, complex rhythms!). The whole year stretched my knowledge and understanding of music around the world, and I was challenged to engage in activities such as composition – something that I had previously avoided! At the time I’m not sure I appreciated the impact that these modules would have, but looking back I can see how fundamental they were in furthering my learning and adjusting to higher education.

The second and third years of the course offered the opportunity to hone in on my interests and skills – and again, the modules on offer were always wide-ranging and interesting.

IP: What were some of the modules you took in your second and third years? I certainly remember you taking several of the ones I taught then.

EG: Yes, I took several of your modules, including ‘Music, Fascism and Communism’, ‘Debussy’, and ‘Nineteenth Century Opera’. I really valued the discussions we had as a group each week, fuelled of course by the additional reading materials and recordings. These discussions would cover all aspects of the music, such as score analysis, performance interpretation, and the social and political landscapes that influenced composers. This really developed my independent critical thinking which has had a lasting impact on many aspects of my career.

I also took a variety of other modules such as ‘Sound, Music and the Moving Image’, ‘Professional Development’, and ‘Music, Sound and the Environment’. The former and latter both offered the opportunity to consider how music is applied to our lifestyles and environments, while the Professional Development module allowed me to explore my interests as an emerging young musician. As students we were able to meet professional musicians working in the music industry and embark on work placements – a great opportunity to start building early networks!

IP: Fantastic – so have you been able to build upon some of the networks which began to form then?

EG: Absolutely – these networks have grown from very small roots to large branches over the last four or five years! I am still in touch with some of the professional contacts I made at City and they have all been incredibly supportive, offering guidance and moral support throughout my own journey.

IP: Since graduating, you have gone on to do a large amount of vital activity, teaching, broadcasting, campaigning, relating to deafness and hearing issues. May I ask how such issues affected your own study, and what sorts of measures institutions can best take to help those in a similar situation?

EG: Of course! I am particularly passionate about this area of work because I am deaf myself and wear two hearing aids. I also have severe tinnitus in both ears. As a musician I was faced with a unique set of challenges – for example, hearing aids often distort sounds, changing the pitch or volume of sound. Listening can be hard work and would often leave me absolutely exhausted at the end of the day.

While I did receive some support, at the time I was far less confident about advocating for myself and my needs – something I wish I could go back and change. That’s why I feel it is very important that new students who are deaf or have a disability are aware of the support that the university and faculty can offer. It may take the form of extra equipment (specialist microphones or a laptop), communication support (interpreters, note takers), or increased support in other areas (e.g. additional meetings with a mentor). I would urge any student who has any form of disability to talk to City’s Disability Support service and their lecturers during the very first week – it really will make things a lot easier!

IP: I know you have spoken about such things as the difficulties when lecturers move around frequently when they speak. Are there particular things like this you would recommend all those who teach think about?

I also imagine in this age, with facemasks, there are a new set of difficulties?

EG: Yes, there are a variety of simple techniques that make listening and watching far easier for deaf or hard of hearing students like myself. A few of my top tips are:

– Limit moving around the room too much or turning your back to the students as this makes it difficult to lipread.
– Avoid standing in front of windows as this casts your body and face into a silhouette (again, difficult for lipreading!).
– Repeat any questions or answers from other students before continuing with the discussion.
– If a student has one, use a special microphone which sends your voice directly to their hearing devices.
– If possible, set the room up so that everybody can be seen clearly.

Facemasks are also a bit of a nightmare! There are masks available with clear panels on the front – while not perfect, they do make the lips more visible and communication a little easier. If a student is struggling to hear you the first time, do repeat and rephrase what you’re saying, or discuss other ways of aiding communication.

IP: How about musicians themselves? What can they do, not least when playing with others who have hearing difficulties?

EG: Many of the same tips apply. For me, one of the most helpful things a conductor or director can do is to show bar numbers visually using their hands – this stops the old ‘is it bar 15 or 50?’ confusion creeping in! It isn’t hard to do and really does make the rehearsal process much smoother! Again, making sure that your face is clearly visible is key.

IP: Can you tell me some more about your educational work since leaving City?

EG: Sure – I work primarily with charities including Music of Life, Decibels, and Yorkshire Youth and Music to bring accessible music making opportunities to deaf and hard of hearing children and adults. People often assume that music needs to be simplified for deaf children – especially if they are British Sign Language users – but this isn’t the case. I am lucky to work alongside other deaf musicians such as flautist Ruth Montgomery to bring high-quality music education to all children, with a focus on general musicianship, reading notation, learning instruments, working in ensembles, and learning about music from around the world.

IP: You mentioned about multiple traditions of music from around the world earlier as well. Could you tell me of some which you have found especially interesting or captivating, and which you employ in your teaching nowadays?

EG: I am particularly attracted to music from the Middle East – an interest which was sparked during my second year at City whilst on Laudan Nooshin’s ‘Music Traditions of the Middle East’ module. I have since gone on to work with Laudan on a project with Tiny Owl Publishing, in which Laudan came to Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children to deliver a workshop about Iranian music. The children got the opportunity to see and hear a qanun – a plucked Iranian zither – and create their own rhythms using daf drums. I am still using these rhythms in my teaching to this day!

IP: I know you also have some thoughts on the opportunities for music study amongst those from less privileged or monied backgrounds. Would you like to share any reflections on this issue?

EG: I think it is a complex issue but, as someone from a working-class (and non-musical) background, I am very passionate about spreading the word that music can and should be accessible to all. Many local authorities, especially in London and other large cities, offer brilliant ‘wider ops’ classes for school children – often for free – so I would urge parents to take every opportunity available to them and their children. There were no such schemes where I grew up (North Wales), so I first picked a violin up aged 9 when the school decided to hire a teacher.

Importantly, just like I mentioned with deaf and hard of hearing students, I believe that music needn’t be simplified because of a person’s background – everyone is capable of achieving in music, and we all benefit from having hundreds of thousands of fantastic resources at our fingertips these days!

IP: My parents both came from working-class backgrounds, though by the time I came along, they could be said to have belonged to the lower middle class. They just got a piano into the house as a piece of furniture and apparently I asked about having lessons. But nowadays there are many who say classical music is a purely ‘middle class’ thing, of no ‘relevance’ to those from other backgrounds. Have you come across such views, and do you have any responses to them?

EG: I come across these views on an almost daily basis, and it shows just how much work there is left to do. I believe role models one of the most effective ways to show children and young people that classical music is relevant to everyone. Both Chetham’s and City were very good at this type of outreach work when I was studying!

IP: On a lighter note, do you have any particular abiding memories (not necessarily directly about study) from your time at City?

EG: I think one of my favourite memories from City was at the 2013 Christmas Cabaret. I distinctly remember 10 of us gathered around the piano (including one person lying on top!), each playing with one finger. I can’t remember what we were playing – but it was an awful lot of fun!

IP: The ‘Restrictive Practices Suite’! Transcribed from here. (It was Chris Wiley laying on the top of the piano). You must come back and we should do it again sometime!

Eloise, thank you so much for your time and fascinating thoughts. Do you have any further links you would like to share?

EG: That’s it – what a brilliant time!

I’d like to share the link to the recent Music of Life online conference where you can find out a bit more about the work I have been focusing on since 2017. We are just about to take on 4 new trainees for the 2020/21 academic year and there will be other opportunities in future to get involved. Do reach out to me if you would like to find out more.

Thanks for having me this evening – it has been great!


New set of interviews with former and current undergraduates

A range of former and current students have been interviewed over the last few days. All the interviews are available to read on this blog at the following links:

Genevieve Arkle

Jade Bailey

Bernice Chitiul

Alex de Lacey

Siân Dicker

Toby Edwards

Eloise Ruth Garland

Sarah Innes

James Perkins

Honey Rouhani 

Laura Selby

Anna Vaughan

Hannah Rose Wood

Interview with Jade Bailey

This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between Dr Erik Nyström, Admissions Tutor for the BSc in Music, Sound and Technology, and current BSc student Jade Bailey.

Erik Nyström: I’d like to welcome Jade Bailey for an interview. Jade is a second-year student on our BSc programme and – amongst many other things – a very talented sound designer and studio composer. Her recent piece ‘Conversations’ is linked here:

Jade, could you tell us a bit about what brought you to our BSc programme?

Jade Bailey: Hi Erik, thank you for inviting me to chat today! When I was applying for university I initially struggled with choosing a programme, I knew I wanted to study within music but was unsure whether to take a 100% sound design route or to study music more broadly. Upon attending multiple Open Days at City, I found that the BSc Music, Sound and Technology programme had everything I was looking for – featuring a wide range of practical and written modules whilst also offering sound design and composition as core modules, which was very important to me.

EN: Great, what kind of background experience in music or sound and technology did you have?

JB: Prior to studying at City I had only studied Music at GCSE Level, but I have always had a keen interest and passion for music having played piano from a young age. I had developed a strong interest in music technology, such as music production and sound design whilst studying for my A-Levels and began producing and composing my own music – which lead me to pursue a degree in Music Technology!

EN: That’s great, many of our incoming students have similar background experience,and have also no doubt been through the decision anxiety of what route to take in university. You mention the combination of practical and written modules, have you found it rewarding to be able to link theory and practice?

JB: Yes definitely! I’m a firm believer that you need an equal balance of theory and practice, especially on a course like Music Technology. It’s essential to learn the theory behind specific skills, such as within Studio Recording and Composition, in order to be able to put these ideas into practice effectively.

EN: I agree, and we try to link theory and practice as much as we can. Critical thinking and listening is also important for creativity. Which modules have you enjoyed the most so far?

JB: I’ve really enjoyed all of the modules I have taken so far, but my favourites have definitely been Sound Design and Studio Composition, as these modules do a great job of merging theory with creative practice and allow a lot freedom in terms of creative expression. Another of my favourite modules has been Electronic Dance Music, which taught the origins of EDM in Techno and House music and culminated in a field trip to Fabric which was fantastic!

EN: Yes, the field trip to Fabric is a favourite for many I think. I’ve never been there daytime! 🙂 You’ve certainly done well in sound design and studio composition, are these interests that you are hoping to pursue in your future as well?

JB: Absolutely! The Sound Design and Studio Composition modules have definitely helped me find ‘my sound’, so to speak. Before joining City I had never encountered electroacoustic composition as studied within Studio Composition – and now it is my favourite part of university study! This is a prime example of the wide range of knowledge and sound practices I have been introduced to on the BSc programme, and has definitely been one of the most rewarding parts of my degree so far!

EN: That’s great, and electroacoustic music is something that City has been doing since 1975, so we should be a good place for that! You mention your ‘sound’ could you tell us a bit about what techniques and software you like to use in your work?

JB: Of course! I primarily use Logic Pro X when composing, as it is the DAW I am most familiar with. Whenever I am composing I like to go on sound walks as well as use field recording techniques to gather sound material, as I don’t use samples in any of my works. To do this, I use my Tascam DR-05X which I have found perfect for field recording as it is so light and portable! In terms of techniques, I often take elements of what I have learnt whilst studying sound design on board when I am composing as this definitely helps widen the range of sound material I can gather. For example, one my recent pieces ‘Enniscrone’ uses the sound of my hands on my bedroom carpet to mimic the sound of ocean waves!

EN: Wow, that’s great, I had no idea, it’s really quite mind-blowing how deceptive sound can be! For readers, Enniscrone can be heard in the linked here: I remember you made a very impressive sound design piece with granular synthesis as well in year 1. What are you planning to do for your Major Project in the final year?

JB: My Major Project in Composition will be based on the concept of “The Musicality of the Mundane”, in which I am planning to undertake extensive critical listening and field/studio recording sessions in order to unveil the musical qualities (such as pitched/rhythmic/sonic qualities) that everyday, non-musical objects possess. I am also planning to present these findings in a series of hyper-real electroacoustic compositions.

EN: That’s very interesting. Were you always drawn to the hidden musicality in everyday sounds or is that something that you’ve discovered more during your studies?

JB: I would say this is something I have discovered since joining City, more specifically since joining City University Experimental Ensemble. Without sounding overly-dramatic, this ensemble has definitely changed the way I hear and appreciate sound. Since joining CUEE I have frequently found myself paying closer attention to the sounds around me than I had prior to joining the ensemble. Also, within the composition modules I have studied we are often asked to consider the bridge between sound and music, and how the two concepts are different. This method of teaching, coupled with my newfound appreciation of sound has certainly inspired the concept for my Major Project.

EN: I see, that makes sense. Do you have any advice for incoming students?

JB: My main piece of advice would be to get as involved in the music department as you can, whether this be in the form music-making with other students, attending the various extra-curricular activities and events taking place in the department, or volunteering to help out at a department event. One of the first things I noticed when I joined City was the strong sense of community within the music department. Everybody knows everyone, regardless of your year of study and whether you study the BSc or the BMus – so make sure to get as involved as possible!!

EN: That’s really good advice, Jade. We do place a lot of value in community and there is a really wide range of interests among students in the department. Thanks so much for your time Jade, and sharing so many insightful views!

JB: No problem! Thank you so much for having me!!

EN: Thanks Jade, and I wish you a great experience in year three!


Interview with Toby Edwards

This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Toby Edwards.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Toby Edwards. Toby graduated from City in 2018, since which time he has been working on a series of music projects, one a band with Felipe Airey-Franco and Tom Overton, who graduated the same year as him, the other an experimental free improvisation collective he co-founded with Jamie Turner who graduated from City the year before, all while working out what was to come next which will be a masters’ at Goldsmiths starting this term coming.

Toby, welcome back. Your time at City was somewhat more recent than with some others who have been interviewed, and so I imagine many things still remain quite fresh and vivid – what are your abiding memories from your study with us?

Toby Edwards: What’s stayed with me the most from my time at City is certainly the modules and lectures, which is all thanks to lecturers, including yourself! I think it would be difficult not to vouch for the quality of teaching and teachers at City, they are all so passionate, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about their subjects and clearly very happy to be teaching them! The breadth of learning you can give yourself with your module choices at City is something to be envied, take advantage of this!

I remember speaking to friends on other courses at other universities and they’d often say that their lectures are boring and they often not bother to go, but for me that was never once a thought – I consistently found myself gaining so much from the teaching at City that lectures were something to look forward too, even when waking up early!

Special mentions to the Christmas Cabaret and also to the City University Experimental Ensemble, it introduced a completely new manner of playing music to me, as well as being an all around fun, meditative, relaxing, invigorating ensemble to be in! I’ll forever be thankful to Tullis for it. (You can even spot me in the banner photo above during a CUEE rehearsal).

IP:  What were amongst your early musical interests before beginning undergraduate study?

TE: Before joining the course at City I had actually done my first year of study at the University of Kent, I was unsatisfied with the course there and looked into the possibility of transferring and City were happy to take me.

Before I went to university at all, I was interested in, but not exceptionally knowledgeable of, soul, jazz and classical, as a listener of all three and performer of soul and jazz. A fan of learning James Jamerson basslines, learning more about playing jazz, listening to Shostakovitch, but of course going to a university to study music busted this right open. I was rapidly introduced to a far greater variety of music than I had ever been before and my interests developed, deepened, and I wanted to learn more about more. Part of my reason for leaving Kent in favour of City was the lack of variety in Kent’s module choices at the time, which City provided to me more than amply.

IP: Which modules did you take at City?

TE: In my second year I did the core module Analysing Music, then my choices were: Instrumental and Vocal Composition, Music Traditions of the Far East (which I was lucky enough to be on during Prof. Steve Stanton’s final year of teaching), Historical Performance Practice, Music, Fascism and Communism; and Popular Music Now.

In my final year I chose to do two major projects, a Dissertation on Debussy’s relationship with Japanese art and his music, and a Composition portfolio which explored indeterminacy in composition and performance. My chosen modules were: Debussy, Orchestral and Instrumental Studies, and Electronic Dance Music.

IP: I remember your dissertation on Debussy and Japanese art well! What attracted you to that sort of area in particular?

TE: The Music Traditions of the Far East module had introduced me to the Japanese art traditions and philosophies the year before, which continue to be a love of mine today (I have an Utamaro print from the early 20th century on my wall above me as I type!)

I can’t remember when exactly I saw them, but I came across a series of photos of Debussy and Stravinsky in one of Debussy’s studies, in one of these photos (which I’ve attached), you can clearly see two ukiyo-e prints: a copy of Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa, and a portrait of a woman I couldn’t identify. Seeing this led me to read about Japonisme, the Parisian centred fascination of Japanese art and culture in the mid to late 19th century. Japanese art was well loved, well collected, and influencing visual art significantly. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, and many other impressionists and turn of the century artists collected, praised and in some cases, directly included their ukiyo-e prints in their work.

Debussy was the same – the cover of the orchestral score for his orchestral work La Mer was an abridged copy of The Great Wave and a set of three piano works entitled Estampes, referring to ukiyo-e prints are the direct evidence of his inclusion of Japanese art in his work, I wanted to see if the connection went further than titles and front covers, so I went ahead and started reading, and some time later, I’d finished a dissertation about it!

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IP: Tell me some more about your experimental free improvisational work, and how that developed with your City colleagues?

TE:  I joined the City University Experimental Ensemble (CUEE) in my second year, I had never freely improvised before, but Tullis Rennie is excellent at getting everyone into the right mindset for it and introducing the mode of playing to the ensemble. it didn’t take very long for me to fall in love with free improvisation, which is surely thanks to all the work Tullis does for CUEE, and all my peers in the ensemble too – ensembles are great for learning and socialising!

Tullis gave us excellent opportunities to perform, with the annual CUEE performance at Iklectik near Waterloo and performances during the rest of the year as part of City’s concert series. We worked with a variety of composers for performances, such as Cath Roberts, Sam Andreae and Michael Finnissy.

It’s in the ensemble that I became friends with Jamie, who after graduating would go on to study a Sound Art masters at LCC. For his masters’ exhibition he wanted to have a live performance of his work: a book of haikus which he composed for music making, for which I was recruited. It was there I met the rest of what would become the collective Subphonics. In my experience the process of working on improvisational is very different from working in any other genre: a much more iterative process, with lots and lots of thought and discussion between playing sessions as you’re not working from scores, or typically from anything that is particularly musically prescriptive. We’ve improvised using sections of books by Zamyatin and Woolf, from how we felt on a very hot day, from using an old English folk song, often one of us may just start playing then we go from there. I find it such a joy to work in such a creative and group-focused manner and wholeheartedly recommend free improvisation and CUEE.

IP: Toby, thanks very much for your time and fascinating thoughts! Do you have any links relating to your work or anything else which interests you, which you would like to share?

TE: Subphonics has just released its first sort-of release: a collage of out recordings from our first year and a bit together as a collective, which I think well demonstrates what I’ve said about the joys of free improvisation and can be found here:

Thanks Ian!

Interview with Siân Dicker

This interview took place online on 134 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Siân Dicker.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Siân Dicker. Siân graduated from City in 2014 and went on to complete a Masters in vocal studies at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, before heading into their world-renowned 2 year opera course. Siân has won various prizes since leaving City, including the Llangollen Eisteddfod International Voice of the Future, the Royal Overseas League singers prize and is currently an ambassador of song for Oxford Lieder 2020. She’s currently looking forward to singing in Garsington Opera’s semi-staged production of Beethoven’s Fidelio taking place in September.

Sian, great to see you again! You’ve gone on to do a lot of very impressive things since finishing at City. How much did you envisage in this respect during your time with us?

Siân Dicker: Morning Ian, and morning everyone! Great to be here thanks for inviting me to chat. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities since leaving City but they mostly stemmed from the connections I made whilst I was at City; most notably my singing teacher Marie Vassiliou who I studied with whilst at City and who is still my teacher now. I knew I wanted to be a singer when I was at City but I most certainly didn’t envisage that I would go on to study at Guildhall or embark on the career that I have. I often feel like it’s been a case of being in the right place at the right time, but the performance opportunities I had at City certainly set me on the right path and kick started those contacts and connections. Notably, Guildhall connections through Marie and others but also ensembles which shaped my singing experience whilst at City including the chamber choir, the opera ensemble which we ran as a student-led project for a while and also performance opportunities with yourself, Ian – wonderful memories of Charroux! I always hoped I would have the opportunity to make a career as a singer but realised nothing was ever certain, but these experiences gave me a huge boost in terms of confidence and putting myself and my name out there.

IP: How did you find what you were doing as a singer while at City related to the rest of the course?

SD: For me, my singing experiences and the modules I was taking became entirely integrated. Some of this was expected – I took 19th century opera, performance, Historical performance practice, Investigating Western Music and many other modules that were directly related to the music I was singing and they informed my approach and my relationship with that music, its text and its history. Other modules/ensembles I took also had a huge impact on my singing but in a way that I had never anticipated it expected, notably African Drumming and the musicianship aspect that came along with that – even though I was a viola player and had played in orchestras, rhythm and readying rhythm were aspects of my own musicianship that I had always struggled with. At some point in the first couple of terms doing African drumming, it all just clicked into place and I could suddenly read rhythms that would have thrown me completely beforehand. It has really opened up a whole new aspect of performance for me because I now have a thriving relationship with singing new music; something I would have completely avoided beforehand. It’s given me access to a whole genre I wouldn’t previously have felt able to approach with confidence.

IP: What were some of your primary musical interests before you started at City?

SD: Singing and opera of course, and I have always been a big Wagner fan – this continued to develop during my time at City and I had a great time writing my third year major project on the Act 3 love duet in Siegfried with supervision from Alexander Lingas!

But I also had some interest in music education and this was something that was really nurtured whilst I was at City. I took the Professional Studies module and did a work placement with a music education charity, Sound Connections. This relationship grew beyond my time at City and I worked for them before embarking upon my studies at Guildhall – I still have strong connections with the music education world (particularly with Live Music Now for whom I deliver interactive performances in care homes and SEND schools) and this absolutely started with the connection made through that module at City.

IP: Do you think musicians in general should have some involvement with educational work?

SD: I think it’s a great way to see a direct impact of the work you’re doing – you get to see in a much more immediate way how your work is benefitting others. For me it’s about feeling and reminding myself that my work and my singing isn’t for me – it’s easy to get stuck in a practice room and ask yourself who it is you’re actually benefitting by practicing scales and runs for hours on end! I feel like if you’re just an artist for your own personal enjoyment then that’s great, but if you want to create a career for yourself then it can often lead to a lot of self-criticism and doubt. Art and music are for sharing and educational output is one of the most rewarding ways to do that. Educational work also doesn’t have to mean 1-1 teaching – I’m terrible at that and am much more confident and comfortable leading a workshop and/or creating an interactive performance for people to share in!

On a practical level I think it’s rare these days that professional musicians have a career solely set in performance, it’s not sustainable and so being involved in education work is a great way to share your artistry, pay the bills and most importantly soak up those experiences and learn from those you’re working with.

IP: I remember your taking a big interest in various philosophical writings from the nineteenth century, including Schopenhauer, some of Wagner’s writings, and so on. Do these remain an interest, or other musicological matters?

SD: Absolutely! Philosophical writings from Schopenhauer and Wagner’s relationship to those had a huge impact on my approach to his music, both as a listener and a performer. Last year I actually performed Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and explored a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ approach through song (of course Wagner’s thoughts on this were centred around opera). I engaged an actor, a visual artist and a gallery space and we created a piece where we all (myself a pianist included) created a piece in response to Wagner’s music and also letters he wrote to Mathilde Wesendock. The primary focus and drive behind this was to create a more accessible performance of the music and make it easier to share with a more diverse audience. Wagner’s music can often appear difficult to engage with and so we used his own concepts and ideas with cross-arts collaboration to try and create a more inclusive space to share his work. I’d love to do this again soon!

IP: Obviously, as a prodigious performer, you could have chosen to go to university or to conservatoire. What made you opt for the former?

SD: As a young singer with a bigger voice, I needed more time to develop vocally and technically, university provided me with the opportunity to develop not only as a singer but as a full rounded musician and musicologist . The opportunity to dip your toe into the world of musicology is an experience that is unique to studying music at university. The opportunity to study a diverse range of modules alongside of performance studies appealed to me greatly and wouldn’t have been as readily available if I had studied my undergraduate at a conservatoire. Exploring a culturally diverse range of music and modules has had a lasting impact on me as a performer and leaving with a degree from university has opened doors for me, not only in the performance world but other sectors also. This was important to me when I was applying to study.

IP: Could you give me any further examples of anything you have sung for which your musicological training impacted upon you sang it?

SD: I mentioned how I very much took a musicological approach in my performance of Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder last year. So I suppose that’s the most specific example, but I always do musicological research around any music (especially opera) that I’m approaching and particularly enjoy educating myself on the relationships between composers, librettists and their lives at that time. This can only ever enhance your understanding of the character you’re playing.

IP: What would you advise to young people thinking of pursuing music in higher education?

SD: I think my main price of advice would be to push yourself to explore genres and areas of music that are out of your comfort zone and that you might not have previously considered. They could have a huge impact on how you approach your own work and for me personally that’s one of the things I gained most at City. It was unexpected but pushing myself to explore the diverse range of options available at City had a huge impact on myself as an artist and my professional development when leaving university.

IP:  Sian, thanks so much for doing this interview. Would you share some links for those who want to hear you perform?

SD: Thanks for having me! Can’t recommend City highly enough and am very proud to be an alumna. You can find all info and links to some performances on my website:

Thanks Ian, it’s been great to reconnect!

Interview with Alex de Lacey

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This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Alex de Lacey.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Alex de Lacey for the second interview today. Alex graduated from the City BMus in 2014, and from the MA in 2015. He is now a Lecturer in Popular Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. Alex’s research examines Afrodiasporic music practice in the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on grime. He completed his PhD, entitled Level Up: Live Performance and Collective Creativity in Grime Music, under the supervision of Professor Tom Perchard and Professor Keith Negus earlier this year, has published with Global Hip-Hop Studies and has chapters forthcoming in Popular Music History, and Critical Digital Pedagogy. Alex is a journalist, and writes for Complex, Red Bull, and Songlines. He is the DJ for grime crew Over The Edge, with a monthly show on Mode FM.

Alex, welcome! You are very active in musicological fields relating to popular musics today. Does this have any roots in your study at City?

Alex de Lacey: Hi Ian – yes, it definitely does. I spent a lot of time at City studying jazz and popular forms, and my undergraduate dissertation examined grime music, which has since led onto my Masters and PhD research. The grounding in popular practice with Miguel Mera worked well alongside practical application in a variety of ensembles. The UG degree also offered broad horizons, with modules on music from the Middle East, Japan, Korea and China, and this helped me hone in on the ethnographic aspects of my later research.

IP: I’d be really interested to know more about the latter, and the relationship between your current work and study of Asian musics?

AdL: While my research now doesn’t directly overlap in terms of the music itself, a dedicated and considered approach to (what was at the time for me) unfamiliar practice has helped strengthen the way I conduct ethnography.

Nonetheless, there is, though, an interesting relationship between grime music and music from East Asia. Grime artists often employ exoticized compositional tropes that supposedly infer a “Far Eastern” sensibility. This often boils down to pentatonic scales, shakhuachi flutes, and the use of vocal samples from Manga and Karate films (which is quite reductive and problematic in many ways). The subcategory of “Sinogrime”, for example, is often contested regarding this and I wrote briefly about this in my PhD. There is definitely scope for further research here.

IP: What drew you to City in particular when you were looking at places to study?

AdL:  I was really in two minds before joining City. I couldn’t decide between it and another institution. But on the open day I had a really warm, frank and enlivening discussion with Professor Steve Stanton. His passion for the course, and for students, was so encouraging, and I feel that was also reflected in the department as a whole when I joined that September.

Outside of that conversation, it was definitely the opportunity to have Guildhall tuition alongside my academic study, and the range of ensembles on offer. I worked with Maria Camahort for a year on classical guitar, and studied musicianship with Laurie Blundell and Barak Schmool. These experiences provided me with a strong ear and skills in musicianship that have proven invaluable in my creative practice.

IP: What might you say to an 18-year old today thinking about studying music in higher education?

AdL: While it’s an uncertain time, I’d still highly recommend studying music. The varying skillsets developed within a music degree, through performing, composing, and musicological work, are vast. This means that you’ll be learning new things every day in a rich and exciting environment, and it’s also very attractive for employers. Music teaches you to work as a team, helps enliven the creative mind, and also encourages critical thinking on a range of issues (be they sociocultural, with respect to music theory, or otherwise).

I was initially studying an UG Degree in Mathematics at Durham, but moved to City to study music after the first year, because I was studying something I felt I should be studying, rather than what I actually wanted to do. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

IP: Alex, many thanks for your time. Do you have any links to your work, or other things in which you are interested, which you would like to share?

AdL: I have recently published a paper with Global Hip Hop Studies on Australian grime practice. It’s open access, and available here:…/0000…/00000001/art00007

My twitter handle is @delaceymusic.

Thanks Ian!

Interview with Sarah Innes

This interview took place online on 13 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus and MA graduate Sarah Innes.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Sarah Innes. Sarah did her BMus at City, 2011-14, then also an MA in 2016-17, where she wrote a major dissertation on the promotion of Russian/Soviet music in the UK during the mid-period of the Cold War. She is now Chief of Staff at nkoda (a subscription service for sheet music). She has been working there pretty much since I graduated from hery MA, and has worked my way up from a musicology intern through various roles and teams.

Sarah, welcome, it is great to see you again! You have had a very close relationship with the department at both undergraduate and taught postgraduate level. What might be some of your most abiding memories of your time with us? 

Sarah Innes: Hi Ian, it’s great to be speaking with you! As I was fortunate to have 4 years with the department there are an awful lot of memories… But I think one of my favourite memories would have to be the utterly chaotic performance of Hänsel und Gretel with City’s Opera Ensemble during my final year of UG (with an orchestra crammed into the storage cupboard at the back of the stage). The Battle of the Big Bands and several Christmas Cabarets are also up there.

IP: You were playing rather than singing in the Humperdinck opera? Who was organising the event?

SI: Definitely playing! I think I may have been covering about 4 different parts actually… the Opera Ensemble was a student led ensemble directed by Kenton Brigden in 2013/14 – Beanie Arkle sang though.

IP: I remember you taking my opera module during your time! What areas of music did you find especially interesting to study?

SI: Yes, I loved your nineteenth century opera module! I mainly took it to be able to study Russian operas in more depth – I was extremely lucky that so many of City’s modules allowed me to explore my specific research interests though (there was a module on Stravinsky and also Neoclassicism at the time), whilst also gaining a broader understanding of the topics in general.

IP: What was it which especially interested in you about Russian music, which did feature relatively prominently in the programme as a whole?

SI: To be honest, I arrived at City already intrigued by Russian music. My director of music at Harrow Young Musicians was a huge fan of Stravinsky, and we were also exposed to a lot of ballet music. So before I even got to City I’d already performed The Firebird Suite, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring! Once I started learning more about it at City, my interest just grew from there until I started looking at the promotion and reception of Soviet music during my MA.

IP: And you did your undergraduate dissertation on a Russian music subject, yes? And you’ve been studying the language ever since too?

SI: I did indeed – my undergraduate dissertation focused on the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on Rachmaninoff’s orchestral music. Alex Lingas was a wonderful supervisor for that project, and his influence led me to start learning Russian for my MA. I wish I could claim I’ve been studying hard for the last 2 years, but I have taken a little bit of a break to focus on some other things. I’ll be picking it back up again soon though!

IP: Tell me some more about the work you are doing at the moment with nkoda, and how this relates to your earlier study?

SI: Well nkoda is a subscription service for sheet music and it’s a resource I really wish I’d been able to access while I was studying! I started out as a musicology intern before working with our sales and management teams. I’ve been really fortunate to get to meet and work with publishers, and contribute to the way parts of the app work. There have been lots of exciting projects, but it’s just been so wonderful to have the opportunity to use my musical knowledge to contribute to the library itself, and to discover new music along the way. I’m doing a lot more business admin in my current role, so I’m constantly learning new things. If anyone is interested in knowing a bit more:

IP: So this was very much a job for a musicologist?

SI: It definitely was – it was so exciting to find a role that required the skill set of a musicologist that wasn’t in academia. It opened up avenues I didn’t even know existed. A lot of people considering a music degree think that teaching, academia or performance are the only options, but there’s so much more out there. Not that I’m not planning on returning to academia in the future – I did promise you that I’d return to do my PhD before I turn 35!

IP: With hindsight, what might you advise someone starting out a music degree now, or thinking of doing so?

SI:  I think any music degree is what you make of it – it’s important to take every opportunity to get involved and push yourself out of your comfort zone. A lot of people outside of music don’t necessarily understand the really amazing skills and knowledge you can gain from a music degree (“what history is there possibly to study about music?” is my favourite question). Don’t be put off by those people!

IP: Sarah, many thanks for this. Do you have any further links you’d like to share, related to your work or anything else?

SI: Thanks Ian, looking forward to visiting the department again soon! Do check out nkoda and I’m happy to answer any questions on Facebook or LinkedIn.