Frequently asked questions for the Department of Music

We asked the Department of Music some questions about what it's like to study with them. Here's what they said.

We are adapting our teaching methods and spaces in accordance with the latest COVID guidelines and therefore the information below may be subject to change.

What makes this department at the University of Bristol unique?

Based in the magnificent Victoria Rooms and with between 40 to 50 students in a year group, we are a small, friendly department with a strong sense of community.

Studying with us, you will have the opportunity to work alongside and learn from world-leading experts in composition, performance and music history.

How does the research at the school benefit the experience of the students at the school?

Whether your main interests are in performance, composition or music history, your learning experience will be greatly enhanced by our research-led teaching environment.

In recent years, our undergraduates have helped to decipher medieval music manuscripts for an international exhibition; created extraordinary electronic compositions using our world-class studio equipment; had their acoustic compositions performed and recorded by student ensembles; and discovered a wealth of music by composers whose works are not normally played in concert halls.

What does the school do to welcome students when they first start at Bristol?

In the past, students have had the chance to sign up for one or more of over 30 ensembles organised by the Bristol University Music Society (aka BUMS, a rather unfortunate acronym!) during Welcome Week. These are a great way of meeting other students – old and new – and getting involved in department life. 
 
In addition, all of our undergraduates have a Personal Academic Tutor, who supports them in their studies and is on hand to direct them to our pastoral services as and when necessary.

What is the first year timetable like for this course?

Based on the 2019/20 academic year, a typical first-year timetable might look like this:

Monday: 11am-1pm, Composition seminar; 2-3pm: Technical Studies small group tutorial
Tuesday: 12-1pm, Technical studies workshop; 7-9:15pm BUMS Symphony Orchestra
Wednesday: 9-11am, Historical Studies 1: Music and People lecture; 12-1pm: Tutorial with your Personal Academic Tutor
Thursday: 10-11am: Technical studies workshop; 2-3pm: Lesson on your first-study instrument; 5:30-7pm: BUMS Choral Society
Friday: 2-5pm: Music Futures - a series of career-oriented seminars from professionals in a range of fields

In between formal classes, you might be:

  • writing music for your Composition unit
  • using one of our practice rooms to prepare for your instrumental lesson
  • rehearsing with an a cappella group or instrumental ensemble
  • completing Technical Studies assignments in harmony and counterpoint
  • doing pre-lecture reading in the Arts and Social Sciences Library.

If you're not used to managing your own workload, our Personal Academic Tutor will happily talk to you about how to do this well.

Where can I find out more about the detailed structure and content of the degree programmes?

You can read more about our degree courses and the kinds of units we offer in our online programme catalogue.

What support does the school offer to new students?

All of our undergraduates have a Personal Academic Tutor, who supports them in their studies and is on hand to direct them to our pastoral services as and when necessary. In Music, we meet with our first year tutees every week – to check in with you, talk through your assignments, and generally help you settle in.

Our friendly and efficient administrative team will be on hand to help guide you through the unit registration process and direct you to important information.

The wellbeing team also host a weekly drop-in where you can find someone with pastoral training to talk through any concerns or difficulties you might be having – whether with your academic work, your home life, or the transition to university.

How will the course set me up for my future career?

Music graduates from Bristol have a very strong track record of employment, with many entering graduate employment or further study within six months of graduating. Studying with us, you'll gain a wide variety of practical, creative, intellectual and transferable skills, such as self-organisation, creativity, teamwork and motivation – all of which will make you attractive to prospective employers.

We also run a weekly series of seminars called "Music Futures," during which we invite people with all kinds of musical careers to share their experiences of working life and how they got to where they are. Recently, we've hosted the Assistant Editor of Radio 3; the CEO of the Music Publishers' Association; the director of a local sound production studio; and conductor of the ENO, Martyn Brabbins.

Are there any employers or other initiatives that the school works with for industry placements?

Bristol is a city with a vibrant musical culture of its own and the department is pleased to have strong links with a number of other local musical organisations.

To give just a few examples, in the past:

  • we have regularly arranged Arts Admin internships for our students at St. George's Concert Hall.
  • we have involved students in the delivery of our schools' outreach concerts, including allowing some the opportunity to play with our partner in these events, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
  • there is a long-standing tradition of our students contributing to the jam nights at Mr. Wolfs.

What do graduates go on to do after studying this course at Bristol?

Our graduates enter a wide range of professions including performance, teaching, arts administration, banking, law, publishing, broadcasting and the media. Read more about what students from the Music department go on to do after graduation

What opportunities are there to study abroad as part of this course?

If you're on our single honours BA program, you can choose to do a semester abroad during your second year. We have links with universities in Australia, North America and Europe. We will support you in setting up your exchange.

If you're on a joint honours language program, you'll get the opportunity to do a third year abroad as part of the language degree.

What are the facilities like on campus that students will use to study this course?

The Music Department is housed in the magnificent Victoria Rooms, which provide an ideal base for the study, composition and performance of music.

This space includes the following facilities:

  • a 530-seat auditorium, where many of our concerts take place
  • an elegant recital room for chamber music performances and recitals, rehearsals and workshops
  • recording studios
  • a student common room (the theatre bar)
  • a complex of teaching and study spaces
  • 20 practice rooms (for music students only).

We are also proud to have nine studios featuring cutting-edge equipment and software to support composition, performance and research.

How many hours (on average) are required outside of lectures for additional work and study?

For first years, we recommend around 20 hours of study on top of your 14 contact hours. 

How do assessments work for the department?

We use a range of assessment methods from traditional essays to vlogs, from recitals to composition portfolios.

You can read more about how each of our units is assessed in our unit catalogue.

What would you say are the main differences between studying at school and study at university?

With our support, our undergraduates take more responsibility for their personal study than is the case at school.

This gives more opportunity to explore your particular, individual areas of interest – something that makes every one of our graduates unique!

What are examples of final year projects/dissertations that students have worked on when they study this course?

Recent dissertation topics have included:

  • the representation of gender roles in 1950s American film musicals
  • the role of rap music in the Black Lives Matter movement
  • a study of snyaesthetisa
  • an exploration of private and public faith in Benjamin Britten's War Requiem
  • an investigation into how online streaming platforms have affected the way music is listened to.
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