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Kath Roberts BA Music

MA student, Royal Academy of Music

Kath Roberts's Photo

I studied BA Music at the University of Southampton. As a performer, the freedom and support from the department and my peers was incredible. There are regular Friday lunchtime concerts you can sign up for to try out new repertoire and new ensembles, and an auditioned Showcase scheme that promotes you externally from the university for function work as well as concerts. With my string quartet I formed in my 1st year, we received regular chamber music coaching from our head of strings, and still perform regularly in both recitals and at paid wedding gigs. There are also so many external opportunities to perform elsewhere (my personal favourite day was playing a solo Bach lunchtime recital in Romsey Abbey, a matinee of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” in the afternoon, and then John Cage in a pub in the evening). Having so many supportive platforms to put yourself out there as a performer was crucial to my development as a violinist (practice is all well and good but useless if you can’t practice performing as often as possible!) Despite being quite busy, it was a small window into the busy life of a freelancer, and meant that I became increasingly organised with my time management throughout the degree.

By the time I left, I was financially self-supporting, making a living through gigging, session work, string quartet function music, instrumental teaching, pit bands, and choral conducting – I cultivated all of these skills during my degree.

At Southampton, all of the weekly orchestras are entirely student run ­– the committee do everything from liaising with professional conductors, booking concert halls, applying for funding, organising tours to Berlin/Prague/Budapest, programming repertoire for the full season, and sitting on the audition panel. All of these things are such necessary skills for any aspiring musician (performer, manager, composer, and so on). From running the university Sinfonietta in my final year, I oversaw even the most minuscule detail that running an orchestra takes (from the concert raffle to carting a xylophone up 5 flights of stairs), and by working with professional conductors and soloists, I received priceless advice on my own performing career, and paid session work as soon as I moved to London.

By the time I left, I was financially self-supporting, making a living through gigging, session work, string quartet function music, instrumental teaching, pit bands, and choral conducting – I cultivated all of these skills during my degree. Being a musician in the 21st century means you need to be as adaptable and versatile as you can be, and Southampton gave me so many skills I use to throw myself into professional life on a daily basis. I’m now at the Royal Academy of Music studying my MA in performance, pursuing a freelance career in orchestras and chamber music, and I use the skills I practiced at Southampton on a daily basis.

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