Strings: faculty classes and activities

Undergraduate students take weekly academic classes in addition to their studies. Classes such as Techniques and Analysis, Conducting, Technology, Keyboard Skills and Western Music History are designed to complement and add to every student’s creative development as performers. For more information about Academic Studies, see BMus Programme.

In addition to weekly individual lessons, both undergraduate and postgraduate strings students participate in the following activities:

Chamber Music

Chamber music is a fundamental component of both undergraduate and postgraduate studies. It sits at the heart of the Strings Faculty. By playing chamber music you can discover how your musical personality functions, how you might combine it with that of others, how to share a concept of sound and how to communicate a shared vision to an audience.

There are violin, viola and cello teachers on the teaching faculty with special responsibility for chamber music coaching. Visiting quartets regularly give classes and there is support from members of the Piano Faculty for piano chamber music with strings. Every term there is a String Quartet Study Day for your quartets to take part in intensive sessions of coaching, supervised rehearsal and classes.

Davey Poznanski String Quartet Scheme is a special fast-track training programme for serious quartets. Ensembles from the second year of study upwards audition early in the academic year for the four coveted places, and the successful groups each have a dedicated mentor for the year, high-profile Academy-promoted performances, external concerts, are prioritised for master class opportunities, helped with expenses for travel abroad and advised on career development as an ensemble.

Postgraduate chamber music is kick-started shortly after enrolment with a Chamber Music Speed Dating session – for new string players and pianists to meet colleagues and begin to forge the connections that may result in a more lasting ensemble!

Masterclasses

All string students play in a masterclass during their time at the Academy. These performance and learning opportunities are for you to receive objective feedback on your solo playing and to observe the way an artist can guide a student in enhancing their performance. Public and private masterclasses given by distinguished artists take place throughout the year. These have recently included James Ehnes, Yuri Bashmet, Joel Quarrington and Mario Brunello.

Ensemble Performance

All string players audition annually for Academy orchestral chairs. We have several orchestras and ensembles – Symphony Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Manson Ensemble (new music), Opera orchestras, Musical Theatre orchestras and bands, Commercial Music Ensemble – all of which have projects and concerts scheduled throughout the year, led by an impressive array of distinguished conductors, such as Semyon Bychkov, Marin Alsop, Trevor Pinnock and Christoph von Dohnányi. A distinguished roster of international orchestral players takes sectional rehearsals, helping students forge useful professional connections.

Players are auditioned annually for the Sainsbury Royal Academy Soloists (a small string ensemble who play with experienced leaders including Clio Gould) and Academy Cello Ensemble (directed by Academy professors Josephine Knight and Felix Schmidt).

Although the orchestral audition process is primarily for the allocation of prominent chairs and seating order in orchestral projects, it is also used to identify players who will be suitable for, and will benefit from, high profile one-off chamber projects and solo performances that arise during the year.

Performance Classes

Weekly performance classes are taken by both guest string players and faculty members. They give students opportunities to experiment and explore communication skills in solo repertoire and to receive direct feedback about all aspects of their performance.

Audition Preparation and Excerpt Classes

What are professional audition panels looking for? Academy professors Clio Gould (former Principal, RPO) and Philippe Honoré (former principal, Philharmonia), as well as guest players from London orchestras, give insight, advice and tips for students embarking on the orchestral area of their careers. Enhanced employment potential is a key driver in the String Faculty.

String Quartet Study Days

These take place on Sundays once a term. Any group can sign up to take part in these intensive but informal days of exploration of quartet techniques and repertoire with a one-to-one professor/quartet ratio for the whole day. The support of the CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust for this training is invaluable.

LRAM

As an Academy student, you can choose to take the LRAM (Licenciate of the Royal Academy of Music) teaching diploma course. This offers a comprehensive, practically-based introduction to the principles of teaching.

Both undergraduate and postgraduate students are required to perform a recital at the end of each year for assessment. Postgraduate string players also take a concerto exam as part of their course.

The Royal Academy of Music Instrument Collection

The Academy has the privilege and advantage of having a substantial collection of instruments – most of which are violins, violas and cellos. These include fine instruments from Cremona as well as excellent samples of the great makers of the last three centuries. The majority of these are available for students to borrow under certain conditions – for the duration of their studentship. The opportunity to play on a high calibre instrument can be crucial in helping a young player develop a palette of tonal awareness and the skills to create and refine it. The Instrument Curator gives support and guidance, and the process of matching instrument to player need is careful and thorough.  There is also a very good selection of bows from the major craftsmen.

Importantly, there are also systems in place to help students to negotiate the acquisition of their own instrument, so that they are suitable equipped when they graduate.

Historical String Instruments

It is possible for strings students to take up historical instruments (e.g. baroque violin) and have specialist lessons as a Second Study. These students have opportunities to play in projects with the Historical Performance Department on baroque and classical period repertoire.

Regular masterclasses, collaborations with venues throughout London, side-by-side schemes with London orchestras and both internal and external competitions fill each week with a variety of exciting and career-enhancing opportunities. From the start, we foster engagement with the reality of our rapidly changing profession, enabling a smooth transition into professional life after studying.