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Music Junior Departments at Conservatoires

(97 Posts)
thekidsmom Thu 03-Feb-11 09:47:27

Does anyone have a DC at a junior department of a music conservatoire?

I'm deliberating hard over whether my DD should join in September or not (she will then be year 11 - so a possibility of 3 years there)

My decision points are around the amount of other stuff she'll necessarily have to give up to fit this in - all of her county music commitments for instance, but also about how much her music will 'crowd out' any other possiblities in her future career.

We are not yet decided on a music career - its between that and science (maybe medicine). We've had some good advice on the hardships of a music career from her teachers, so are up to speed on that, but I'm concerned that once we're on the JD track, there's no getitng off and she'sll just fall into music. And she wont have had the space in her timetable to gain all the work experience/volunteering she'd need to make a convinecing medicine/bio sciences application.

So if anyone has a DC who is at or did go to a JD and then did something different at uni, I'd be very grateful for input.

TRL Thu 03-Feb-11 10:08:40

I can only partially help - I have 3 in the Primary Academy at RAM (ie the pre-12's) and spend all day every Saturday there with them. Primary is run on a similar system to Junior, taking into account the younger maturity.

It's phenomenal, like being part of a special club - friends galore amongst their peers and the teachers - and the musical tuition/orchestral oportunities are excellent, without being at all precious.

I don't know which conservatoire you're thinking of but RAM certainly has an open day coming up (Feb 12th, I think - check web) and in your position I'd definitely spend an afternoon going from rehearsal to lesson to chamber gp to theory etc just to see how the dept is run and whether yr daughter would think it worth it.

We have 3 close friends who've recently finished RCM Junior dept - one's gone on to RCM Senior, one on a choral scholarship to Cambs (English degree) and one to study ... medicine! Because everyone has their own timetable, there are a few breaks in the day, and you see the Juniors studying all sorts of different subjects (as well as jamming and chatting together) - clearly they have many different aspirations. It's an exciting place to be and the Juniors are certainly prepared for a life of music if they want, but there's no compulsion at all.

Ask if there's anything else, and congrats to yr daughter - to be bright enogh to study medicine and talented enough to go to a conservatoire is impressive. smile

TRL Thu 03-Feb-11 10:18:26

Oh, and there are three eleven week terms so there's plenty of time to get hospital practice around it. There are juniors who play school rugby matches on Sats/have morning Sat school and still make their afternoons at RAM - it may be less commitment than you're expecting.

thekidsmom Thu 03-Feb-11 11:07:21

That is so helpful trl

We will be at RAM on 12th, btw, so will see and compare then. Her music teachers and contacts are almost exclusively RCM so we've looked there first....

I am heartened to hear of examples of going on to do subjects other than music at uni, so thank you for replying....

thekidsmom Thu 03-Feb-11 18:30:03

I'm just bumping up to catch the notice of folks just logging on for the evening shift....

snorkie Thu 03-Feb-11 23:36:03

ds has 2 friends at jds (one ram, one rcm), they are both currently in 6th form and plan to study medicine. I think at rcm junior department approx 50% stay on to a career in music and the rest do something else.

dejaview Sat 16-Apr-11 02:03:11

My 12 year old has just applied for junior conservatoire. I was not aware RCM had one and I missed the RAM application date. These two colleges are often the only ones mentioned. We applied to Guildhall and Trinity Laban and got into both. Has anyone any views or experience about which junior conservatoire is best and why?! My daughter is having a hard time choosing or could wait to apply to others (god forbid!)

She is 12 and plays clarinet (Grade 7) and loves chamber and orchestral work.

TRL Sat 16-Apr-11 12:16:37

I've heard very good things about Guildhall (very structured, well-supported programme) - my son's school orchestra leader teaches at Junior Guildhall and is certainly inspiring the children at his school. Is Trinity the one at Greenwich? We're SW London so our contacts all tend to be RCM and RAM as they're closer but I imagine all the Junior depts are good? Unless your daughter has a particular teacher she really wants or will get more opportunities to play clarinet in ensembles etc at one, I'd go by distance/ease of travel ... but then mine are all still too young to travel round London on their own whereas yr DD could get there herself!

Anaxagora Sat 16-Apr-11 20:27:57

Junior Guildhall -- only have experience of the lower end of the age range, where the teachers are fab, but the other parents are a bit of a nightmare. I had been warned beforehand that it had a reputation as pushy music-parent central, but didn't quite realise the implications of this. We left after a year and moved dd to another music school, in large part because I couldn't stand spending every Saturday morning in the company of the other parents.

But if you're joining at the older age range, then that's probably less of an issue. All the staff and teachers I met at Guildhall were lovely.

dejaview Sat 16-Apr-11 20:28:45

Thanks for the reply. We are up the A1 and Guildhall is easiest. She seems to think Guildhall ensembles are better but Trinity (in the fabulous buildings at Greenwich) is friendlier and much more social seeming. She also very much liked the Trinity clarinet teacher.. hard!

I have met everyone at Trinity but no-one at Guildhall.. At 12 its quite a commitment as it may continue till 18 conceivably. We also visited RNCM in Manchester which was lovely too. We are also applying to Chethams and Purcell but these are very different schools. We are looking at Wells which has a balanced curriculum - if anyone has any further experiences.

My daughter is at a grammar school in lincs, which is excellent (tho hard work) but much to my surprise has not a huge amount of space for music - she actually gets in to a little trouble at times for taking her 20 minutes a week (paid) clarinet lesson. It alarms me how the national curriculum fails children in the arts, which now seem even more irrelevant than ever. The junior conservatoires and local county orchestras seem like an amazing oasis of sense and creativity!

PixieOnaLeaf Sat 16-Apr-11 20:51:12

Message withdrawn

dejaview Sat 16-Apr-11 22:58:27

I cannot say what the criteria are - its a mystery. Your child sounds very advanced. I think competition for certain instruments can be harder. Maybe the progress made over a shorter period may be an indicator but I get the impression that grades are not as crucial finally as passion (keenness?) and the relationship with their chosen instrument or subject (eg composition). In that respect it seems much like art college (where I went and taught) where creativity and involvement - rather than technique is important.

Music on a technical level is an unknown to me - but the above is what I gathered a little from auditions etc. Hope that helps. You can get a pre-interview session I have read.

circular Mon 18-Apr-11 11:43:17

Not a "Conservatoire" but DD1 attends a Saturday music school that is a division of one of the above mentioned. This is her first year, she is a very young yr9 and when she had her audition (aNot a "Conservatoire" but DD1 attends a Saturday music school that is a division of one of the above mentioned. This is her first year, she is a very young yr9 and when she had her audition (age 12), she was just about to take grade 5 on her first instrument which she was auditioning on. She also played 2 other instruments (grade2/3) standard and had just started teaching herself a 4th. No formal lessons
before age 10, so a late starter.

I am ashamed to confess, I never expected her to get an audition let alone a place at those levels. But it seems they are looking as much for ability, potential and enthusiasm as acheivement to date.

The main reasons for sending her - she had expressed an interest in a music career for 2 years( a long time at that age), and we thought this would either reinforce or completely put her off. There was also partly guilt for not letting her start lessons younger. Not many instrumentallists at her school, and her 1st instrument wasn't taught there. Having 2x30 minute lessons at school meant missing same lessons wach week - teachers not very supportive. Felt the need to mix more with like-minded kids that want to learn. 

She has really enjoyed her first two terms at the music school. Not been pushed to take any further grades, but lots of time being spent on perfecting techniques and breaking bad habits. Emphasis on performing, both solo and ensemble. Individual timetable for all includes at least. musicianship, ensemble, individual instrument tuition and choir. Can audition to join other groups on instruments being learnt elsewhere - DD has joined one for her 2nd instrument which she has continued at school. She dropped her 3rd instrument in favour of private lessons on the instrument she was teaching herself.

Her day is currently 9 to 3 so it DOES rule out other Saturday activities. She is able to miss days with prior agreement, but that is not ideal. Already finding it a huge commitment, even with little other extra activities. Her other main activity was Karate, but she had to quit fairly recently for health reasons, but there would have been future clashes there. She also did better than expected in a school competition that was entered just for fun, so had to miss 2 Saturdays for district and regional finals in that.
It is likely that she will try and split her two weeks work experience next year  between music and something else.
I spend a fair chunk of time there with her as it is an awkward journey. Not come across any pushy parents. Most of the kids seem highly academic, either at grammar or independent schools. Quite a few I have come across are bi-lingual.I get the impression that many are there to get to grade 8 before applying to Uni in medicine or similar.

DD wants to get to grade 8 before applying to Uni, but she WANTs to do a music degree. Whether this is a specialist music college remains to be seen.  The more academic the degree, the less the music requirements, so she is still trying to do well academically. That way it will also keep her options open if she decides against music later.  

dejaview Thu 28-Apr-11 23:09:19

Not been on for a while - so sorry to miss pixies withdrawn message. What was it?

Thank you for your responses and info - really useful. I doubt I will meet the other parents at Guildhall that much. At a mature 12 I hope my daughter can attend alone mostly?

She is very excited - and not at all pushed (by me) - all this is a surprise - but as a visual artist it seems great to have that support so young. However it must inevitably slant everything in a certain direction. Also the love of music in itself may be overtaken by sheer competitiveness I suspect? In which case I fear for the others as my daughter is incredibly competitive! A modern foible I think. We will see.

Hopefully ensembles will instil the lighter side of democratic engagement. But I can't wait to see the pushy parents eyeing me suspiciously! Nothing new in that. lol

I have to add it was hard to NOT go to Trinity Laban. The people there - the staff students - everyone are some of the nicest people I have ever met! The place itself is wonderful too.. but the journey was 30 minutes longer for us..

My daughter is applying to Purcell and Chethams and Wells. Purcell seems like something from The Avengers, but great. I am not sure she can quite reach their standards yet really - or if it is balanced enough. I did suggest they probably emphasised the arts generally on my visit and was told it definitely was not an art college (it is a music college..)! I find that a little disconcerting. But still the place is like music heaven. Chethams is the first interview.

Frankly just the auditions are gruelling (I feel) but I must stress my daughter wants to try.. it just seems a bit much really.

thekidsmom Thu 28-Apr-11 23:27:43

I didnt realise this thread had come up again - this has been really helpful. For the record, DD will be going to RCMJD in September - all sorted now and we'll just keep an eye on how tired she gets and how much everything else has to take a back seat. But she's very excited and I'm excited for her....

generalhaig Fri 29-Apr-11 00:24:12

I went to the JD of the RCM many years ago ... I started at 15 (y10) and carried on until I went to uni to do English & Philosophy

It was a long day (9-3 every Saturday during term-time) with concerts, rehearsals, individual music lessons and of course practice on top of that, but it was a fabulous musical education

I got there on the tube so my parents didn't have to do any ferrying or hanging around which made things easier for them

The standard of the other kids was scarily high - I'd done grade 8 a couple of years before on my main instrument, but at times felt like a complete beginner - while I was there I took another grade 8 plus grade 8 theory

I don't know about the other instruments, but a lot of the people playing my instrument were highly competitive and everyone knew their exact place in the pecking order so probably not great for very sensitive souls. However, it was a very sociable place and I loved having my RCM friends as well as school friends.

About half of my peers went on to do music and the rest did a whole range of subjects

I hope your dd enjoys it!

thekidsmom Mon 02-May-11 08:53:40

Thank you generalhaig that is a helpful perspective.

We do expect it to be very high standard and we already know an internationally recognised contemporary on her main instrument who is a member there so are geared up for the pecking order!

Especially good to hear from you as you then went on to study something else at uni and I still think this is most likely for my DD

annaesme Wed 04-May-11 23:03:01

I also went to RCM (JD) in the 80s. I went in Y8 and was there until A levels. Loved every minute of it, made wonderful friends and was inspired by the wonderful musicians there. I went on to study music at uni and I teach music now. Going back for a 25th anniversary concert in June. Eek I'm getting old!
Good luck to your daughter. I'm sure she'll love it.

dejaview Fri 20-May-11 01:16:50

More info? Gossip? Self reflection..

Attended Chethams for a pre-audition - which has to be passed before you can look round! it seems. Passed so can now go back. Very friendly my daughter says and also lots of advice too.

Attended Purcell - pre-audition. Talked to a parent in the waiting room who was disconcerted at so many MALE staff. Later met the guy who had auditioned my daughter. Lots of advice. Not hugely positive. And sadly at one point two of the (young male) school stars playing round were quietened down by being told they were behaving like girls. Disconcerting. Very nice parents. Huge sense of are n't we fantastic - only the few are allowed here. Which is true but really everyone we met mentioned it.

My daughter will receive in one day at junior conservatoire more time with (better) teachers than she has received in a year of her total of two years of 20 minutes in term time at school. Chethams seem very aware of this and seem to audition her accordingly - something far more ready formed seems required by the particular auditioning member of staff and possibly generally at Purcell. Maybe just an unlucky encounter. But again very male. Even the way my daughter answered a question and stood was corrected - more sense of purpose and definiteness was required. My daughter is actually quite gentle - not diminutive - just not in your face.

All this was very helpful and the guy was correct generally and helpful but it was quite macho in effect in style I felt and it made me wonder..

I was reminded of the very best musicians I have seen so far - at Purcell and Trinity Laban. At the first a guy thrusting his (expensive) clarinet provocatively at us (playing wonderfully) and at Trinity a very young girl sitting cross legged playing a small recorder with almost monastic simplicity. The second was better but more so - quite a different style of playing. Also all the staff I have met at Trinity have been women.

I do wonder if this is indeed a far less traditional and more musical??!! attitude to music - more inclusive and feminine? Better thought out at Trinity? My daughter says that Guildhall also seems to have quite a few female staff.

I do find the auditions thought provoking!

My daughter now has a late audition at RCM juniors. Interesting to compare..

thekidsmom Fri 20-May-11 10:15:55

Hi deja - your process does seem to be very drawn out - you must be stressing!

Hope you get on well at RCM - there was nothing about it that we could fault, we felt right at home right away. But its a big decision between a JD and a full school....

Colleger Fri 20-May-11 10:43:12

Son had late audition at RCM a couple of weeks ago and we were given the decision straight away. It was surprisingly down to earth and they were not looking for perfection - in fact mentioned quite a few more bad points than good but still offered him a place. It probably has the most pretigious name but it felt very relaxed and the kids looked happy

dejaview Sat 21-May-11 01:22:43


Yes a little stressed and maudlin! lol Its become a full time job!

The auditions do throw up a lot of criticism. My daughter was quite taken aback at Chethams when the teacher took her instrument OFF her and showed her how she was holding it quite incorrectly! Still she got through. Its good to be learning even as you progress an application.

Glad your child got in colleger. It seems a shame NOT to have another audition. My daughter can see another alternative - after all it can be till she is 16 or 18 even if she stays. But would be a shame now to switch our attention to a NEW junior college.

And yes full time seems like quite another ball game - one where professional rather than fun objectives will take over.

At least there are only TWO full time schools (in the UK) - phew! (DO NOT enlighten me if I have missed any!!)

She is now busy with a new app on an iPad which allows you to compose a little like Sibelius on the Mac - but more easily. The open day at Guildhall where the composition guy is very inspiring did get to her..

frantic51 Sat 21-May-11 01:49:49

Only just seen this thread and just wanted to say that I have had three children at Wells and they have all loved it. We chose it specifically because it is a specialist music department within a "normal" school rather than just a music school. Interestingly, Wells seems to pick up a fair few ex Purcell kids in the sixth form.

It's a wonderfully friendly, inclusive school and the music staff are hugely supportive yet very down to earth.

unitarian Sat 21-May-11 11:26:13

My DD did started junior conservatoire (Saturdays) at the beginning of Y11 so she did it throughout GCSEs and A-levels. She's now studying medicine and has a music scholarship.

Best thing we ever did for her!
Not only did her playing improve eye-wateringly - she was taught throughout by a world-renowned teacher - but it affected her in all sorts of ways. There is so much more to it than music lessons.

The confidence and poise she acquired to walk on stage and perform solo in front of her peers stood her in good stead when it came to university interviews. I think she could control her nerves in pretty well any situation now.

She also learned to pick herself up and do it again when things go pear-shaped.

It didn't affect her exam work at all. In fact it made her better organised and focussed. It made her more independent too. It takes some determination for a kid to get up at 6.00 am, lug two intruments - sometimes three - plus related music on and off a train, change trains, trudge through a city centre and arrive on time every week. Mind you, it was a bit like the Hogwarts Express because there would be other kids heading that way on the same train who had set off even earlier.

Yes, she spent her term-time Saturdays immersed in music but it freed up a couple of week-day evenings when she would otherwise have been having lessons so she was better able to handle school work during the week.

Oh, and university interviewers loved it. It showed she had drive, commitment, time-management skills, ability to work alone and in a group ..... all the qualities they are seeking.

unitarian Sat 21-May-11 11:55:49

I've just realised that the thread started in February so the OP has probably made the decision by now.

Just to add that DD did manage to cover all the medically related work experience she needed as well as holding down a Sunday job in a shop and conducting a full social life. She also managed a couple of rounds of BBC Young Musician 2010 - though was relieved not to get further because by then she knew it was medicine for her (she already had offers from med schools at that point) and taking part in the later rounds really would have affected her A-levels.

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