Conservatoire says yes, yes, yes to pop

A new course is preparing students for the realities of life in the music industry

This month, the Royal Northern College of Music, in Manchester, began a new foundation degree called "popular music practice (session musician)". Yes, a conservatoire teaching a job-specific foundation degree. And yes, a conservatoire doing pop.

The course is the first of its kind to be offered at a conservatoire, and will give pop musicians the kind of vocational training that has, up to now, only been available to classical musicians at the Royal Northern.

The conservatoire is running the course in collaboration with Access to Music, the contemporary-music education providers who specialise in teaching both musical skills and business nous. The course provides training for top musicians who intend to work as freelance session musicians in the pop industry, and students need to demonstrate their instrumental abilities in either guitar, bass, drum kit, vocals or keyboard, and their knowledge of theory.

"Something was missing: a course for those musicians who are high-level performers interested in playing other people's music, as session musicians," says course director Andy Stott. "We wanted to produce a course that would give conservatoire-standard training to pop and rock musicians. Having pop and rock in the fairly traditional setting of a conservatoire shows that we're in a bright new future for music."

The course will be taught by a team of industry professionals who will give instrumental tuition. There will also be a team of lecturers who will cover the business and conceptual side. Teaching will be supplemented by guest lecturers, including Snake Davis, the musician, bandleader and educator probably most famous for being saxophonist for the Nineties pop outfit M-People. Guests will share their experiences with students on the course. "Once contacts like that grow," says Stott, "we'll be plugging into all sorts of industry experts to supplement the programme."

The plan is that the experts will help to illustrate the main themes of the course: networking, self-promotion, business management; but they can also put the music industry into a socio-cultural context: how it works and why. "It's perfect for someone like Snake, who's been abroad, to bring those stories and tell the students what to do – and what not to do," says Stott.

Davis has been associated with the Manchester music scene for a long time, and has done a number of concerts at the Royal Northern – even giving a few masterclasses at the conservatoire. As someone whose sax and flute expertise has graced performances and recordings with the likes of James Brown, Paul McCartney, Take That and Amy Winehouse, he admits that he's an example of what the students might aspire to become. "I can offer them a vision of the reality of being out there, forging a career in the music business, combining a mixture of skills. I can show them what it takes to make a living," he says.

For professional musicians, making a living can involve anything from forming your own company to registering a record label: basically, says Davis, a lot of musicians must become their own managers. He studied at Leeds College of Music himself, and says he would have found some business guidance very useful. "It's a course that is needed and will be useful to a lot of people. I cover a lot of this stuff in workshops; now I'm able to tell them that this course exists."

The foundation degree aims to give students a platform from which to launch the kind of varied career Snake has enjoyed, and which most conservatoire students realise will be their lot. But the course also has links with Leeds College of Music. After the two-year foundation at the Royal Northern, students can apply through Ucas to enter the Leeds conservatoire on the final year of its BA course in popular music – another unique course among UK conservatoires – as a top-up qualification.

Leeds and the Royal Northern are considered by many to be "progressive" music colleges. As Dr Darren Sproston, head of classical music at Leeds, says: "The college hasn't been afraid to launch non-traditional programmes, and has reaped the rewards."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Do you think you are read...

Cover Supervisor

£60 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The JobSeveral cover supervisors ...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£55 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking special needs...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Sheffield: MFL teacher Required in Don...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform