The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama launched a new, flagship BMus course in 2022, with fully integrated modules and specialist options for Jazz students.
The new course builds on the strengths and successes of the existing BMus course. It has been developed by the BMus Course Leader, Andrea Jones and senior music staff including Tim Rhys-Evans, who was appointed as Director of Music in January 2020, and with significant input from the Head of Jazz, current students, recent graduates, RWCMD staff and professional music partners.
In addition to the high-level of individual performance training, the new course also includes:
streamlined and refined timetabling, scheduling and assessment processes
a concert/festival approach to performance assessments, with live audiences
increased opportunities to link student work with diverse audiences and communities
practical training in teaching and participatory music making
weekly choral training as a core activity promoting integrated musicianship
an emphasis on embodied performance, integrating core musicianship skills in harmony and aural development with whole-body awareness and movement
an extended range of module options to support diverse interests and career pathways
increased diversity in areas including performance programming, external engagement and research work
classes in Alexander technique and other mind-body approaches
training in digital skills to support performing musicians
The programme emphasises collaboration and collaborative approaches in all aspects of activity, whilst also structured to offer each student a high level of support as an individual learner and future practitioner.
Core modules place students in a variety of real-world musical contexts from the outset of their training, while an extended range of module options in the third and fourth years enable students to build knowledge, skills and experience in areas relating to their personal and professional goals including performance, collaborative artistry, research, cultural innovation and entrepreneurship.
The course is delivered in a multi-disciplinary conservatoire setting, providing an immersive learning environment with key defining characteristics shared by all programmes of study at RWCMD. Students are integrated into a professional arts environment with world-class performance venues and a wide-ranging programme of public performances including guest recitals by some of the world’s leading performers. This, combined with specialist tuition from experienced professional practitioners, ensures that the expectations, opportunities and diversity of the professional arts and creative industries are embedded throughout the training.
The Principal Study module in years one to three is at the very heart of the learning experience, enabling students to develop a range of specialist techniques and musical skills, practical compositional processes and individual creative ideas within the context of a broad knowledge and understanding of contemporary creative jazz idioms and aesthetics. The module also allows students to focus on aspects of physical and psychological development which underpin their creative artistry. This module runs across the academic year, accounting for 40 of the 120 credits required. Principal studies are delivered through a combination of one-to-one tuition complemented by performance classes, workshops, masterclasses, talks from visiting practitioners, seminars and lecture series as appropriate to support students’ musical and artistic development.
In one-to-one lessons, you will work very closely with tutors and receive guidance in developing technical command, knowledge of styles and repertoires, and ability to communicate through performance. Each student will be challenged to explore a range of shared jazz repertoires, building stylistic awareness and an idiomatic approach to genre-specific materials.
Departmental classes cover associated stylistic, contextual, and practical music making matters, as well as supporting the development of discrete skills for the performance of a designated genre or selection of repertoire. A variety of group performance classes offer opportunities for students to gain valuable experience in communicating through performance, with sessions focusing on style, idiomatic improvisation and group interaction.
Students are encouraged to develop their personal, analytical and critical responses to performance through regular attendance at concerts and recitals as part of the College’s creative programming. Masterclasses with visiting artists offer further opportunities to learn from some of the world’s leading jazz musicians.
Principal Study modules also provide basic training in sound and video skills to enable students to record and share their work as a contemporary performing artist.
Throughout each year, you will receive additional tutorial support to track your individual practice and personal development through self-evaluation and reflection, to collate a personal e-portfolio. The portfolio will document a range of key elements also including achievements, specific challenges, notable musical or creative experiences and other work to support sustainable career development work, designed to inform and support your emerging creative and artistic identity.
A core 20-credit module in years one and two, Integrated Musician encompasses a range of theoretical and practical activities aimed at linking and integrating core skills in harmony, music theory, aural perception and embodied musicianship.
Small-group workshops promote understanding of jazz harmony and form through written exercises and analyses.
Weekly participation in choral rehearsals promotes the practical development of a full range of aural, musical and physical skills including singing, rhythm, sight-reading and improvisation. Repertoire sung in choir will include a broad range of musical styles, including African song, Indian Raga, Gospel and Rock/Pop in addition to Western Classical Music.
Integrated and embodied musicianship is further promoted through classes in the fundamentals of Alexander technique and complementary mind/body approaches.
Music & Society
A core 20-credit module in years one and two, Music & Society is also available as an elective module in year three for students who wish to further develop their critical enquiry skills in preparation for undertaking specialist, individual research-based projects in the final year.
The Music & Society modules aim to foster a contextual understanding and appreciation of the role of the musician in society; to enable students to make sense of their own experiences within a wider social and historical context and to stimulate further exploration through reading, listening and attendance at events, contributing to a broadening of creative horizons.
A series of lectures and seminars explores the development of jazz from its inception to the present day, examining the circumstances/socio-political conditions that led to the emergence of particular artists and genres through a series of case studies. The module will develop understanding of the ways in which jazz has influenced/been influenced by other diverse musical/cultural forms and how musical fusions, international collaboration and technological advances have facilitated new, but often discrete, audiences for the music.
Lectures will be supplemented by discussion seminars, which will evaluate a range of ideas and perspectives for considering ‘popular’ versus ‘art’ versus ‘folk’ music and the positioning of jazz in the current musical climate.
Students are encouraged to make sense of their own experiences within the broader world of jazz, and to develop critical listening skills as a means of forming artistic opinions. Support and guidance is provided in the development of effective research, study and written communication skills.
Music & Society 3 seeks to introduce the student to the myriad ways in which music has been used to effect social change. The module will be taught in a seminar format in which key texts are explored through detailed discussion. The focus will be on the ways in which musicians respond to the contexts in which they live and transform society through their interventions. The module will also seek to develop advanced research skills, building on the work in the first two years of study. Contemporary approaches in musical scholarship, including issues of race, gender, and class, will be explored in depth. Students will undertake a large-scale project, which will involve a more sophisticated method of argumentation.
Engagement is a core 10-credit module running in each of the first three years of the course, introducing and consolidating the knowledge and skills required for participatory music making in educational and community settings. Students will develop an awareness of the theoretical, practical and ethical issues surrounding participatory practice, including important considerations of diversity and inclusivity.
During the first year, students work in groups to devise and record a musical performance or workshop suitable for dissemination to a specified community setting. In year two, they devise and deliver their own music workshop to primary-aged children. Year three focuses on specific skills and knowledge required for teaching beginner instrumentalists, singers or composers, with opportunities for students to gain practical teaching experience.
Collaboration is a core 30-credit module in each of the first three years of the BMus course, accounting for a quarter of the required credits. The aim of this module is to offer students the opportunity to develop fundamental skills in communication and creative interaction within varied collaborative contexts including a range of smaller, non-directed ensembles as well as larger, directed ensembles as appropriate.
These experiences enable students to further extend their knowledge of appropriate repertoires, specialist skills and styles, with an increasing awareness of the expectations and etiquettes required for rehearsal and performance in professional ensemble settings.
Ensembles are supported in the development of confident self-guided rehearsal techniques and independent musical/creative leadership skills.
By the third year, students will be prepared to consider a complete musical vision and realise this through composition, arranging and rehearsal as Bandleader/Arranger. There are also opportunities for students to work as a performer or an arranger/MD in range of large jazz ensembles such as Big Band, Jazz Choir or Jazz Orchestra.
Assessments of performance and ensemble skills provide opportunities for students to demonstrate a range of specialist collaborative skills. Tutors also submit reports evaluating creative engagement and individual contributions during the preparation and rehearsal stages of a project.
The Creative Collaboration module is available at level 4 and 5 running in tandem with the Collaboration modules across years one to three. Student engagement with this module and participation within projects must be agreed and signed off on a case-by-case basis by the Module Leader and relevant Head of Study before the commencement of any project work. The module offers students freedom of opportunity to further explore and deepen their abilities and knowledge of music and creative performance within a specified, collaborative project. Projects will usually be significant in scope and require commitment over an extended period with a small or large musical ensemble or interdisciplinary creative group as appropriate to the project brief. The ethos of this module promotes exploration of diverse repertoires, genres, styles and creative approaches.
Third Year Modules
Year three provides opportunities for students to select from a range of optional modules in order to explore areas of special interest and potential career paths in greater depth. These include Composing and Arranging, Conducting Skills, Teaching and Community Work, Welsh Music, Working in the Creative Sector, Music for Theatre, Production for Radio, Alexander Technique, Biology for Musicians and Psychology of Performance, as well as modules based on research, writing, informed performance, advanced harmony, improvisation and periods of study abroad.
Final Year Modules
In the final year, students select 120 credits from a range of Principal Pathway and Professional Pathway modules. Principal Pathway modules must include either the 40-credit or 20-credit Jazz Repertoire module involving the performance of a programme within an ensemble. Additional Principal Pathway modules include Solo Jazz Performance, Jazz for the 21st Century and Big Band Performance. Principal Pathway modules must account for at least one third of the final-year credits and may account for up to two thirds. Assessment of these modules is based primarily on performance, with programme presentation and critical self-evaluation elements.
Professional Pathway modules are project based and cover a range of career-oriented, skills-based and special-interest options. A 40-credit Final Project module is conceived as an ambitious outward-facing, real world project, available in the following areas of activity: Solo Performance, Collaborative Performance, Practice as Research, Creative Devising, Musical Direction, Teaching Artistry, Community Music/Participatory Practice, Digital Project, Industry-based Project and International Exchange Project.
Additional module options include Research Projects, Transcription projects, a Lecture Recital/Pre-performance Talk, Creative Portfolios, as well as others dedicated to writing for music, arts management and creative entrepreneurship.
RWCMD is committed to providing equal access opportunities to talented and motivated applicants from all backgrounds.
We expect candidates to be able to demonstrate excellent technical facility and a musical/stylistically aware approach to jazz performance, including improvisation.
A level Music is desirable, but not essential. However, we do require a knowledge of music theory at Grade 5 level (ABRSM or Trinity College London) as a minimum.
Selection to the BMus (Hons) Jazz course is typically based on the following process:
Principal Study audition: Including aural and sightreading tests
Interview and practical session: This will take place after the audition with the Head of Study and/or another member of senior staff, providing an opportunity to discuss and explore musical interests, ambitions and readiness for conservatoire-level study. There may also be a short one-to-one practical session to evaluate the applicant’s responsiveness to feedback and guidance.
Online musicianship test: A diagnostic test to ascertain levels of experience and knowledge in core aspects of theoretical musicianship.
Candidates who are successful at audition/interview are usually expected to gain at least two A levels (grades A-E) or equivalent qualifications.
Equivalent qualifications include:
One A level (grades A-E) and 2 AS levels (grades A-D)
3 Scottish Highers (grades A-D)
5 Irish Highers (one at H3 and four at least H5)
BTEC National Diploma/Certificate (Level 3)
National Welsh Baccalaureate
International Baccalaureate (at least 24 points, with 3 subjects at Higher)
Advanced GNVQ (Level 3)
Other equivalent, international qualifications (please contact admissions to discuss specific details)
In every case, the minimum conditions attached to any offer of a place are based on individual applications/auditions.
Non-standard Entry Requirements
Inclusivity is fundamental to our success, and we actively seek greater diversity within all aspects of our course, and within our cohort. We offer an open invitation and welcome candidates from any background who meet the standard entry requirements or can demonstrate equivalency in skills, aptitude and potential to undertake the demands of the BMus programme. The College considers all cases of non-standard applicants on an individual, case-by-case basis. All non-standard entries are reviewed by the Examination Board, BMus Programme Leader, Director of Music and relevant Head of Study.
The selection process is the same as for standard applicants. Those who meet the Principal Study entrance requirements but do not have the minimum academic qualifications must demonstrate evidence of their general musical knowledge and academic abilities. Details of the evidence required will be set out by the College on an individual basis and will usually consist of a combination of the following:
Evidence of musicianship and music theory skills and knowledge compatible with entry to the BMus Programme (e.g., music theory exam certificates or completion of the College’s initial Harmony and Theory online course)
A sample of written work (e.g., an essay, piece of creative writing, or a blog)
A sample of notational work (e.g. a composition or transcription)
Evidence of prior artistic and musical experiences (e.g., concert programmes, audio or video recordings, competition adjudication)
International applicants whose first language is not English will need to demonstrate that their English language ability meets the College’s minimum requirements. Please refer to our English Language Requirements page for details of accepted English language tests and required scores.
Tuition Fees for 2023-2024
* Undergraduate tuition fees for UK students are set by the Welsh Government. They are reviewed annually and may be subject to an increase in future years.
** Undergraduate tuition fees for overseas students are subject to an annual increase.