evegeog
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Should I talk about why I chose to study at music at University rather than Conservatoire?
I chose university because I want to get good A-levels and studying at a conservatoire would mean I would have to throw all of my academic study away (you only need two Es to get into most) because I would have to spend ALL my time practicing.
Also I want to study music academically rather than just focusing on performance.
Is this a good thing to mention in my personal statement?
Also I'm just generally struggling to write it.
I'm applying to Oxford, Manchester, York, Edinburgh and Leeds. Does anyone have any tips on what to write for these universities for music???
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Beth_H
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I think that's a good angle for a personal statement - if you phrase it in a way which emphasises your interest in music as an academic subject as well as a purely practical one, that'll show you understand what a music degree is all about. I'm going to Oxford to study music this year (and I also applied to York), so if you have any questions about the admissions process, then feel free to ask!
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evegeog
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(Original post by Beth_H)
I think that's a good angle for a personal statement - if you phrase it in a way which emphasises your interest in music as an academic subject as well as a purely practical one, that'll show you understand what a music degree is all about. I'm going to Oxford to study music this year (and I also applied to York), so if you have any questions about the admissions process, then feel free to ask!
Thanks so much for the reply it really helped me a lot!
I do have a question regarding the two 1500 word essays I need to hand in. I'm doing one on philosophy and one which has to be on music.
What are they looking for in terms of topics (for music)/quality etc.
I have the same queries about the two compositions. What are they looking for in terms of understanding of form and quality? Are they looking for degree level compositions?
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Beth_H
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(Original post by evegeog)
Thanks so much for the reply it really helped me a lot!
I do have a question regarding the two 1500 word essays I need to hand in. I'm doing one on philosophy and one which has to be on music.
What are they looking for in terms of topics (for music)/quality etc.
I have the same queries about the two compositions. What are they looking for in terms of understanding of form and quality? Are they looking for degree level compositions?
There are two main options for the music essay - one is to take a long answer A level question (like the 36 mark questions in the old Edexcel papers) and extend them, so as we'll as commenting on features of the two pieces, you set those features in their social and historical contexts. The other is to essentially make up a question about a particular composer or element of music, research the topic and write a response (bear in mind that for this approach you will need to include a bibliography/webography citing your sources). For example, I wrote an essay on the question 'To what extent was Clara Schumann's compositional style affected by her marriage to Robert Schumann?'. My teacher gave me a list of suggested questions, which I can send to you if you'd like.

I think it's preferable to send them one composition and a harmony exercise (like a Bach chorale or a figured bass realisation) rather than two compositions, but I don't think that's a requirement. The composition I sent was the one I wrote for my AS level coursework; they're not looking for anything groundbreaking, just an idea of what your style is like and how well you can handle particular instrumental forces.
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evegeog
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If you could send me that list of essay questions I would be very grateful! Anything from my A level class would be useless because we're studying jazz and I'm not interested in studying this at degree level at all.Thanks a lot for the information.I've spoken with my composition tutor and we've decided to do a Bach chorale and a string quartet in variation style. This way I can write for strings which are the family I am most familiar with and also I can explore a range of different styles.
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Beth_H
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(Original post by evegeog)
If you could send me that list of essay questions I would be very grateful! Anything from my A level class would be useless because we're studying jazz and I'm not interested in studying this at degree level at all.Thanks a lot for the information.I've spoken with my composition tutor and we've decided to do a Bach chorale and a string quartet in variation style. This way I can write for strings which are the family I am most familiar with and also I can explore a range of different styles.
This is the list of questions my teacher gave me:

‘The music of a concerto…should be light-hearted and brilliant, and not aim at profundity or at dramatic effects’. To what extent do Ravel’s two piano concertos live up to his own dictum? Evaluate the contributions of Scriabin and Rachmaninov to piano music of the 20th Century. Which, if either, had the more profound impact? To what extent did Sibelius’s final symphony revolutionise the symphonic genre? [you would need to look at the structure of the symphony, which is really interesting, then cross-reference with some of his earlier symphonies and also symphonies of other composers which had challenged the symphonic norm] Messiaen sought for a music that ‘touches everything and at the same time touches God’. To what extent did he achieve his own personal goal [you would be looking at the two strands of Messiaen- that which celebrates the earth and that which celebrates his faith]Composing for instruments you know well is definitely the way to go, as you'll be able to fully exploit their capabilities, and you're much less likely to make basic mistakes (like writing notes too low or high for the instrument to play). Out of curiosity, have you thought about which college you might want to apply to at Oxford?
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evegeog
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(Original post by Beth_H)
This is the list of questions my teacher gave me:

‘The music of a concerto…should be light-hearted and brilliant, and not aim at profundity or at dramatic effects’. To what extent do Ravel’s two piano concertos live up to his own dictum? Evaluate the contributions of Scriabin and Rachmaninov to piano music of the 20th Century. Which, if either, had the more profound impact? To what extent did Sibelius’s final symphony revolutionise the symphonic genre? [you would need to look at the structure of the symphony, which is really interesting, then cross-reference with some of his earlier symphonies and also symphonies of other composers which had challenged the symphonic norm] Messiaen sought for a music that ‘touches everything and at the same time touches God’. To what extent did he achieve his own personal goal [you would be looking at the two strands of Messiaen- that which celebrates the earth and that which celebrates his faith]Composing for instruments you know well is definitely the way to go, as you'll be able to fully exploit their capabilities, and you're much less likely to make basic mistakes (like writing notes too low or high for the instrument to play). Out of curiosity, have you thought about which college you might want to apply to at Oxford?
I really like the question about Messian and his goals. My EPQ is something like that. "Is music written in times of hardship the key to a successful composition."
As for the college I'm hoping to go to Christ's Church or Queens.
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Beth_H
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(Original post by evegeog)
I really like the question about Messian and his goals. My EPQ is something like that. "Is music written in times of hardship the key to a successful composition."
As for the college I'm hoping to go to Christ's Church or Queens.
Awesome! Your EPQ sounds really interesting as well, I take it you're talking about that in your personal statement?
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evegeog
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(Original post by Beth_H)
Awesome! Your EPQ sounds really interesting as well, I take it you're talking about that in your personal statement?
I really want to mention it in my personal statement but I'm only just starting to write it because I took 4 a levels last year and didn't want to put too much stress on myself.
Which college are you going to? Do you have any pointers as to which college I should choose between christs and queens?
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Beth_H
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(Original post by evegeog)
I really want to mention it in my personal statement but I'm only just starting to write it because I took 4 a levels last year and didn't want to put too much stress on myself.
Which college are you going to? Do you have any pointers as to which college I should choose between christs and queens?
Ah, fair enough! It might be worth mentioning that it's something you're going to do. I'm going to St Catherine's; I don't really know much about Christ Church or Queen's, but I would suggest googling who the music tutors are there, finding out what their specialisms are and seeing what interests you more (since they'll probably be the ones interviewing you).
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evegeog
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(Original post by Beth_H)
Ah, fair enough! It might be worth mentioning that it's something you're going to do. I'm going to St Catherine's; I don't really know much about Christ Church or Queen's, but I would suggest googling who the music tutors are there, finding out what their specialisms are and seeing what interests you more (since they'll probably be the ones interviewing you).
Having a look at the different tutors it seems Queen's tutors are more suited to what I want to study (things like pre 1750 and Baroque era music.)
Christ's on the other hand gravitate more towards modernism/minimalism which I'm not really interested in.

My last question, if you don't mind answering, is about the interview.
I understand that there is a performance on your instrument and also a prepared piece which you will have been given on the day to analyse.
What would you say the standard of the piece you talked about was?
Also more generally, what was the overall tone of the interview? Is there anything I should read or anything I should do to prepare for it and were there any questions they asked that you were not prepared for or that threw you a little?
I've heard the interviews can be terrifying.
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auburnstar
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Wish I'd seen this earlier - Beth is doing a terrific job and has appeared to answer every question.

As for my experience, I would say for the essays give them a musicology-related essay and another essay subject (like philosophy or english). Have a debatable topic. For instance, if you were to write on the question "to what extent is identity reflected in the works of Shostakovich?" you could discuss musical features that point to a) identity having less significance (artistic restriction imposed by the communist regime) and b) identity having more significance (eg widespread use of the DSCH motif). Then come to your own conclusion, having evaluated the views of different authors. Doesn't need to be long, 1500 words is perfectly fine (citations aren't mandatory but they help from an aesthetic point of view).

For the compositions, aim to give 1 composition and 1 Bach chorale/technical exercise. It doesn't have to be undergraduate level, just something that would be good/very good at AS level and reflects your own abilities/compositional style.

Difficult to estimate the standard of the piece, but I would say it would be roughly AS level classical sonata (so maybe grade 6?). They're not necessarily looking for a right answer but more how you come to your answer about what you think a feature is (eg you might get an ornament wrong, but recognise it as an ornament because that's a prominent feature of Mozart's style). Some interviewers will be "sterner" than others as people have different approaches, but everyone I met was very warm and friendly, if keen to push you academically. Hope that helps and best of luck, I might be applying to St Johns for music so might see you around
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Beth_H
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(Original post by evegeog)
Having a look at the different tutors it seems Queen's tutors are more suited to what I want to study (things like pre 1750 and Baroque era music.)
Christ's on the other hand gravitate more towards modernism/minimalism which I'm not really interested in.

My last question, if you don't mind answering, is about the interview.
I understand that there is a performance on your instrument and also a prepared piece which you will have been given on the day to analyse.
What would you say the standard of the piece you talked about was?
Also more generally, what was the overall tone of the interview? Is there anything I should read or anything I should do to prepare for it and were there any questions they asked that you were not prepared for or that threw you a little?
I've heard the interviews can be terrifying.
In my first interview (at St Catherine's), I was given a song by Schumann with a translation, and I was asked to talk about how the music supported the lyrics. I also had an article to read and answer questions on. In my second interview (at Hertford), I was given a piece with no information, and had to analyse the style to suggest an instrument, composer and period - this is a more common exercise, and something which I think most colleges do.

I personally enjoyed my interviews; the tutors were very friendly, and the questions were all related to either the work they had given me in my pre-reading, or my personal statement, so there was nothing really out of the blue. I found the most challenging questions to be the sort of philosophical ones - for instance, in my second interview, we talked about originality in music, and I was asked where I would draw the line between inspiration and plagiarism. There isn't anything that they would expect you to have read, but there is (I think) a reading list on the website, which has ideas for books and essays you can read if you're interested.

The performance audition takes place separately to the interview (it's held in the music faculty rather than the college), but don't worry too much about that - I totally messed mine up and I still got in! You'll probably also have a harmony test and potentially a keyboard sight reading test, both of which are held at the college.

The interview process is a little bit scary, but the tutors completely expect you to be nervous and they won't think badly of you for it.
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auburnstar
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(Original post by Beth_H)
In my first interview (at St Catherine's), I was given a song by Schumann with a translation, and I was asked to talk about how the music supported the lyrics. I also had an article to read and answer questions on. In my second interview (at Hertford), I was given a piece with no information, and had to analyse the style to suggest an instrument, composer and period - this is a more common exercise, and something which I think most colleges do.

I personally enjoyed my interviews; the tutors were very friendly, and the questions were all related to either the work they had given me in my pre-reading, or my personal statement, so there was nothing really out of the blue. I found the most challenging questions to be the sort of philosophical ones - for instance, in my second interview, we talked about originality in music, and I was asked where I would draw the line between inspiration and plagiarism. There isn't anything that they would expect you to have read, but there is (I think) a reading list on the website, which has ideas for books and essays you can read if you're interested.

The performance audition takes place separately to the interview (it's held in the music faculty rather than the college), but don't worry too much about that - I totally messed mine up and I still got in! You'll probably also have a harmony test and potentially a keyboard sight reading test, both of which are held at the college.

The interview process is a little bit scary, but the tutors completely expect you to be nervous and they won't think badly of you for it.
Make sure you read every book/article you mention in your PS (generally 2-3 books) and know it well. Don't think OP mentioned if they have grade 5 practical piano level - if you have this you won't have to sit a keyboard sight reading test.
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evegeog
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(Original post by auburnstar)
Wish I'd seen this earlier - Beth is doing a terrific job and has appeared to answer every question.

As for my experience, I would say for the essays give them a musicology-related essay and another essay subject (like philosophy or english). Have a debatable topic. For instance, if you were to write on the question "to what extent is identity reflected in the works of Shostakovich?" you could discuss musical features that point to a) identity having less significance (artistic restriction imposed by the communist regime) and b) identity having more significance (eg widespread use of the DSCH motif). Then come to your own conclusion, having evaluated the views of different authors. Doesn't need to be long, 1500 words is perfectly fine (citations aren't mandatory but they help from an aesthetic point of view).

For the compositions, aim to give 1 composition and 1 Bach chorale/technical exercise. It doesn't have to be undergraduate level, just something that would be good/very good at AS level and reflects your own abilities/compositional style.

Difficult to estimate the standard of the piece, but I would say it would be roughly AS level classical sonata (so maybe grade 6?). They're not necessarily looking for a right answer but more how you come to your answer about what you think a feature is (eg you might get an ornament wrong, but recognise it as an ornament because that's a prominent feature of Mozart's style). Some interviewers will be "sterner" than others as people have different approaches, but everyone I met was very warm and friendly, if keen to push you academically. Hope that helps and best of luck, I might be applying to St Johns for music so might see you around
Thanks so much for the reply. Everyone's answers have been so helpful.
My college has a lot of Oxbridge connections however they are VERY science oriented and thus far no tutors from the college have been able to advise me in any way useful.
For the essay I will be writing on Philosophy, I was looking to gown down the ontology route however do you think it would be a good idea to provide one essay on musicology and one still on musicology but from a philosophical point of view or should I aim to give them something different completely so as to show that I can do other things?
"To what extent is identity reflected in the works of Shostakovich" I think is a brilliant question. I'll definitely look into that idea of composers and their influences.

Again thanks so much for the help. See you there September 2018
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auburnstar
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(Original post by evegeog)
Thanks so much for the reply. Everyone's answers have been so helpful.
My college has a lot of Oxbridge connections however they are VERY science oriented and thus far no tutors from the college have been able to advise me in any way useful.
For the essay I will be writing on Philosophy, I was looking to gown down the ontology route however do you think it would be a good idea to provide one essay on musicology and one still on musicology but from a philosophical point of view or should I aim to give them something different completely so as to show that I can do other things?
"To what extent is identity reflected in the works of Shostakovich" I think is a brilliant question. I'll definitely look into that idea of composers and their influences.

Again thanks so much for the help. See you there September 2018
Yes, I think that would be fine, as would be one purely philosophy essay and one musicology but still philosophy-related essay. The philosophy of music is a very interesting element and it's perfectly fine to have a niche interest (especially if you're highly knowledgeable about it and it comes up at interview).

Also check out the open day in september, they have both a music faculty and college open day.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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In addition to all the great advice above, it's worth mentioning that the music essay you send in may (or may not) form part of the interview discussion at Oxford. So it should be a topic you're not only comfortable writing about, but talking about too. Pick something you can confidently discuss/debate/argue :yep:

If you want someone to read over your personal statement once it's drafted, you can submit it to the PS Review service here and I can review it and provide feedback. I have proved my Oxford/general credentials to the PS Review service, so you can guarantee that I won't be nicking your statement or anything :musicus: :nah: I personally wouldn't use your PS to discuss why you are applying for unis rather than conservatoires, unless you have space left over once you've drafted it and you wanna use it for that
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evegeog
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
In addition to all the great advice above, it's worth mentioning that the music essay you send in may (or may not) form part of the interview discussion at Oxford. So it should be a topic you're not only comfortable writing about, but talking about too. Pick something you can confidently discuss/debate/argue :yep:

If you want someone to read over your personal statement once it's drafted, you can submit it to the PS Review service here and I can review it and provide feedback. I have proved my Oxford/general credentials to the PS Review service, so you can guarantee that I won't be nicking your statement or anything :musicus: :nah: I personally wouldn't use your PS to discuss why you are applying for unis rather than conservatoires, unless you have space left over once you've drafted it and you wanna use it for that
That would be great. I'm currently working in my personal statement so my first draft should be finished pretty soon.
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(Original post by evegeog)
That would be great. I'm currently working in my personal statement so my first draft should be finished pretty soon.
Cool! We only look at final drafts in the PS Review service, so try and perfect it as best as you can before submitting it Make sure you don't post it on the open forum though :eek:
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evegeog
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I know this was ages ago but I just want to say thanks to everyone on this thread who helped me with this application! This thread helped me so much with my personal statement and supporting written work! I just got accepted to Christ Church Oxford on Wednesday so thank you to everyone who helped 😋
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