My choice to pursue a Master’s degree after my undergraduate Music degree says a lot about the University of Sheffield. I was drawn to the university as it has strengths in a variety of areas of music. After my bachelor degree, I undertook a Master’s in Research and Performance, allowing me to specialise in the two areas I enjoyed most.

As a keen performer, I was given opportunities to perform across Sheffield, including the Cathedral, Firth Hall, and Chatsworth House. I auditioned for solo opportunities and was excited to perform Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs for Clarinet and Jazz Ensemble, and John Williams’s Viktor’s Tale. The university provided ample hours of clarinet tuition and during my Master’s degree arranged for my lessons to happen at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Learning with Nicholas Cox, a world renowned clarinetist, was unforgettable and he encouraged me to watch masterclasses and some of his rehearsals.

The composition lecturers at the university were always keen to encourage contemporary music, by current composers and students. I was able to perform compositions by George Nicholson, head of composition, whilst being coached and conducted by him. George also arranged a concert of music by Bernard Rands, his own composition teacher, who came in to give us advice on his works.

The societies at the university hugely contributed to my time at Sheffield. For me, this included the Symphony, Wind, and Chamber Orchestras which were all conducted by lecturers from the Music Department, meaning that my learning continued outside of my lectures and clarinet lessons.

The Wind Orchestra (SUWO) formed a large part of my time in Sheffield. It allowed me to go on tour to locations including Latvia, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. As well as playing the canons of the wind orchestra repertoire we also premiered several pieces by both students and well known composers like Bill Connor and Peter Meechan. In my final year, I became President of the orchestra and organised the concerts for the year, the tour, and competition appearances. The orchestra received a platinum award at the National Concert Band Festival heats: the highest achievement the orchestra has to date. A highlight of my time with SUWO was organising an extra concert in the series to fund raise: a film music concert which went down well with the audience as well as the orchestra.

My experiences at university have helped me to get a job as a Graduate Music Assistant at Wells Cathedral School. This will involve practice supervision, coaching their performers, teaching, playing, leading ensembles and teaching theory. I’m looking forward to working with high level performers in a specialist music school and seeing where my career will go after that.

Beth Nichol