The String Department at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama is one of the most dynamic of all UK conservatoires. Our students are immersed in a stimulating, collaborative environment, experiencing high levels of engagement with the music profession throughout their studies. In areas such as orchestral training and chamber music mentoring, we offer students an unparalleled training experience with numerous and diverse performance opportunities. Our highly personalised approach emphasises the development of individual career pathways through bespoke opportunities and tailored tuition.
Find out more about what makes our training so distinctive:
Our Orchestral Training Programme is arguably the best in the UK. Designed in collaboration with the leaders and principals of the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, our comprehensive programme is delivered by performers who are active in the orchestral profession both in the UK and internationally. Regular classes cover excerpt preparation, orchestral audition techniques and practical experience of many different sized ensembles. Orchestral projects – including Symphony, Chamber, Opera, Concert, Baroque, Contemporary, Music Theatre and Period instrument – are open to all students from the first year onwards and all students take part in String Ensemble projects, directed by professional performers. From the third year, auditions are held to select students to take part in placement schemes and side-by-side concerts with our two national partner orchestras. Our recently introduced postgraduate programme in Orchestral Performance is also now attracting considerable international interest.
Chamber music is a particular strength and many of our tutors are chamber musicians of international standing. Our resident ensembles, the Gould Piano Trio and the Albion Quartet, hold regular coaching sessions, concerts and workshops and all students receive an allocation of hours for coaching with the tutor of their choice to support the chamber music performance that is integrated into the BMus course. Chamber masterclasses are built into the regular schedule and link to our calendar of visiting artists which, each year, includes some of the world’s most exciting chamber ensembles. The String Soloists is our elite chamber ensemble which is open, via screened audition, to all students and, at least twice a year, a programme directed by an inspirational international soloist.
All the string department tutors combine their teaching with performance at the highest level, and our staff grace some of the world’s finest orchestras and chamber ensembles. This huge experience gives RWCMD students a vibrant interface with the profession and we ensure that all students receive input from a wide range of tutors through our varied performance class schedule. This programme is further enhanced both by the regular input of visiting artists performing in the award-winning concert hall and by our associated artists such as, for example, the Ian Stoutzker Chair of Violin, Professor Itzhak Rashkovsky, who takes regular classes throughout the year.
RWCMD has a strong tradition in historically-informed performance and an appreciation of the differing stylistic approaches appropriate to each era is something that forms a core part of our training. Each student has a chance to take advantage of classes delivered by leading exponents in the field – including associated artist, Rachel Podger – and to take part in regular performance projects and concerts curated by HP luminaries including our International Chair in Historical Performance, Jeremy West. ‘Taster’ viol lessons are taken by all second years and many students continue to enjoy the free tuition available to all students. Baroque lessons are also available as a free optional extra, on a range of instruments, which can be lent from our stock of historical instruments. On a broader level, all students are given contextual training on how to play in all the major period styles, and how to ornament, for example, in the baroque style or how to write a classical cadenza.
Performance Classes and Accompaniment
The String Department has two dedicated accompanists and all students receive an allocation of hours to work with them individually. The Royal Welsh College is an All-Steinway conservatoire, but String students will also have the opportunity to rehearse and perform with harpsichord and fortepiano. Performance classes range from small, instrument-specific masterclasses to large formal performance classes, public foyer concerts and opportunities to perform in public masterclasses with visiting artists. The College’s world-class concert hall hosts an inspirational programme of concerts each season, most of which are free to students.
We have a growing number of instruments and bows which we lend out to students as well as a visiting Luthier who can take care of repairs, re-hairs etc.
Every string student in their second year takes part in an introductory viol module, directed by internationally-renowned scholar and performer Lucy Robinson. All students who wish to develop their skills further are allocated regular lessons, at no extra cost, as well as the chance of frequent ensemble performances. Viols are provided and we currently have around six consorts who are performing in concerts in and around Cardiff, as well as further afield, such as in the RCM International Festival of Viols. Each year, this performance opportunity attracts large numbers of students who are learning many transferable skills, as well as becoming acquainted with important repertoire and performance traditions. Every summer we have a viol festival in College which provides a fitting climax to the year’s activities. We are extremely grateful to Linda and Tony Hill for their generosity and unstinting support with this area of our study.