University offers are music to the ears of budding maestros

Thursday 10 January 2019

For some music is a passion; for some it’s a pastime; but for others it’s also a profession.

Young musicians Jonathan Iceton and Katie Ross are hoping that a degree in the subject will lead them to their dream job.

Jonathan took up a place at Cambridge University to read Music, having exceeded the required entry grades with 2A* and 2As. With an A and 2Bs, Katie secured a place closer to home at Durham University.

They are following in the footsteps of four students from the previous year group who went on to further study in the subject – one at Oxford University, one at Newcastle, and two to train as Primary Years Music teachers.

Having racked up an impressive 11A* at GCSE, Jonathan could have chosen any subject at A Level, but he has known since Year 9 that Music and Drama is the career he wants to pursue – as anyone will understand who has seen his dazzling performances in the College productions. Along with Music and Drama he chose English Literature and French “because I enjoy reading and we’ve got some great teachers, and French is just so useful”.

“Year 12 was a big step up from GCSE,” said Jonathan. “You’re dealing with much harder exams, and more content in less time – it’s been a challenge,” he admitted. “In Year 13 it’s different again,” he added. “The emphasis is on focussed groups with more teacher attention and greater freedom with our work.”

We are confident Jonathan is a match for the challenge of Cambridge – he has successfully juggled everything from Grade 8 flute, Orchestra and Senior Choir to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, College productions and LAMDA exams. “Emmanuel College has taught me how to work effectively and independently,” said Jonathan. “The workload here is a good preparation for university, and I’m grateful to Emmanuel to putting me on the right track.”

A keen pianist and Grade 8 viola player, Katie has set her heart on composing music for film and video games. “Composition is my favourite creative activity,” she said. “I’m passionate about gaming, making videos on YouTube, producing music and DJing. I’ve really enjoyed reading around music to develop skills beyond the curriculum, such as learning to produce electronic music.”

Like Jonathan, Katie found A Levels a huge step up from GCSE. “It’s been challenging balancing out the subjects, especially in the run-up to exams (I’m doing an EPQ and two music exams this year too),” she said.

Yet the challenge certainly proved worthwhile. “Throughout the A level course I feel I have developed greatly as a musician,” said Katie. “The teachers have been very helpful in opening my eyes to the greater musical world. I have massively enjoyed discovering new composers through listening to pieces that supplemented the set works we had to learn.”

Katie acknowledged the invaluable role her teachers played in guiding her on her musical journey. “Music is a strange subject because everyone experiences it in a unique way, and it was great to have teachers who could show us new ways to listen to and analyse music,” she said. “It was a fantastic feeling when both of my compositions were finished and I could enjoy listening to something I had created with the advice and support of the music staff.”

Success at university surely awaits Katie: her intense passion for Music and Art and her dedication in College and beyond is already carrying her far. “In College I was part of the Senior Choir as an alto, and in the Symphony Orchestra as their only violist (I would like to greatly encourage any budding musicians to take up the viola – it’s terribly underrated!).” And outside school she has her hands full too, creating time-lapse art videos as well as original music compositions and arrangements. “I record sessions lasting over six hours and speed them up into a ten-minute video,” Katie explained about the time-lapse videos. “Recently, one of my videos was featured in an article on wxqr’s blog (New York’s Classical radio station) – this was a nice shock!”

Her most recent arrangement is an Italian 80s pop song which has reached over 67,000 views on YouTube. “I am currently in the process of writing parts for a massive collaboration of people interested in creating a real instrument and vocal cover of my arrangement,” said Katie. “So far, over 200 musicians from across the globe have volunteered.”

Mr Mulgrew said: “Having students like Jonathan and Katie helps make the Music department the vibrant environment that it is. At Emmanuel we have opportunities for musicians at all levels and we embrace their diverse interests. There are always new ensemble groups and performing opportunities, so there truly is something for everyone. We wish Jonathan and Katie well in their future studies.”