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Study options & audition requirements

Student conductor talks to an ensemble during a conducting class
We understand that auditions are a significant milestone on every conservatoire applicant’s journey. The guidance below will help you prepare to the best of your abilities and make you aware of what will happen at your Royal College of Music audition.

The Conducting auditions will take place over three selection rounds. These will be a hybrid of video submission, online sessions and in-person auditions, with the aim of travel only being necessary for the final-round candidates who the panel feels have the highest chance of being offered a place. Unless Covid restrictions make travel impossible, this final round of conducting auditions must be taken in person at the RCM. However, in the case that travel is not possible, the final round will also take place online.

Conductors are assessed through a three stage audition process.

Stage 1

Submit your application form on UCAS Conservatoires and video footage as follows:

  • An original video recording lasting between 10 and 20 minutes of a rehearsal(s) or performance(s) you have conducted in the last 18 months. Due to the difficulties imposed by Covid-19, this may also include conducting two pianists if no orchestral footage is available.
  • A video showing yourself conducting the first movement of Ravel Suite: Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite) in silence. This exercise means that the applicant should imagine the sound, while showing how they might communicate their musical intentions physically. This must not be done with a recording, but the applicant is welcome to sing or hum if this helps.

Stage 2

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to a 35-40 minute working session in early January with the panel, which will include a short lesson with each professor. A second shortlisting process will then take place, and the successful candidates invited to a final round audition in early February.

Stage 3

The selected candidates will be invited to work with ensembles at the RCM, as well as a short interview. They will also take part in online discussion with the conducting professors and an RCM composer (whose work they will conduct in the final round), and separately a chance to discuss life at the RCM with the present students.

Principal studies

Conducting is only available as a principal study specialism at Masters level. A module in conducting is available to undergraduates in years 3 and 4 and Masters students.

In addition to the normal academic and musical standards expected for entry to the RCM's MPerf or MMus (Perf) course, conducting applicants will be expected to show a detailed knowledge of orchestral repertoire and to prove a genuine commitment to conducting as a significant part of their professional career.

Submitting your recording

Applications for entry in September 2022 will open on 15 July 2021. The application deadline is 1 October 2021. Video auditions must be submitted to the RCM by 29 October 2021.

Late applications may be considered for some principal studies. Please contact admissions@rcm.ac.uk before submitting a late application.

What to expect at audition

The time shown on UCAS Conservatoires is your audition time. You should plan to arrive at the RCM at least 30 minutes before this, to allow time to check in and warm up. We advise allowing plenty of extra time for travelling into or across London.

If you are caught in an unavoidable delay, please telephone the Admissions team on +44 (0)20 7591 4362 immediately so that, wherever possible, alternative arrangements can be made.

Contact Admissions

When you arrive at the RCM, you should find out from the front desk where your audition will take place.

The first round of conducting auditions lasts approximately 30 minutes per candidate. Remember that you may be required for two days. You should plan your travel and accommodation accordingly. The second round of auditions take place over the course of half a day.

Audition day 1

Candidates who pass the initial shortlisting process will be invited for an audition at the RCM in early January. The audition will include:

  • Conducting two pianos in a set work
  • Aural tests and sight singing
  • Instrumental/vocal performance (first study composers may choose to present a portfolio of their work instead of performance)
  • A viva voce discussing an unseen orchestral score, and orchestral music, instrumentation and conducting in general

In addition, a video recording to be provided in of yourself performing on your own instrument, or singing. The length should be 4-8 minutes. This can be accompanied or unaccompanied, but the repertoire should be selected accordingly. For composers, a portfolio of your work should be provided instead, which will be discussed in addition to your audition above.  

At the end of the day candidates will be shortlisted again.

Audition day 2

Candidates who pass the second shortlisting process will be invited for another audition at the RCM in February, followed by a final viva voce.

The audition will involve conducting and rehearsing an RCM instrumental ensemble in excerpts from one or more works, as directed by the audition panel, and part of which will take the form of a short lesson from one of the professors. The audition will include a piece of sight-reading with a 30 minute preparation period.

Typical questions you may be asked during your audition include:

  • Why do you want to study at the RCM?
  • What are your musical interests?
  • What do you think you need to do most to improve your conducting?

What to bring

All candidates are expected to play an instrument, sing or compose to a high standard and will be asked to demonstrate this at audition. You will be required to perform repertoire of your choice for around five minutes on the first audition day. You should remember to bring your instrument and music for this purpose or, for those demonstrating compositional skill, a score that best represents your work.

Instrumentalists should remember to bring anything needed for their instrument (eg a spike grip for a cello). Candidates may wish to bring their own accompanist, or alternatively the RCM will have an accompanist available.  

Details of the set pieces will be sent with audition timetables. Please remember to bring scores and a baton with you.

What not to bring

You cannot bring a page-turner, your teacher or a translator into your audition. As our courses are taught in English we expect you to be able to communicate in English at your audition.

Scholarships

Every student who applies for a place on one of the RCM's performance or composition courses commencing in 2022 will be considered for scholarship, whether you have applied by video or attended an audition or interview in person.

There is no separate application process.

Eligibility for scholarships is based on merit, which is determined by performance at audition (or by submission of video) or the strength of portfolio and interview for composers.

If you are offered a scholarship or study award you will receive a letter, normally sent by email, confirming this and the conditions of your award.

In exceptional circumstances, an applicant may be offered a scholarship on the day of their audition.

After your audition

You will be informed of the result of your audition as soon as possible. The RCM cannot enter into correspondence over the results of auditions. 

Find out more

Audition queries

Please double-check that you are available at the time and date of your audition. If there are any special circumstances the RCM needs to be aware of before your audition, please let us know in advance.

Find out more

If you have any questions about auditions or the application process please contact our Admissions team.

Admissions

Admissions and general audition enquiries

admissions@rcm.ac.uk