‘The ethos of the Royal College of Music Percussion Faculty is centred on recognising what the profession needs and equipping you with those essential skills.’
The Percussion Faculty currently boasts more than 40 former students in the UK’s leading orchestras. The backbone of our teaching has a clear orchestral bias, but today’s training covers all aspects of percussion activity, enabling you to enter the profession equipped with the musical tools of the trade.
Percussion students at the Royal College of Music enjoy the benefits of a vibrant faculty housed in a purpose-built percussion suite. We have state-of-the-art technology and practice facilities for teaching world percussion alongside the orchestral repertoire.
At postgraduate level, we offer the option to study marimba as a principal study instrument – an option devised in association with internationally renowned marimbist Daniella Ganeva.
An introduction to the Percussion Faculty
Head of Percussion, David Hockings, joins percussionist Alun McNeil Watson to talk about the opportunities RCM students enjoy.
One-to-one lessons are at the very heart of every RCM student’s learning experience. The Percussion Faculty boasts professors with experience from right across the industry, which allows us to provide our students with unparalleled insights and networking opportunities.
Many of our teachers hold principal positions in major orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philhamonic Orchestra, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Students have the opportunity to participate in repertoire classes with players from leading orchestras and benefit from workshops given by distinguished visiting artists.
All first and second year undergraduates enjoy regular lessons on solo marimba, jazz vibraphone, Latin percussion and drum kit, in addition to timpani and orchestral percussion. In their third and fourth years, all BMus students choose just four of these disciplines, crafting a bespoke study experience based on the specialisations that best suit their aspirations.
Benny Greb at the RCM Festival of Percussion
Guest artist Anders Astrand rehearsing with students
Rehearsing in the Royal Festival Hall
PERC'M performing in Beverley Minster
Redhocks at the opening of the Crick Institute © Ben Gilbert
Visiting artist She-e Wu
Preparations for a PERC'M performance in Florence, Italy
Redhocks perform at the RCM Festival of Percussion
RCM students performing at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as part of the Guinness World Record attempt for the world’s largest drumming lesson
We are proud to be the first UK conservatoire to have an American Drumline ensemble – the Redhocks – which has been trained by 18-times world pipe band champion, Jim Kilpatrick.
Uniquely among UK conservatoires, the RCM has its own percussion quartet, PERC’M, which is professionally coached, rehearses regularly and enjoys a busy performance schedule.
'I chose to study at the RCM due to the sheer versatility of the course. Percussion can be very diverse and being a well-rounded player was my most important aim.'
Percussion students have numerous opportunities to take part in public performances as soloists, in chamber groups and in the RCM’s various orchestras and ensembles. Orchestral performances are often directed by internationally renowned conductors, providing invaluable experience of truly world-class rehearsal and performance. Previous guest conductors have included John Wilson, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Antonio Pappano, Holly Mathieson and Vladimir Jurowski.
David Hockings with students in the percussion suite
RCM percussionists performing in an orchestra
Marimba room in the percussion suite
A drum kit lesson in the percussion suite
Percussion in the RCM Big Band
Practicing cymbals in the percussion suite
Percussionists at the end of an orchestral concert
Performing in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall
Students performing at a Percussion Showcase
Rehearsing with the RCM Philharmonic
Our percussionists occasionally travel and perform abroad. Previously RCM percussionists have toured with Serge Vuille, She-e Wu and David Hockings.
The Percussion Faculty runs regular performance classes in which every student participates at least four times a term. In addition, the entire faculty performs at the RCM’s termly percussion showcases, which include solos and duos, plus performances by PERC’M, our percussion quartet and the Redhocks, our American drumline.
RCM percussionists performed at the inauguration of the Francis Crick Institute, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, and helped set a world record for the largest drum lesson ever given, which took place at the Copper Box Arena and was adjudicated by the Guinness World Records.
Festival of Percussion
The annual RCM Festival of Percussion, London’s only annual percussion festival, is a celebration of the field. It offers a wide range of entertaining and educational events, further performance opportunities for RCM students, plus a trade fair featuring some of the most important brands in the industry.
Our purpose-built percussion suite opened in September 2015. It contains spaces dedicated to individual musical purposes: timpani, vibraphone, marimba and orchestral, as well as a multi-percussion room for recital and ensemble practice, a large main space for masterclasses and sectional rehearsals and bespoke studio room for recording.
Both the main room and the studio feature recording equipment and contain drum kit, Latin instruments, vibraphone and keyboards ready for recording sessions.
We continually invest in our facilities to ensure RCM students have the very best opportunities. Our impressive performance spaces are matched by top-quality academic and technical provisions, such as our historic library and professional grade studios. The Royal College of Music is proud to offer some of the finest facilities anywhere in the world.
The RCM has three major performance spaces. The Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall which has an illustrious history and is the primary performance venue for RCM orchestras and large ensembles. Our 400-seat Britten Theatre boasts excellent technical facilities for the RCM’s thriving International Opera School. The Performance Hall offers an alternative space for ensemble performances and orchestral rehearsals, and boasts a retractable stage, comprehensive technical infrastructure and variable acoustics, providing versatility for the range of events staged by the College.
In addition, more intimate spaces for solo and chamber performance include the Performance Studio and The Parry Rooms, which have unparalleled views of the Royal Albert Hall, and our 100-seat Recital Hall.
As well as practice rooms and space for one-to-one and group teaching, the RCM contains dedicated opera rehearsal spaces, a number of sound-proofed Amadeus Music Pods and organ rooms. We have over 160 pianos, including 60 grand pianos and 20 early keyboards, instrument storage with special facilities for harps and double basses, plus in-house instrument workshops.
RCM Studios is a commercial-grade facility, equipped with professional audio, video and composition technologies, supporting the RCM’s recording needs and enabling live broadcast of performances around the world.
The RCM Library contains more than 400,000 scores, books and recordings in its lending collection, plus access to more than 400 music journals. The library also subscribes to many online resources including Oxford Music Online, Naxos Music Library, JSTOR, Met Online and the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall. In addition, the RCM also boasts an internationally renowned collection of original manuscripts (including examples from Mozart and Elgar) early printed editions and archives.
The RCM Museum holds more than 15,000 instruments dating from the late 15th century to the present day, some of which are the earliest known examples of their kind. The collection is a unique resource and many of the instruments in the collection can be studied or played by RCM students.
The public museum is currently closed for refurbishment, but its vital resources are still available to our students.
Recent visiting artists
The RCM holds regular percussion masterclasses, which take place in the specialised facilities of the percussion suite. Previous visitors have included:
- Colin Currie
- O Duo
- Peter Erskine
- David Friedman
- Eric Sammut
- She-e Wu
- Raphael Haeger, principal percussionist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
The RCM is the first institution in the UK to offer solo marimba as a principal study at postgraduate level, which is available to students working towards a Master of Performance (MPerf).
This world-class study option, devised in association with internationally renowned marimbist Daniella Ganeva, provides a fabulous opportunity to study solo marimba right in the heart of one of Europe’s most spectacular cities. Students enjoy lessons and masterclasses from celebrated visiting artists including She-e Wu and Jasmin Kolberg.
We aim to prepare students for a career as a solo artist through intensive training in all aspects of solo performance, repertoire, techniques, concert programming, recording and management.
Students can expect:
- Regular one-to-one lessons dedicated to solo marimba.
- Regular performance opportunities with an end of year recital.
- Ensemble and chamber music coaching.
- Masterclassses with internationally renowned marimbists.
- The access to state-of-the-art facilities and professional development opportunities enjoyed by all RCM students.
For more information about our postgraduate marimba offering please contact our Admissions team.
RCM percussion alumni hold principal and co-principal positions in major orchestras and bands, including:
- BBC Symphony Orchestra
- London Symphony Orchestra
- London Philharmonic Orchestra
- Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
- Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
- City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
- The Hallé
- Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
RCM graduates are achieving solo success worldwide. Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox have achieved critical acclaim and commercial success as O Duo. They have performed concertos with the BBC Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras, worked at Abbey Road and Sony studios on television and film scores, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and BBC TV.
In addition, many of our alumni have achieved successful freelance careers as orchestral and session players across the globe.
The RCM’s Creative Careers Centre, which is recognised internationally for its innovative approach to supporting young musicians, provides an unparalleled service to current students and recent alumni. The dedicated team partners with leading consultants, reputable arts organisations and local communities, delivering unique career-building opportunities and a direct route to the music industry.
The work of the Creative Careers Centre allows students to discover their professional identity, gain hands-on experience and new skills, develop an entrepreneurial mind-set and build a fulfilling professional portfolio.
Extensive performance and teaching opportunities are available, as well as valuable guidance on CV and biography writing, concert programming, communication skills, project management, marketing and publicity, online promotion, financial matters and how to develop a business idea.
Latest from the Percussion Faculty
The popular RCM In Focus series returns this spring with new performances by RCM musicians, filmed especially for online audiences.
The Royal College of Music has launched its autumn events season for 2020, including the first performances in its brand-new Performance Hall.
Sir Antonio Pappano, John Wilson and Holly Mathieson feature alongside RCM students in this month's online concert series, taking classic performances from our archives.
The Royal College of Music achieves strong performance in this year's National Student Survey (NSS).
Rafael Payare, Juraj Valčuha, Roderick Williams and the Harlem Quartet feature alongside RCM students in this month's online concert series, taking classic performances from our archives. We are also pleased to announce an online showcase of some of our doctoral research.
Please note that the audition and application process for Fellowships is not the same as it is for our courses. Please refer to the individual Fellowship pages for more details.
Contact the Percussion Faculty
If you have any general queries about percussion at the RCM please contact our Percussion Faculty Administration team. If you have any queries about auditions or the admissions process, please contact our Admissions team.
Percussion Faculty Administration
General enquiries about the operation of the faculty and consultation lessons
Admissions and general audition enquiries