"Leeds Conservatoire has made me think differently, and has helped me become more contemporary in the way that I write as well as the content of the pieces that I compose."

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Holly Chapman - BA (Hons) Music (Classical)

Holly is a second year saxophonist on our BA (Hons) Music (Classical) course. Holly enjoys composing and has performed with ensembles such as the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.

Has your music / approach / technique changed at all since your first year?

Definitely! When I initially came in first year, I was very set in my ways with my writing and composing. Leeds Conservatoire has made me think differently and more contemporary in the ways that I write as well as the content of the pieces that I compose. I am surrounded many different musical ideas that I can integrate into my own. Collaborating with other pathways opens up opportunities and ideas that I can use in other pieces.

What has been the most interesting project you have worked on so far?

Within Leeds Conservatoire, I would say the Composer's Lab. We get sessions with professional musicians & lecturers to regularly workshop our music. It really helped me to ensure that my writing was correctly written for the instruments and that my scoring is correct for the individual performers. The use of the professionals' feedback is exceptional, especially as we may not always write for the specified instruments out of choice.

Aside from Leeds Conservatoire, I have worked with the University of Aberdeen Jazz Society to produce a piece for the Aberdeen Jazz Festival. It was great composing a piece for them and it being rehearsed so that I could take notes of how they managed my music and if I needed to annotate the score in any way before the premiere date. This was premiered in the Aberdeen Jazz Festival 2018 on Sunday 11 March. The feedback and positivity from my Leeds Conservatoire interview assisted greatly with the composition process of this piece, which made me more confident when proceeding to the rehearsals with the ensemble.

Is there anything that has really made you push yourself as a musician or anything new that you've not tried before?

As a composer, having specialist tutors that have been in the industry for a number of years has made me push myself to become more versatile. Being surrounded by professionals motivates me to push myself more in and out of the conservatoire's collaborative environment so that I can push myself further when I leave Leeds Conservatoire and go into the industry.

As a Classical Saxophonist, being asked to dep in orchestras/ensembles at the last minute made me push myself to say yes. In my first year, I got the opportunity to perform with the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra at Leeds Light Night at the last minute. I had one rehearsal with them prior to the event and it really made me question my sight-reading skills. It was by far the toughest set of performances that I had done and I have grown as a musician due the opportunity. I am now more confident to say yes to performances, because I have proved to myself that I can do it at incredibly short notice.

What sort of accommodation are you living in? What advice would you give to new students about accommodation?

I have lived in a studio flat in Leeds city centre during my time at Leeds Conservatoire so far. Although I have lived alone for this time, socialising with people hasn't been a struggle. Accommodation is a tough one to really talk about due to everyone's expectations being very different. Joseph Stones or Mill Street are the most sociable places to live for first year Leeds Conservatoire students as they are close to the conservatoire and there is a mixture of students you come into contact with on a daily basis.

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What do you get up to outside of Leeds Conservatoire?

Leeds has great places to socialise! Socialising over a coffee or going to see a musical with some friends are a few of my favourite activities. Wetherspoons is also great for a few cheap drinks with friends. I also have a passion for photography, which I regularly use as a source of inspiration for my pieces, so if you can't get hold of me, I'm probably out and about taking photos!

Have you been involved in the SU / societies or other Leeds Conservatoire activities?

I was involved in quite a selection of ensembles and societies last year to the point where I was in every day with at least one of my saxophones. It was great! The main highlight for me has to be the tour to Germany with the SU Camerata. It was so nice to not only perform in different areas of Germany, but in different cultures in Germany as well. It really is an eye-opener when you go to places that have a different culture and give them a performance that they may not see every day. I also got opportunities to double on both soprano and tenor saxophones in core and student union ensembles which has enhanced my playing. I didn't play much soprano prior to Leeds Conservatoire and it really changed my way of thinking about the saxophone. It was great fun and the pieces were incredibly challenging.

What is the best thing about living and studying in Leeds?

I can't really say one specific thing. Leeds is fantastic! It has so much variety, so you're never really bored. I've always considered it a mini London because it has a really good arts and creative reputation under its belt as well as other industries. You are surrounded by so much talent and creativity, the opportunities are endless. The one thing I have taken advantage of most is probably the countryside. Leeds has the Yorkshire Dales right beside it and it's a good place to go and clear your head after a day of lectures. I also use the landscapes as inspiration for my music, so it helps my musical inspirations as well as my health and wellbeing. If I don't want to go that far, the Docks is a very good substitute in the City Centre.

It is also very close to cities such as York, Manchester and Sheffield where some opportunities lie. Leeds is also only 2 hours away from London so opportunities in the capital aren't too far away to commute.

What advice would you give to a prospective student thinking of applying to your course?

Apply! The composition department in Classical is incredibly versatile. Writing purely classical music isn't a necessity, you get to write whatever you like, from pure classical to prog rock! The collaborations between pathways is amazing and getting your pieces workshopped within college boosts your confidence when working with others outside of Leeds Conservatoire. Your future self will thank you for applying!

How would you describe your experience at Leeds Conservatoire so far in three words?

Inspiring, Challenging, Collaborative.

Find out more about BA (Hons) Music (Classical) at Leeds Conservatoire

Find out more about Holly Chapman: Facebook

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