MA Music: Performance pathway

Performance constitutes perhaps our fastest growing and most exciting venture, with new and ambitious plans growing out of the new £16 million Bramall Music Building, with its acoustically peerless Elgar Concert Hall and Dome Rehearsal Room designed by Birmingham Symphony Hall acoustician Nick Edwards.

Scholar-performer and early music conductor Andrew Kirkman joins forces with Simon Halsey, renowned chorus master of the CBSO and Berlin Radio Choir, and orchestral conductor Daniele Rosina, plus instrumental and vocal lessons arranged with the faculty of Birmingham Conservatoire.

You also receive the opportunity to take advantage of the early performance opportunities afforded by the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (CEMPR).

You will study two core modules:

  • Advanced Performance
  • Music Research Colloquium

You will also choose two optional modules and present a substantial solo recital. The recital offers you the opportunity to unite practical and theoretical musicianship, and to demonstrate the ability to plan and independently prepare (with some supervision) a performance at an advanced level.

Why study this course

  1. Excellent reputation – the Department of Music is one of the most distinguished in the UK, with a history stretching back to 1905 when Edward Elgar was appointed the University’s first Professor of Music and looking forward to the latest cutting edge developments in the practice and study of music. 
  2. Fantastic resources available - the £16 million Bramall Music building offers outstanding facilities, including climate controlled rooms for the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research, multichannel electroacoustic music studios and BEAST (the department’s huge loudspeaker system for electroacoustic music; arguably the best system of its kind in Europe). It is also home to the acoustically flexible and technologically advanced 450 seat Elgar Concert Hall, arguably the best and most adaptable space of its kind in any University in the UK. 
  3. Taught by experts in the field – you will have the opportunity to draw upon the wide range of interests and knowledge held by the Department’s expert academic staff. 
  4. The city – the main University campus is within easy reach of the world-renowed Symphony Hall – home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and the Hippodrome – home of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Department itself mounts concerts in Symphony Hall, the CBSO Centre and the historic Town Hall, which was the venue for the premieres of many major works, including Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius.


You will study two core modules:

Advanced Performance

This is a module for advanced performers who are approaching a professional standard. Your skills will be honed through individual tuition with experts on your instrument/voice. You will present a lecture-recital involving a performance and a lecture presentation, and submit an extended essay version of the lecture.

Music Research Colloquium

You will attend approximately 14 research seminars, most delivered by invited speakers in the Music Department’s research seminar series. Department staff will lead several review sessions. There will be approximately six seminars on library research skills, information retrieval and music-related software.

You will also choose two optional modules from the following:

Special Study in Music

You will undertake a special study of a particular field of your choice under the direction of the leader of your pathway, which will typically require attendance at an appropriate series of lectures or tutorials as well as independent reading and research. Topics for study might include: vocalists in the Baroque era; topics in music analysis; or topics in critical musicology.

Studies in Performance Practice

This module combines the disciplines of musicology and performance, introducing you to the main topics in performance practice of western music. Case studies are devoted to Baroque, Classical, Romantic and twentieth-century music. The module will instruct develop the skills necessary for the PhD in Performance Practice. Topics covered may include organology, rhythm and tempo, articulation, pitch and temperaments, notation, the history of recorded performance and debates around ‘authenticity’ in performance.

Sound in Society

This module provides an introduction to the field of Sound Studies, including both the conceptual framework as well as practical techniques. We will begin with an overview of the field and its formation in 2004 through a consideration of the work of Trevor Pinch, Karin Bijsterveld and R Murray Schafer. Subsequent weeks will cover topics such as: soundscapes; sound and the animal world; noise and silence in philosophy; the engineering of sound; sound and radio art; and synaesthesia research in cognitive psychology.

Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art

This module consists of a critical examination of topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. It considers subjects such as: art and the nature of aesthetic experience; beauty, ugliness and the sublime; symbolism and allegory; the aesthetics of modernism. At its core is an overview of the German aesthetic tradition, involving a close reading of foundational texts by Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and their contemporaries in the early 19th century. It will also consider work by a range of subsequent authors, such as, for example, Walter Benjamin, John Dewey, Ernst Bloch, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Theodor Adorno and Martin Heidegger. Attention will be paid not only to the conceptual arguments put forward by the thinkers in question, but also to the ways in which their theoretical tenets have underpinned the interpretation and criticism of works of art, music and literature.

Ensemble Performance

This is a module for advanced performers who are approaching a professional standard i.e. who might soon be engaged to give a public performances for a paying audience, including ensemble performances. Performing in an ensemble situation will develop skills necessary for your professional development. You will be required to join attend all rehearsals, dress rehearsals and performances for either 1) a University Music Department Ensemble or University Music Society Ensemble that meets in semester 1 and 2 or, 2) two University Music Department Ensembles or University Music Society Ensembles that meets only one semester. 

Gender and Music

The field of gender studies is a very important area of focus in musicological and ethnomusicological research. This module is divided into two parts: a ten-week seminar on gender studies in general followed by an independent study during which you will apply learned information from the seminar to a chosen essay topic in the discipline of music. The seminar will focus on the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural aspects of gender studies and feminist theories. You will be introduced to a range of theoretical and methodological issues and debates that have characterised the development of gender studies in the twentieth century. You will also be introduced to the ontological, epistemological and methodological issues that arise in feminist scholarship. You will engage with the study of these issues both as analytical categories and approaches within the social sciences. During your independent study, you will meet with an advisor to create an appropriate project that will enable you to apply the general knowledge of gender studies and feminist theories specifically to research in the discipline of music.

Introduction to Musicology

This module prepares students for the field of Musicology by examining key issues, theories, and methodologies in the field. It is taught as a series of seminars by various members of staff, and lectures within the Music Research Colloquium series.

Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home/EU: £7,920 full-time; £3,960 part-time
  • Overseas: £16,800 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

We usually ask for a bachelors degree (2:1), or equivalent.

In addition to the usual supporting documents, you must submit a video-recorded audition (either a DVD or an internet video link, e.g. YouTube/Vimeo/Youku). The audition programme should be at least 20 minutes in duration, with a varied programme focusing on Western classical repertoire. If possible, the audition video should include a brief spoken introduction to the programme, discussing - in English - the repertoire you performed.

You must also submit a sample of written work - in English - of at least 1,500 words on a musical topic, with academic bibliography and references.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

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Your learning will be enhanced by our extensive facilities, including the new Bramall Music Building and the Barber Music Library.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

Birmingham's Music postgraduates work in a wide range of careers within and beyond the music world. A postgraduate degree in Music develops a broad base of skills including general skills such as communication, problem solving and research, and also specific skills developed by practice and performance such as self-management, team work and presentation.

Over the past five years, 96% of Music postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Whilst some graduates pursue music-related careers, others choose to use their transferable skills to follow career paths in fields including finance, the media and the public sector. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Arts Council England; BBC; Birmingham Conservatoire; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Coventry City Council Performing Arts Service; Lancaster University; National Opera Studio; National Orchestra; Raffles Institution; and Royal Northern College of Music.

Music postgraduate alumni profiles

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