Category Archives: Was It Good For You ?

Profiles of, and interviews with, former musical students at Kent.

Good musicians really do make good students!

Congratulations to everyone who graduated from the University in July, especially to the many musicians amongst the mortar-boards and gowns swirling around the Cathedral Precincts and celebrating their success. Included as part of the throng were the following:

Douglas Haycock, President of the Music Society 2017-18, Music Scholar reading Law
Lydia Cheng, Music Scholar reading Law
Benjamin Weiland, Music Performance Award holder reading Law
Alice Scott, Secretary of the Music Society, reading English and American Literature and Religious Studies
Imogen Willetts, Music Performance Award holder reading Classical and Archeological Studies and Drama

We wish them – and everyone else who graduated! – all the very best for the future.

Photos © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Alumna stars in Magic Flute

Former Music Scholarship student and singer, Marina Ivanova, recently appeared in the role of Papagena with Opera South East. As a Music Scholar, she sang in Chorus, Chamber Choir, and numerous Scholar recitals, including a masterclass with Dame Anne Evans; she was also a Music Prize-Winner in 2014. Here, she reflects on music-making and her recent role.

Soprano Marina Ivanova singing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall in 2013

I read European Economics and French at Kent, and graduated in 2014. I had an amazing time as a Music Scholar at Kent between 2010 and 2014. One of my most memorable and exciting experiences was the Scenes from Mozart concert during Summer Music Week, and singing Vivaldi and Mozart in lunchtime recitals by University Music Scholars.

Opera South East’s Magic Flute in rehearsal

Since graduating, I have been actively seeking for new opportunities as a shorus member or a principal in opera productions. In 2016 I made my operatic debut at Brent Opera, in London, as the Singer in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Since February 2017, I have been working with Opera South East in a production of The Magic Flute and I was delighted to appear as Papagena in the two performances last weekend! These were in the White Rock Theatre, in Hastings.

Marina (right) as Papagena with Opera South East

My intention is to develop further my operatic training and to continue working on new and exciting opera productions.

Rehearsal photos courtesy of Mark Duncan.

Rocket power: alumna launches crowdfunding campaign

Kent alumna and former Music Scholar, Lena Younes, has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a community yoga centre in Brighton, where she lives and teaches.

Lena Younes
Lena singing cabaret in a Music Scholars’ Recital, November, 2009

Whilst studying Drama and History at Kent, Lena was a Music Scholarship student, singing with the University Chamber Choir and as a soloist in lunchtime concerts given by the Music Scholars, as well as making regular appearances in the Jazz @ 5 gigs.

Following her degree, she moved to Dublin, Ireland, to pursue a PhD in Early Modern History, for which she received a postgraduate scholarship from the Irish Research Council. She kept up her musical aspirations by singing and playing violin in a blues band and teaching herself guitar.

Lena Younes
Singing in Jazz @ 5 in 2010.

She went on to move to Cork, taking her studies with her, together with fellow Kent alumnus Richy Batten and their dog Fëalin (who loves music & yoga), where she began a regular yoga practice. After spending some time travelling in a van, they landed in Florence, Italy, where they stumbled upon and trained in a fun and creative form of yoga called ‘The Rocket.’

The Rocket is deeply rooted in the Californian music scene as well as traditional Ashtanga Yoga – something that very much appealed to a former music scholar!  The Rocket System – and yoga in general – completely transformed Lena’s life. Coming from a background of long-term illness, she saw her body and life transform… So she made the decision to let go of her doctorate studies and focus on her personal practice and teaching skills.

After moving to Brighton in February 2016, Lena and Richy started their yoga business, LoveLightYoga, providing unique yoga instruction in the vibrant and creative seaside city. They are now ready to expand and are crowdfunding to open their own yoga studio in an innovative space – sharing with people from Brighton and beyond the yoga experience they received thsemelves in Italy and Ireland.

Find out more about Lena’s campaign herewe wish her every success!

Get cape, wear cape – fly! Graduation week

It’s a busy week, with parents, family and friends thronging to Canterbury Cathedral for graduation ceremonies.

Many musicians are graduating throughout the week, including some here; congratulations to everyone celebrating their success over the past five days, as they pass through the doors of the Cathedral to become part of the world-wide University of Kent Alumni community.

Thanks for all your commitment and contribution to music-making here at Kent during your time; and remember: whatever you do, make music!


A trip down Memory Lane…

Congratulations to Svenja Glass, who graduates today having completed her MA in Comparative Literature with the School of European and Cultural Languages.

WP_20151120_001Svenja also studied at Kent during her Erasmus year, and has been a dedicated member of the alto section in the University Chorus. Currently undertaking a teacher training course back home in Berlin, Svenja graduates in this afternoon’s Congregational Ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral, along with many others, but this morning she couldn’t resist popping in to Colyer-Fergusson to re-visit her accustomed ‘seat’ for Chorus rehearsals…


Congratulations to everyone graduating today, and to Svenja – thanks for all your commitment to Chorus – Vielen Glückwunsch!

Making music at Kent: Svenja reflects

About to finish her MA in Comparative Literature, her second postgraduate degree, having finished a Master of Education (English and Maths) in Berlin last year, Svenja Glass looks back on her involvement in music at Kent.

I was here first in 2012/13 as an Erasmus student from Free University Berlin (just like Max Mergenbaum, funnily enough, only I came via the English Department!). At that time, I studied English and Maths in Berlin, but on coming to Kent I just attended seminars in English Literature (and German Translation and Danish …). Then I went back to Berlin to finish my M.Ed. and decided to come back to Canterbury because I had enjoyed my year at the University of Kent so much – especially the music-making.

On the occasion of the valedictory concert in June we were given tags to write down our best memory related to music at the University of Kent – 50th anniversary of the university, 50 memories. It goes without saying that it is impossible to choose just one single memory, but it certainly offered a welcome opportunity to re-live what made 2014/15 so special for me.

Svenja Glass
Svenja Glass

I sang in the University Chorus, and I enjoyed every single rehearsal (did you know that Popocatépetl is a volcano in Mexico? Say the name eight times as fast as you can!). To quote Sue: “an hour of singing will do you a world of good,” and this is absolutely true, particularly in the face of several essay deadlines approaching at once (Dies Irae!). Performing Verdi’s Requiem in the Cathedral with around 180 other singers and the University Symphony Orchestra was, of course, epic!

Moreover, I took the chance to go to a variety of concerts (I think I never went to so many concerts), especially exploring some more modern music, which I would not normally have dared to attend. Walton’s Façade, performed by the CantiaQuorum ensemble in November and featuring some Canterbury-VIPs as readers is just one fantastic example.

Naturally, the best concerts were the ones in which my friends performed. The high standard of music-making at the university is simply amazing. And talking about friends, I met a lot of wonderful people from all possible subject areas – economics, biomedical science, you name it, and we had a perfectly marvellous time playing the piano together , for instance, or singing Christmas carols on campus and in town. After all, the best thing about Music at the University of Kent is spending your free (or not-quite-so-free-but-rather-busy) time with a lovely bunch of people who share a great passion for music.

Was It Good For You: Anna Shinkfield

Continuing the series in which musical alumni look back on their musical life at Kent: this week, woodwind-player and singer, Anna Shinkfield.


Anna Shinkfield
Anna Shinkfield

When were you at Kent?
2007 – 2011

What subject did you study?
English and American Literature

What occupation are you now engaged in?
Arts Admin

If music is not your profession, do you participate in any musical activities now ?
I am not currently involved in anything musical at the moment but I am hoping to find something musical to get involved in soon!

How were you involved in music whilst at Kent ?
I sang in the Chorus, played Flute in Concert Band and Tenor Sax in Big Band all three years I was at Kent as well as receiving a Music Lesson Scholarship. I was also a member of the Music Society Committee in my second and final year.

What did you gain from your University music experience, and has this helped you in any way since leaving Kent?
I think my experiences with the Music Society definitely helped me decide on what I wanted to do career-wise and allowed me to get enough experience to do a Masters in London after my degree.
Everyone says get involved with something at University, join as many clubs as you can – it looks good on your CV. I’m sure I rolled my eyes and brushed these sorts of comments off before and during University. but I can definitely say that it is true as much as you might be bored of hearing it! I’m pretty sure my musical activities have been discussed a lot more than my degree ever has in interviews.

What was your most memorable musical experience at Kent?
I think that would have to be every ArtsFest really (what’s now Summer Music Week). Although spending the morning in Eliot Hall rehearsing and blowing up balloons then rushing between concerts in the afternoon meant I didn’t get to see much of what else was going on I think it was those sorts of days that really made me think that’s what I wanted to do in the future.

What would you say to current musical students at the University ?
Make the most of Music at Kent! I don’t remember the hours spent in the library or Monday mornings in lectures half as well as I remember taking part in rehearsals and concerts.
It can be easy to skip rehearsals especially with essay deadlines and exams but that two hours of music will always be more productive than sitting staring at a screen and will probably give you the break from revision that you need. The rehearsals throughout the week are an excellent excuse to stop staring at computer screens or forcing myself to read books I wasn’t particularly interested in and focus on something a bit different!
Looking back I don’t really remember the hours spent in the library or in lectures but I do remember the rehearsals, concerts and socials.

Was It Good For You: Siobhan Harper

Continuing the series profiling musical alumni of the University of Kent. This week, Siobhan Harper.


Siobhan Harper
Skempton fan: Siobhan Harper

When were you at Kent?

I was at Kent from September 2006 until July 2009.

What subject did you study?

English Literature and Film Studies.

What occupation are you now engaged in?

I’m doing a Masters degree in English at the University of Exeter.

If music is not your profession, do you participate in any musical experiences now?

I’m not sure I’d cope if I wasn’t doing something musical! After I graduated I was in the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus for a year, which was fantastic; we did loads of amazing pieces with some renowned conductors, and went on tour to Kuala Lumpur! Currently I’m in the Exeter University Singers, which is basically like a larger chamber choir. In fact, we’ve done a few of the same pieces that we did at Kent!

How were you involved in music whilst at Kent?

I was in the Chamber Choir and Chorus for the whole of my three years, in the society committee for the last two, and I had a singing scholarship and a music lesson scholarship. I also performed at Jazz @ 5, and at ArtsFest as part of Three Divas and a Piano. I think I had more contact hours with the music department than with my course!

What did you gain from your University music experience, and has this helped you in any way since leaving Kent?

Definitely most importantly, I made some of my best friends through the music society, friends that I still can’t seem to get rid of! Every crypt concert we’re reunited as a big group and it’s always one of the best nights of the year.

Knowing that I can handle doing a university course and being an active part of a society is fantastic. Both required so much organisation and time management, and it’s great to know that I am capable of handling those two disparate things. The knowledge that I wanted to be doing all things musical alongside all my work was also fantastic; music has always been such a big part of my life and I loved being able to continue with it at university.

And, of course, my balloon-blowing skills have come along in leaps and bounds, thanks to ArtsFest.    

What was your most memorable musical experience at Kent?

One particularly wonderful memory is of Jacob Barnes, Chamber Choir’s accompanist for my first two years of university. In our first crypt concert in 2007, Jacob performed, and it was the highlight of the concert; he was an extraordinary musician and we were all blown away by his performance. I wasn’t lucky enough to know him as well as others did, but I have the deepest sympathy for his friends and family. Rest in peace, Jacob.

My musical experience at Kent was so rich, it’s far too difficult to pick just one memory. So I won’t:

Every Chamber Choir crypt concert, and every post-concert trip to the Buttermarket. Paris Tour 2008. African drums in the cathedral crypt. All of Sue’s quotes that we noted down gleefully in every Chorus rehearsal. Sop Central. Tippett Spirituals. Every committee handover meal. Chili con Carne. Sneaking into the VIP tent at ArtsFest. Every chamber choir rehearsal in the OTE. Eric Whitacre’s Sleep. When my party popper didn’t go off during the ‘Champagne Polka’. Here Come The Girls. Having the chorus sing me ‘Happy Birthday’ on my 21st. Howard Skempton, and the signed photographs. Boozy Ss. Staying up to watch the sunrise after ArtsFest 2008.

What an unforgettable experience.