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Mondays Rock!

This academic year, the Music Department has become a workplace member of Rock Choir, the pioneering national organisation with over 20,000 participants which encourages everyone to sing. Under the expert and inspiring direction of alumnus Jonathan Grosberg, staff and students meet every Monday lunchtime and, without needing to read a note of music, have so far learnt Shut up and dance with me and A Little Respect – including moves!

Members of staff are coming along from a whole range of departments across the campus – it is still not too late to join this term. Director of Music, Susan Wanless, is thrilled with the way the idea has taken off and from all the feedback she has received, making music is clearly very good for you.

Karen Cherpin, Administrator to the Head of School, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science
I absolutely love it! I find it really uplifting and it definitely improves my mood and energy levels. I always go back to my office feeling revitalised and ready to face whatever the afternoon may throw at me.

Katie Van Sanden, Industrial Placement Co-ordinator, School of Computing
Love it, love it, love it! Perfect antidote to the Monday blues – it feeds the soul! With singing, harmonies, new friends and lots and lots of (unexpected but very welcome) laughter, what’s not to like? And Jonathan is just brilliant!

Danika Jarrett, Project Co-ordinator, Information Services
It gets me away from my desk, gives me something else to focus on for that time, and is great for wellbeing because I’m totally immersed in what Jonathan is saying and concentrating on what to sing, which is great for mindfulness and controlling breathing. It’s also been nice to meet people from other departments in the University as well. I hope it continues to go from strength to strength as I’ve been recommending it to all my colleagues!

Susan Wanless

Added value: University Music Performance Scholarships

Musicians are versatile people. They are used to the discipline of rehearsing and practising, to the expectations of conductors and collaborators that they will arrive for an event prepared and able to deliver. They are organised (hopefully, anyway), accustomed to setting aside time to practice and juggling rehearsals and performances alongside other demands of life – shopping, studying, going to school, taking exams, doing the laundry, filling out forms (oh the heady glamour…). They are used to working under pressure, performing in the white-heat of the public eye (and ear) in concerts. And they are usually skilled at working with others, at establishing working relationships quickly and confidently.

Here at Kent, the University recognises that all these qualities are immensely valuable in its students, and that potential students looking for a suitable university at which to pursue their degree may often be trained musicians, who have combined their school life with musical commitments for many years, and who want to continue with their musical interests alongside their course of study. If you’ve spent many years learning an instrument or taking singing lessons, putting in endless hours of practice and performance, then music forms a large, rewarding, part of your life that you don’t necessarily want wholly to rescind when you go to university, and it can be a challenge adjusting to the gaping chasm left in your life that was previously occupied by music; listening to it, practising it, performing it.

So we offer Music Performance Scholarships to those who are keen to continue with their musical pursuits whilst studying at Kent. Our Music Scholars (usually numbering between ten and fifteen each year) come from across the university community, studying all manner of subjects from Law to Biosciences, Wildlife Conservation to Politics and International Relations, History to Drama. There are Scholars from across the country; from far-flung corners of the world (Malaysia, South Africa, India, Canada to name a few); and from across the county of Kent itself. All of them, however, united in their enthusiasm for, and commitment to continue making, music for the three years during which they take up residency in Canterbury. Whether attending lectures in Woolf College, drama rehearsals in Jarman, mock sessions in the Moot building as part of Kent Law School, or maths seminars in the Sibson Building, they will all, at various points during the week, make their way in to the Colyer-Fergusson Building to rehearse in the concert-hall or practice in the practice-rooms. And throughout the year, they will perform not only in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, but in Canterbury Cathedral, Deal Memorial Bandstand, and churches and venues around the county, making lifelong friends with others along the way.
Percussionist and former Music Scholar, Cory Adams, talks about his experience, playing with the Concert and Big Bands, Orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery and other ensembles:

And here’s brief excerpts from the Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital given as part of Summer Music Week in June this year:

Blond ambition: clarinettist Rianna Carr

The university recognises and values the skills and abilities that musicians can bring to its community when they come to Kent to study; the phrase ‘Good musicians make good students’ is often quoted, with Scholars often going on to graduate with first-class degrees. If that includes you, then take a look at our Scholarships page online here, and see how you could become involved in a rich musical life alongside whatever course you may be looking to study.

Band substance: the Concert and Big Bands

Depending upon what time you pass by Colyer-Fergusson on a Wednesday night, you’ll either hear stirring film scores such as Gladiator, swing classics by Count Basie or versions of Stevie Wonder tunes ringing out. It can only mean one thing: rehearsal night for the University Concert Band and Big Band (though thankfully not at the same time…)

On the conductor’s podium is the sprightly figure of Ian Swatman – Bob Marley devotee and possibly the most dedicated fan Hull City will ever have – vigorously taking charge of Wednesday rehearsals and leading the assembled forces through repertoire in preparation for their various termly concerts. In December, the Big Band can be found in Santa hats and jazz-infused versions of seasonal repertoire for the popular Christmas Swing-along, whilst both forces combine each March for their roof-raising Spring concert, and for a farewell concert each June.

Both national and international students, staff and members of the local community find themselves grappling with the complexity of the repertoire Ian hurls at them each year, as they sweat blood to get the music under the fingers. Each year, too, auditions are held for solo singers, for the opportunity to sing with the Big Band.

Phil Veacock (centre) and the Deptford Rivieras in the concert-hall

A particularly exciting aspect to the working life of the Big Band is the opportunity to work with guest musicians; in the past, this has included trombonist Mark Bassey, trumpeter Mike Lovatt from the John Wilson Orchestra, and saxophonist Phil Veacock from the Jools Holland Orchestra. It’s a great opportunity for the young stars of tomorrow to work with, and learn from, accomplished professional performers.

Mike Lovatt with members of the Big Band

The Concert Band has worked with composer James Rae too, when James was commissioned by the Music department to write a piece for the gala concert to open the Colyer-Fergusson Building in December 2012. As part of an action-packed weekend, the Concert Band gave the world premiere of James’ Platform One.

Composer James Rae (right) with Ian Swatman and the Concert Band

The groups don’t just perform in the adaptable acoustics of Colyer-Fergusson Hall. The Big Band also launches the annual Summer Music Week, a musical farewell to the University’s academic year, with a trip to the seaside to perform on the Memorial Bandstand at Deal, which involves combining rehearsals and coach-trips with a visit to the promenade chip shop and the roving ice-cream stand. (It’s a hard life…). The band has also headed down the road to perform alongside pupils at St Edmund’s School, and also in Whitefriars in the heart of the city.

Whether it’s epic film soundtracks, 70s funk, classic big band standards or soul ballads: Wednesday evenings certainly sound unlike any other on campus…