The different levels of Music at Durham

Charlotte Bryan-Lambert

Taking part in music at Durham

I love taking part in music at Durham! I’ve had some fantastic experiences and met some of my best friends! Durham has a really wide range of musical groups to get involved in, both at the university-wide level and within colleges. What you choose to get involved in is totally up to you. If what you are looking for is not there, you can even set it up!

Durham Cathedral attracts many students as it is such a fantastic venue to play in, but I have also really enjoyed playing in smaller venues across Durham. I think there is a great musical community between the different groups, and people get really involved and enjoy the groups they are part of.

Me playing saxophone

How does Durham and college music work?

Music at Durham is organised slightly differently due to the collegiate system, but this means there are even more opportunities.

The Music Durham team are a group of staff supported by students who oversee the running of the university-level musical groups. They help to arrange equipment and transport for concerts, manage some financial and legal aspects, and lots more. With Music Durham’s support, groups of students (called executive committees) are voted in to run the different music groups, allowing students to really shape them to how they want to be! Some groups have an external conductor, but many are completely student-led. This is also a great opportunity to get more involved with a group if you find you are really enjoying it! Some groups require you to audition to join, but others are open to anyone.

Also, within individual colleges, there is normally a college music society with a variety of different groups depending on the college. These can be great for getting to know people in your college and enable even wider variety. It might be something to consider when choosing your college if you haven’t already! As an example, I am from John Snow college and we have had a choir, wind band, pop band and big band during my time. John Snow put on some charity music concerts too which are really fun to get involved in! 

My societies

I am part of the Durham University Concert Band, playing alto saxophone and being the band secretary for two years running. This has been one of my favourite parts of university and I love getting the chance to play fun pieces with my friends every week! We are a non-auditioned band, playing a variety of music including film music, classic concert band music, marches, dances and much more. We are quite a large band and most of the time have over 40 players. We rehearse every week and usually spend some social time together after rehearsals! I knew I wanted to join the concert band before coming to university, and it was something I considered when choosing my university.  

Opportunities

We put on four concerts every year, which I absolutely love! We pick a different theme for each of our concerts and have played in lots of venues including the Castle and the town hall. On top of this, we have competed in the National Concert Band Festival and attended the nationals in 2022. We were also lucky enough to play in the Music Durham Cathedral concert for the last two years, where all the Music Durham groups each play a couple of pieces in the Cathedral. This is definitely one of the highlights for me! By being part of the exec, you can have your say in what your group does too! 

Music group performance

What I’ve enjoyed the most

I really enjoy our annual joint Christmas concert with the Durham University Brass Band. I absolutely love playing Christmas music and it is always such a lovely way to finish our first term. It really gets me in the festive spirit as we all wear Christmas accessories and put tinsel on our instruments.  

Student music group festive performance at Christmas

What’s coming up?

Something I am really excited about coming up soon is our joint concert band and brass band tour to Germany! We are having a 5-night trip and playing two concerts in Cologne which is going to be absolutely fantastic! It will be amazing to play our music in a new place and get to spend time together exploring such a beautiful city! It is going to be a lovely way to celebrate my final year in concert band.

Discover more

Ranked top of The Sunday Times Good University Guide for three of the past four years, the Music Department has been central to the Durham University’s three-year project to become the largest All-Steinway school in the UK. 

Research-led teaching supports our students to achieve their full potential as thinking, creative musicians, and scholars. What’s more, Durham enjoys a rich musical life beyond the Department with numerous choirs, orchestras, opera, jazz, and early-music ensembles, in addition to our own annual concert series attracting soloists from around the World. 

Feeling inspired? Visit our Music webpages for more information on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. 

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Charlotte Bryan-Lambert

Hi, I’m Charlotte and I’m a final year primary education student from John Snow College. I have absolutely loved my time at Durham so far and have made wonderful friends. My hobbies include playing alto saxophone in the Durham University Concert Band, exploring the outdoors and running.

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