by Julia Emery –
Studying abroad as a musician is a wonderful opportunity. Not only do you get the chance to live and explore within a new culture, you also have the opportunity to work with amazing teachers and musicians that you would not otherwise be able to meet or even study with. I am a cello performance major from the University of Denver Lamont School of Music, and I am currently enrolled in a semester abroad program at Goldsmiths, University of London. Thus far, it has been a wonderful experience, both musically and culturally.
Getting to where I am now, in London, studying with an amazing cello teacher who has been taught by world-renowned cellists herself, was, I would have to say, more challenging than anything I’ve been through since arriving in London. Deciding where to go for a semester –– or year –– abroad can be quite a challenge (but a fun one, don’t worry!), depending on the resources provided by your university, the organization of the program you wish to attend, etc. I found, through my research, that being a music major is somewhat limiting in the options of where it is possible to go. For example, I really wanted to study abroad in India, but my cello professor reminded me of how difficult it would be to find a suitable cello teacher in India (simply because cello is not that common of an instrument there).
I ended up in England for a variety of reasons. London is such a vibrant city, especially musically. There are multiple professional orchestras playing almost every evening and operas and musicals and jazz clubs to attend on the rare nights when there is no orchestral music. I felt that coming to London would inspire new creativity within my cello playing and musical knowledge as a whole, and I was right.
Finding a Music Teacher
The next important step, after finding a city (or general area) where you wish to study, is to find a teacher to study with. I think it is very important to talk to your private teacher or other teachers within your music department about possible contacts in your country of interest because it helps if you have a go-between, someone who knows both you and your potential teacher, who can speak to the other on both of your behalves. I sat down and had a long chat with my cello professor about who to take lessons with in London. He had a contact for me (because, it seems, the global music community is much smaller than we think), who he suggested I email. I now have a wonderful, very gifted teacher here in London!
Of course it is also possible to find a teacher through the university you wish to attend during your study abroad. Emailing the music department and figuring out all of those logistics is important and best done early, because you may have an entrance audition recording which you need to send to the university, in order for them to place you, etc.
Traveling with Musical Instruments
As far as taking instruments to all corners of the world, depending on the size and mobility of your particular instrument, this may be an issue. It was for me!. If I had brought my cello to London, it would have cost me an extra airline seat, because I don’t trust the way in which most airlines handle the luggage they store below. In my case, because I did not bring my cello, I had to rent one from a friend of my teacher in London. I must warn you though; the process of finding a good rental instrument takes a while, so be sure to start your search at least a few months in advance.
Once arriving in London and getting settled into the school system, I have been having a wonderful time in the university orchestra and with my cello lessons. One thing I am having a problem with is the amount and quality of the practice rooms here. I think I am a bit spoiled, because University of Denver Lamont School of Music has a large quantity of amazing, almost soundproof practice rooms, whereas Goldsmiths is most definitely lacking in that respect.
However, apart from challenges associated with the practice rooms, studying abroad as a music major has, thus far, been extremely rewarding and I encourage it with all my heart. In my mind, there is no better way in which to learn about a country and its cultural and musical trends than to go there and completely immerse yourself.