Music Personal Statement
I am currently enrolled in St. Andrews University, in my final year of studying Mathematics at honours level. As my Advanced Higher's indicate, I found myself at the end of school with two interests, Mathematics and Music; I saw the former as a convenient skill to pursue, but nearing the end of this degree, one begins to consider life after university. My decision to do a second degree may seem unorthodox, but there was little to think about; I absolutely cannot imagine a career in anything other than music. As I'm nearing the end of this degree, I am now ready and eager to begin the study of a subject that is truly an enjoyment to learn.
Furthermore, it will provide me with a career in an area that I am passionate about. As my grades indicate, I did not sit the Higher examination in music; instead I went straight into the Advanced Higher, and achieved the overall highest mark in my class in the examination.
My interest in music began with piano lessons at age 7. I have since surrounded myself with classical music, maintaining a particular interest in Romanticism. Having listened to Vladimir Horowitz' interpretations Liszt and Chopin, I find myself in awe of how his technique can be so accurate and yet maintain such originality. His eccentricity and showmanship he brings to every performance make him an inspiration in my classical performance. Later on in school I started lessons on the drum kit. I found I had a natural ability for rhythm, and progress was perhaps enhanced due to my ability on the piano. My repertoire on drums was initially rock based, with an interest in irregular meters, having discovered the progressive movement from the 1970's, and later bands such as 'Dream Theater'. Over time I switched to jazz, for I felt this gave the drum kit far more possibilities.
Having developed a keen interest in jazz, I have been attending Napier University's Jazz Summer School for the past three years, a highly social and enjoyable experience whilst also teaching me valuable skills in jazz performing. This is a particular passion of mine, shaping my piano and drum technique immensely. Having researched more on jazz history, I began to amass a vast collection, both from the American and European movement. Whilst studying I was introduced to many other forms of music, which brought to my attention the minimalist movement of the 1960's - this genre in particular has become one my favourite forms of contemporary music.
I now have an extensive collection of early to modern minimalism, namely the “big four”: Riley, Reich, Glass, and La Monte Young - with the addition of John Adams (my Advanced Higher essay was on his piece, “The Wound Dresser”). I find with minimalism, sometimes it is less the sound, more the idea that appeals to me, for example Terry Riley's “In C” (in 2007 I was lucky enough to see this being performed by the composer) or Steve Reich's “Clapping Music” (in general, his idea of “phasing”).
However sometimes the minimalist idea can become secondary to the beautiful music it produces - such examples include Reich's “Music for 18 Musicians”: the percussive use of voices creates haunting pulses and remains one of the most emotive pieces I have ever listened to. I believe attending live performance give a far wider understanding and appreciation of a piece of music, and this has been a frequent hobby of mine for many years. An opportunity to study in Edinburgh will enable me to attend many varieties of recitals in one of the most vibrant and musically cultured cities in the UK. During the study of a music degree I would spend many enjoyable evenings outside academia attending all kinds of recital.
For the past four years in St. Andrews my musical involvement has not lain dormant. In my first year I was percussionist for the student Wind Band, which involved several live performances as part of an ongoing recital programme. In my second year I was asked to play percussion for the university's production of Pirates of Penzance. Both of these involved orchestral percussive techniques and musical notation was provided. Less formally, I often play piano and drum kit in a jazz quartet at the Byre Theatre - I particularly enjoy this, as it enables me to practice and demonstrate jazz techniques - namely, improvising! I have also been recruited several times to play piano in a private jazz quartet, playing for events including senior staff dinner parties and university balls. During my time at school I gave frequent performance on both instruments, and was drummer for the East Lothian Big Band for three years.
The area of music in which I am most enthusiastic, is composition. It is the area I excel most in, and I have not stopped writing music since I left school. Composition is the area of work in which I would ideally find myself. Whether I'm watching “The Wizard of Oz”, playing 80's video games or flicking on to “Midsomer Murders”: I am always tuning out of the story and into the music, analysing and taking note of techniques used. I would certainly specialize my degree around composition in final years and I have many pieces already written that I would be eager to present, prior to or during an interview. I am an experienced user of Sibelius notation software, where I keep records of everything I've written. I also record some work, being a competent user of the Cubase audio program. These two programs inspired me to experiment with MIDI programming, giving me some experience in this area. My compositions tend to be influenced by the areas of music that interest me: namely minimalism, jazz, and romanticism.
I am however, eager to study within many different areas of music - reflected in the variety of modules I undertook during my current degree. These modules have contributed to the credits comprising my mathematics degree: Musical Techniques I&II (testing ability on the piano, as well as teaching harmony and figured bass), Scottish Music, and Understanding Music. The latter sparked an interest in the philosophy of music, which I would be eager to study should the opportunity arise. I have a reference from Dr. Stevenson, director of music and St. Andrews and module coordinator, commending my performance and contribution to these modules, having achieved grades to a high standard.
My instrumental performance is to a high standard. On piano, my repertoire has included Chopin's Prelude No. 15 in Db (“Raindrop”), Chopin's Waltz op. 69 no. 1 (“farewell” waltz), Beethoven's Piano Sonata no. 14 (“moonlight”), and Mozart's Fantasy in D minor (K. 397).
My repertoire on drum kit is less formal, although I have obtained music for and performed “Under a Glass Moon” by Dream Theater, earning me 2nd place in The Rotary Club of Longniddry's Young Musician of the Year competition in 2004. More recently my jazz drumming incorporates complex cross rhythms, bi-rhythms, solo material, world rhythms, and various techniques specific to jazz. I am currently taking private tutorials with drummer Stuart Brown, having first established contact via Napier's Jazz Summer School. I intend to take drum kit as my primary instrument.
To conclude, it should be noted that the decision to undertake a second degree is not without risk. An unusual decision to say the least, I hope this shows my desire to study music is...
This personal statement was written by hisnameispaul for application in 2009.
This is my personal statement so far; it is incomplete. I have still to add a final paragraph/conclusion, then edit out the less important parts, as I feel I am over the word limit! Any comments on my statement so far would be much appreciated.
Advanced Higher: Mathematics (C), Music (A)
Higher Level: Mathematics (A), Chemistry (A), English (A), Physics (C), History (C)
Standard Grade: Mathematics (1), English (1), Chemistry (1), Physics (1), Biology (1), Music (1), History (1), French (2)
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