Why we matter
Tradition must reinvent itself.
Otherwise it is dead, dead and thrice dead.
We matter because we deal in something that has the capacity to benefit every single member of human society, namely artistic creativity.
We place excellence at the heart of what we do. This means more than achieving some predetermined benchmark of quality. It means always striving to go further, and never being satisfied with where we are now. This involves more than going the extra mile in rehearsals. It entails constant striving forward on the larger scale: rethinking our assumptions, taking account of new thinking, revising curricula, improving facilities.
Conservatoires have sometimes been described as hot-houses, shut off from the world. That could never be said of CUK conservatoires. Our doors are always open. We welcome the public in to our events, and we are linked to our local and wider communities through all kinds of education and outreach activity.
Similarly, we strive to ensure our students engage with the wider world. We encourage them to take part in exchanges with conservatoires overseas. Many elements of conservatoire programmes simulate ‘real-life’ environments, such as auditions, rehearsals and all kinds of media. As well as performances at outside venues, work placements with leading arts organisations are a key part of conservatoire life, whether in professional ‘side-by-sides’, outreach projects, or in recording, filming, technology, teaching, research or publishing. In a conservatoire education, all these things are embedded in a fundamentally practical, hands-on approach.
This intertwining of the practical and the intellectual reflects our belief that artists should be well-rounded, robust individuals. This is why the members of CUK are each committed to enhancing the first study discipline with essential complementary skills. Conservatoire graduates also have the life skills to contribute to society in many different ways, something that is increasingly acknowledged by employers.
This ethos is reflected in the high level of contact hours between students and staff, and the variety of social settings in which this takes place. A focus on individual development is a vital aspect of conservatoire life, but just as important are the innumerable ways in which students work together on a joint project, under professional guidance.
The strong emphasis on the social aspect of learning is one striking aspect of CUK conservatoires. Another is the way we foster intellectual independence, creativity and enterprise. Although we provide many opportunities for students, we do not spoon-feed them. We encourage them to dream up their own projects – such as forming their own artistic ensemble, directing their own production or creating their own work – and then provide the support and guidance they need.
The result is that our graduates emerge from their courses with a healthy combination of intellectual and social skills, as well as the ‘pure performance’ skills that you would expect. This makes them well-fitted to succeed in a rapidly changing arts world, where careers with many component parts have largely supplanted the old model of stable employment from one institution. Unsurprisingly, the statistics show that our graduates are among the most successful in terms of engaging fruitfully with the workplace.