November Blog – Tessa Tang

Digital Ambassador Tessa Tang chronicles life as an RNCM student in a series of monthly blog posts.

The Autumn term has passed by so quickly and so slowly at the same time. I, like most people, can’t believe how time has jumped since the first lockdown in March, and now we’re only a month away from 2021! As a final year Undergraduate student, I’ll truly have to make the most of this year.

The building opened its doors at the end of September and it was quite heartening to be back after a good six months away. It’s not as bustling as it used to be, but it feels good to be back in the building – practising in familiar spaces and seeing familiar faces (or rather, their eyes). I think it’s safe to say that everyone’s getting used to working around the unavoidable situation now – like walking about in masks, room booking, creating online content, following rules and safety measures in the building, and getting used to Zoom classes and meetings.

Distanced yellow markers and music stands for singing lesson

Because of extra steps that have been implemented, many including myself say they feel safer in the building, knowing that everyone’s following the rules. I think it’s a blessing that despite being in lockdown as I write this, the RNCM is doing everything it can to provide for students and staff in Manchester. There is a contactless temperature scanner at the entrance, sanitising stations almost every 10m in the building, socially distanced practice rooms with antibacterial wipes and fancy sound equipment with a glass panel in between. The library has also extended due dates so no library fines(!!!). And for students taking the term online in other parts of the UK and across the globe, there are recorded classes, online opportunities and access to online resources.

Fancy and distanced double-paned glass and microphone setup

The past three years as an SVSO undergraduate student have been an extremely fulfilling one and I cannot be more grateful to be here in Manchester – I never thought I’d be able to study across the globe, and get to experience being an international student. Work culture, university/conservatory life and the quality of music making has been extremely eye opening. I consider myself very, very lucky.

But as a final year student, it can be a little frustrating to be in the current situation as everything I’ve experienced (annual festivals, performances and the luxury of sitting side by side) is now put on pause or brought online. But as a naturally optimistic person, I tend to shift my focus onto things that I can control and usually try to make the most of any situation. When life gives you lem- OK, you get the idea.

Masterclasses that happen annually and are conducted by renowned singers (we had Michael Chance, Susan Bullock, Christopher Purves, Nuccia Focile this term) have been shifted onto Zoom. While it isn’t the same as sitting in the same space and feeling the music through our bones, the quality of preparation and wise words from the guest tutors still leave me in awe. Sometimes my WiFi fails me and I can’t get full sentences, but I still feel lucky to have access to these resources, the learning opportunities and to be present in the moment (refreshing, reconnecting and finally being connected).

And with performance/repertoire classes, SVSO students have been extremely lucky to have the entire Opera Theatre (realistically) as a practice room – getting familiar with singing on stage and into a larger space, and just having the chance to sing live again in front of fellow friends. For students who chose to take the Autumn term fully online, SVSO has made sure to  record every lesson and have them uploaded onto a site for them (and us) to re-watch during the week. And I can imagine how helpful this is for international students with significant time differences – had I not been able to leave my country, I would’ve felt like a lost duck if not for the availability and accessibility of resources.

Whitworth Park

With it being in lockdown, it’s so easy to wake up and sit by the laptop for online lessons or simply constantly stare into screens during downtime. As such I’ve made it an effort to actively go out for walks and get a breather. I’d say it’s a bit of a blessing in disguise as I’ve never really been one for walks. However, I find that forcing myself out of my living space to go on socially-distanced walks or make trips to get takeaway coffee really keeps me going (though I’m not sure if it’s the caffeine or nature doing its magic.. hm), and my productivity actually increased. ‘Consciously unwinding’ is therefore, a concept tested and proven to be true (for me at least).

As silly as it sounds, taking breaks are important especially now that it’s getting colder and darker at 4pm, we need to be mindful and careful about the line between work and play – and that boundary being blurred due to lockdown isn’t helping at all. So call a friend, chat with flatmates, go out for walks and get as much sun as possible, is the most I can suggest.

Here we are at the end of my blog. And here we are at the end of yesterday. May tomorrow be a better day for all of us!! Thanks for reading and chill vibes only!

– Tessa x

4 December 2020