Lucy Hale Doctoral Studentship in association with Drake Music

Salary Grade: This is a studentship which provides the full cost of fees and an additional stipend for living costs (UK applicants only) at £15,609 per annum
Closing date: Applications must be received by midnight on 5 May 2021
Interview date: Online interviews are expected to take place during the week beginning 7 June 2021

RNCM PRiSM Lucy Hale Doctoral Award in association with Drake Music

An AHRC PhD Studentship in Music Composition

Living Instruments: exploring disability and accessibility through the composition of new works for accessible digital musical instruments; a partnership between PRiSM, the RNCM Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music, and Drake Music.

The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) invites applications for a three-year full-time PhD studentship beginning in October 2021, fully funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). RNCM is one of the seven members of the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership. These studentships cover the full cost of fees and an additional stipend for living costs (UK applicants only) at £15,609 per annum.


This studentship was conceived and designed by Lucy Hale, an extraordinarily talented composer committed to building repertoire and support for Disabled musicians. Lucy’s drive and talent, as well as her lived experience of Disability, meant that she was able to see the incredible untapped creative potential afforded by non-traditional accessible musical instruments and technology. She understood the vital need to build repertoire and performance practice around those instruments so that the musical ambitions of those who play them can be fully realised. Tragically, Lucy passed away earlier this year and was not able to complete her ambitious plans. This award is offered in her name. We are looking for a musician from any genre of music who is excited by the idea of composing for new instruments and by the possibilities this opens up.

Research Questions
Here are some suggested questions for the PhD to explore:

  • How does writing music for new instruments, with accessibility as a foremost consideration, impact upon the compositional process?
  • Could the creation of dedicated repertoire for new, accessible instruments increase the ‘longevity’ of such instruments, along with their perceived ‘artistic merit’?
  • How can artificial intelligence be utilised in the instrument design and/or composition process to improve the accessibility of music performance for Disabled musicians?

Research Aims
The studentship seeks to expand the limited repertoire available for accessible instruments and examine the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) in the composition and performance of new music using these instruments. In collaboration with accessible instrument makers, this will inform new instrument designs. Examples of existing accessible instruments include the KellycasterMagic Flute and MiMU gloves. The Drake Music website contains more information on their current instruments and projects and the planned Accessible Musical Instrument Collection. The PRiSM webpages have lots of examples of projects using technology such as Machine Learning and AI, for example see the PRiSM Blog.

The partnership between Drake Music and PRiSM supports the exploration of artificial intelligence in accessible technology, a research area only in its infancy. However, the musical context and infrastructure around accessible technology are equally important to removing access barriers for Disabled musicians. The successful candidate will directly address these issues by creating repertoire and performance platforms for Disabled musicians using new accessible instruments.

Submission Format

The applicant is invited to submit:

  • A portfolio of three examples of their own recent compositions in any format.
  • A preliminary research proposal of either a 1,500 word written document or equivalent.*
  • A completed application form, which can be downloaded from the links in the Downloads section.
  • A covering letter of no more than 500 words.*

The research proposal will respond to the Research Questions and Aims listed above, including a description of the proposed methods of research, an indicative bibliography and indication of the aims and likely outcomes. It is recognised that these may change as the research develops.

*Alternative formats are welcome for the research proposal and covering letter, including audio and video, in any combination, with or without a written component.

Please send your application to the PRiSM Centre Manager, Sam Duffy via email at prior to the deadline listed below (Timeline).


The applicant will need to demonstrate significant commitment to composing for new accessible instruments, engaging with Disabled musicians in that process. Applicants for studentships will usually have a first-class or upper-second undergraduate degree, and either have achieved merit or distinction level in a Masters degree, or achieved a significant track-record as a composer, for example, through commissions, performances and publications.

We encourage applications from applicants who may have acquired the required skills and experience through an alternative route. If an applicant doesn’t have the above formal qualifications, their portfolio should be accompanied by commentary and explanations sufficient to demonstrate facility to complete the academic elements of a PhD.

We particularly welcome applications from Disabled candidates and are pleased to accept applications in a format that is accessible to you.

Access Support

The RNCM welcomes Disabled students, and students with long term conditions including those with specific learning difficulties and mental health problems. Ways in which we can support you include:

  • One-to-one academic and study skills tutorials
  • Guidance on documenting your disability
  • Provision of a suitable Personal Learning Plan (PLP)
  • Specific learning difficulty (e.g. dyslexia) screening on request
  • Advice on applying for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)
  • Specialist mental health support
  • Specialist physical support

If you would like to discuss any of your needs, please email Jane Gray, Assistant Head of Registry (Wellbeing), at or call 0161 907 5219.


The studentship will be associated with:

Supervision Team

The studentship will be supervised by:

  • Professor Emily Howard (Professor of Composition and Director of PRiSM, RNCM)
  • Dr Sam Salem (PRiSM Lecturer in Composition, RNCM)
  • Professor David De Roure (Professor e-Research, University of Oxford and Technical Director, PRiSM)
  • Tim Yates (Programme Lead for Research and Development, Drake Music).


Applications must be received by midnight on 5 May 2021. Online interviews are expected to take place during the week beginning 7 June 2021.

Further Information

Postgraduate research students benefit from the vibrant specialised musical environment at RNCM and participate in the broader research community within the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership. Research degrees at RNCM are validated and awarded by Manchester Metropolitan University, so students can draw on training and expertise from both institutions.

Further information about PhD research at RNCM is available here. General guidelines for Research Student applicants are available here. However, please note that these guidelines are primarily intended for the RNCM’s general call for PhD studentships, and the application process for this specific award is as described in this document. Further information about the AHRC-funded studentships can be found here.

Please contact the PRiSM Centre Manager, Sam Duffy with any questions in the first instance, or for assistance accessing the application materials accompanying this advert. Given the bespoke nature of this studentship, if you would like to arrange an informal discussion with Professor Emily Howard, contact Sam Duffy so that this can be arranged.


COVID-19 Update: In order to provide the best possible student experience over the coming months and to ensure maximum access for staff and students while social distancing is in place, the RNCM will remain closed to the public until further notice. More information...