Popular Music

Popular Music is a contemporary art form that is constantly evolving and our curriculum reflects this.

We embrace innovation, diversity and change and you will have the opportunity to study a multiplicity of musical styles enabling you to re-define the future of the genre.

The Popular Music degree programmes provide intensive training for instrumentalists and singers with a high level of performing ability who intend to work as freelance musicians, bands and artists in the popular music industry, or as a preparation for further study.

Principal Study available in:

Piano / Keyboard
Bass Guitar
Drum Kit

Popular Music is available at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and the PGCE in Music with Specialist Instrumental Teaching is now accepting Popular Music applicants.

Performance Opportunities

RNCM Session Orchestra

The RNCM offers Popular and Classical music students the unique opportunity to work collaboratively across a range of innovative original ensembles. Our students co-exist in a dynamic environment where everyone is a high quality creative musician and we actively encourage them to maximise the potential of the unrivalled performance opportunities we are able to present through this diverse ecology. RNCM students have a major presence in the vibrant music scene in Manchester through our monthly Northern Sessions live gig nights, in venues around the UK promoted by Northern Quarter Records, and on an international level through our Interplay network.

The College also boasts the critically acclaimed RNCM Session Orchestra – this 40-piece ensemble is the only one of its kind in a UK conservatoire and brings together students from all of the RNCM’s schools of study to perform an eclectic mix of original music, pop classics and current chart hits. The Session Orchestra has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, The Liverpool Echo Arena, The Bridgewater Hall, Media City UK and at the Dulwich International Festival in Shanghai. It also performs three annual concerts in the RNCM Theatre to enthusiastic sell out audiences.

Recent Masterclasses

Through the School’s Friday Masterclass Series, Popular Music students have benefited from the expertise and industry insight from a range of artists and producers, including:

  • Snarky Puppy
  • JP Cooper
  • Everything Everything
  • Callum Beattie
  • Becca Stevens
  • Mo Pleasure (Michael Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire)
  • Cory Wong (Vulfpeck)
  • Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams, Mark Ronson)
  • Dominic Miller (Sting, Phil Collins)
  • Richard Jupp (Elbow)
  • Jamie Norton (Take That, Lily Allen)
  • Mario Jose (Prince, John Legend)

Recent Student and Alumni Successes

  • RNCM students on the road: Band Young Monarch did a UK tour – including a performance at the Royal Albert Hall – while Flowers For Charlie went on a European tour. Meanwhile the band Lilo, and students James Bradshaw (vocals and keys) and Simon Dumas (vocals) performed over the summer in Los Angeles.
  • Following the successful completion of their Professional Engagement Module, a number of undergraduate students have been offered positions with a range of organisations including Sony Music Australia, Sofar Sounds New York, Dulwich International College Beijing, BBC6 Music, Brighter Sounds, Carnival Cruises and Bolton Music Service.
  • Alumni Tom Stott (keyboard, 2017) and Charles MacDonald (electric guitar, 2015) recently completed a UK tour with Callum Beattie including performances at Glastonbury, BST Hyde Park, V Festival, and Reading-Leeds Festival.
  • Charles MacDonald, Ollie Harding (drumkit, 2015), Harry Gumery (bass guitar 2015) completed a UK and Australia tour with The Shires including performances at Manchester Arena and Wembley Stadium.


Many of our staff are active popular musicians who regularly work with acclaimed artists and industry professionals. Examples of recent tours and performances staff have been involved in as part of their performance careers include:

  • Wayne Ellington: Musical Director of the BBC Gospel Choir of the Year, Manchester Inspirational Voices, was recently appointed to the RNCM Popular Music staff as Vocal Tutor
  • Luke Flowers, Drum Tutor: recently completed UK and European tours with The Cinematic Orchestra
  • Hannah McGuigan, Vocal Tutor: recently completed UK and US tours with The Brand New Heavies
  • Matt Steele, Keyboard Tutor: recently completed UK and US tours with The Brand New Heavies
  • Bryan Hargreaves, Drum Tutor: guested with Snarky Puppy at the Haugesund International Jazz Festival Norway, and has an upcoming UK tour with Patti Austin
  • Audrey Lawrence-Mattis, Vocal Tutor: recently completed a UK and Dubai tour with Hacienda Classical
  • Stuart McCallum, Guitar Tutor: recently completed a European tour with Richard Spaven, and has co-written and produced a new album by The Breath for September 2018 release

Staff List

Head of Popular Music
Andy Stott BA, MA, PGCE, SFHEA

Deputy Head of Popular Music
Dr Rodrigo Constanzo BMus, MMus, PhD

International Artists in Popular Music
Snarky Puppy

Senior Lecturer
Katie Chatburn BMus, MMus, PGCE, LRAM

Senior Lecturer – MMus Popular Music Co-ordinator
Dr Mauricio Pauly MusB, MusM, PhD

Professional Engagements Co-ordinator, Northern Quarter Records Manager
Ben Cottrell BMus, GRNCM

Visiting Tutors in Vocals
Tommie Blaize (Incognito/Take That)
Kim Chandler (Bee Gees/Neil Diamond)
Anni Williams (Al Jarreau/CeeLo Green)

Tutors in Vocals
Nicki Allan BA, PGCE
Jenn Clempner BA, MA
Hannah McGuigan BMus

Tutor in Vocals, Musicianship Tutor
Audrey Lawrence-Mattis BMus

Visiting Tutors in Bass Guitar
Yolanda Charles (Paul Weller/Robbie Williams)
Stefan Redtenbacher (Amy Winehouse/Mica Paris)
Paul Turner (Jamiroquai/Sister Sledge)

Tutors in Bass Guitar
Ollie Collins BA
Simon Goulding
Richard Hammond BA, MA

Tutor in Bass Guitar, Tutor in Composition, Ensembles Project Supervisor
Jasper Wilkinson BA

Visiting Tutors in Drums
Elliott Henshaw (Jersey Boys/Wicked)
Ash Soan (Adele/James Morrison)

Tutors in Drums
Luke Flowers
Bryan Hargreaves BA

Drum Tutor, Musicianship Tutor
Dave Hassell ARAM

Visiting Tutors in Guitar
Rob Harris (Jamiroquai/Kylie Minogue)
Mike Walker (The Impossible Gentlemen)
Dominic Miller (Sting/Phil Collins)

Tutors in Guitar
Johnny Heyes BA
Stuart McCallum BA, MA

Visiting Tutors in Keyboard
Bill Laurance (Snarky Puppy)
Jason Rebello (Sting/Chaka Khan)
Luke Smith (George Michael/Eric Clapton)

Tutors in Keyboard
Andy Hickey BA, Cert Ed
Johnni Musgrave BA

Keyboard Tutor, Composition Tutor, Ensembles Project Supervisor
Matt Steele BA, MA

Visiting Tutor in Musical Direction
Steve Sidwell (BBC Concert Orchestra)

Tutor in Musical Direction
Jon Shone BA

Visiting Tutor in Composition
Patrice Rushen (Stevie Wonder/Quincy Jones)

Visiting Tutors in Music Industry
Fred Bolza (Vice President Strategy Sony BMG)
Dr Pete Waterman OBE (Producer)

Tutor/Supervisor – Ensembles Performance
Alex Dee BA, PGCE

Tutor in Musicianship
Dr Sabrina Schroeder BMus, MA, PhD

What Our Students Say

Find out what our students say about their experience at the RNCM on our Student Stories page.

Application Factfile

UCAS Conservatoires code: 201F
Applications for September 2019 entry: Open July 2018, via UCAS Conservatoires
Application deadline for September 2019 entry: 1 October 2018

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