Hannah Fry, BMus Saxophone

When did you decide you wanted to pursue music as a career and come to study at RNCM? 

Music was only really a hobby for me until I started to think about higher education. Though I had always loved performing, I had never considered it as a career option (I began my A levels wanting to study Classics at university). It was only when I began to look at conservatoires on open days that I realised I didn’t want to spend the next few years concentrating on reading and writing endless essays – I wanted to be performing. A BMus at RNCM allowed me to maintain some academic challenges, but focus on performance in a way I could never have experienced at university.

Do you play different styles of saxophone music? And which is your favourite?

Being a saxophonist has its own challenges; there are very few established places for the instrument in ensembles, and those that exist rarely become available. We have to be creative, make our own opportunities and be prepared to take a few risks…there are benefits to this, the biggest of which being the breadth of music we get to play. At RNCM saxophonists have regular opportunities to play classical, contemporary classical and jazz music, all of which we can engage with as much or as little as we like. I also perform regularly in the pit bands for shows, choosing to have clarinet and flute second study lessons in order to support this. Though I do love playing in the pit, sometimes it can be very stressful…especially when you have two bars to change instruments! I have also recently become interested in the use of electronics in live performance – both the phasing techniques of Reich in pieces such as New York Counterpoint and Jacob ter Veldhuis’s use of tape backing in much of his music.

Why did you choose the RNCM?

Largely it was because of the principal study staff and the opportunity to be part of a relatively big department. This may seem strange: logically a small saxophone department would offer its members greater opportunities. What I have found however is that as the department increases in size and success, more opportunities are presented to us within college; this year, for instance, sees the introduction of Fanfare Orchestra, an ensemble for brass and saxophones. It also means we can form multiple small chamber groups within the department, such as quartets and duos.

 What have been your highlights since being at RNCM?

Performing with Pete Long in a Big Band concert recreating Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall debut was definitely my performing highlight: the chance to not only listen to Pete play, but also be tutored by and perform alongside him was an incredible experience, and certainly not one I think any of the band will soon forget! I’ve also had the opportunity to watch some amazing masterclasses with incredible musicians from both the jazz and classical idioms. Particular highlights include those with John Harle and Vincent David, two of the most eminent saxophonists in the classical world; I hope to perform in such masterclasses before I leave the college.

What do you plan to do after your studies here?

At the moment I’m not sure – I am considering both applying for postgraduate study and taking a few years to work in the industry, perhaps including some time working on cruise ships. If I do choose to go straight into work, I know I want to stay in Manchester for a while; I love it here and feel very much at home in the city, and know that the RNCM will always be a place I can return to.