John Uren, BMus Composer
How long have you been composing for and how did you get started?
I first started composing around the age of 13, so for about 6 years now. My piano teacher at the time really got me into improvisation, starting out in jazz and evolving into other genres. I soon started to write down my improvisations and working on them away from the playing. This steadily progressed into composing music away from improvisation; crafting ideas over time rather than creating them on the spot. I found the act of creating music really enjoyable and fulfilling; I just kept working at it and that’s where I am today.
When did you decide to study composition at degree level?
Although I really enjoyed composing I originally intended to study piano at degree level. At 16 I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to study the piano in London at a level I hadn’t trained at before. The atmosphere and intensity of this experience made me realise that my heart wasn’t in the performance of music but in the creation of it, from then on I focused on composition. As I composed more and more I realised that it had the spark that was missing for me in performance and that I wanted to do it at degree level.
What’s your favourite aspect of being a student at RNCM?
I think being surrounded by such inspiring people, staff and students alike, is a huge factor in the development of a musician and a reason why the RNCM is so distinguished. As a composer I have access to performers who will one day be the best in their field, if not already, and tutors/visiting lecturers at the cutting edge of new music. The possibilities, knowledge and passion these people impart create music making of the highest quality.
This level of music making links in with the endless chances for RNCM composition students to have their work performed and recorded; such as the unique opportunity to regularly write for the RNCM Brand New Orchestra. Earlier this year I got the chance to write for the BBC Singers in a workshop taking place at Maida Vale Studios, London. I was fortunate enough to have my piece selected and the experience was incredible.
What is a ‘typical’ week in college like for you?
During the week I have numerous academic lectures and tutorials on the Language of Music, the History of Music and Musicianship. Composition related activities include a weekly composition seminar, techniques classes and my one-to-one lesson with my tutor, Emily Howard. In these one-to-one lessons I show Emily the music I’ve written during the week; she critiques it and we discuss the work/music in general. In between all this I try to do as much composing as I can during the day; usually working in the College library or in a composition suite. Away from this my time in College is usually spent going to the array of concerts that are on and chilling out over a pint in the College bar.
What do you plan to do after your studies here?
At the moment my aspirations aren’t fixed on anything in particular. I’d love to continue studying with world class composers, whether that be in the UK, abroad or at postgraduate level I’m unsure yet, although I will still definitely be composing. At the moment I’m simply focused on writing and having as much music as possible of mine performed, I’ll see how that goes over the next three years and take it from there…
Find out more about the School of Composition here.
Read more about the Bachelor of Music programme here.