A guide to music in Durham: fresher’s edition

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Fresher’s week is a great introduction to uni life, but it by no means encapsulates all that Durham has to offer. You have most likely been bombarded with leaflets and flyers, ushered towards sign up sheets, and even been bribed with chocolate and sweets at the Fresher’s fair. This time of year can have students reeling from the endless options of societies to join, and it’s normal to feel both excited and overwhelmed. This monthlong series ‘guide to music in Durham’ will guide both Freshers and returners through Durham’s musical life, and the many opportunities available, as well as how to access them. Whether you enjoy performing, or simply listening to music, there are many opportunities for you at Durham.

If you play an instrument and you’re eager to practice without noise complaints from your fellow flatmates or neighbours, we recommend the practice rooms which are dotted all around the university, open to all students, and can be found right in your college! The Mount Oswald hub and the Mark Hillery Studios are by far the most modern and fancy practice rooms at the university, which anyone can book, however, bear in mind that students belonging to the college will get priority access.

Mark Hillery also has one out of the four state-of-the-art recording studios within the university, being both the newest and the only college recording studio that all students can access. It’s tough to book this studio, so get in the queue as quickly as you can and plead a convincing case! The other studios in the university belong to the Music department, and are strictly for Music students. Regardless, if you want to continue developing your musical talent or record a tune, hop into a studio or take a visit to your college practice rooms!

Alternatively, if you want to play your instrument with others, there are a myriad of ensembles associated with colleges and the wider university, including DU Orchestral Society, DU Jazz Society, and many others. Some are auditioned, others are non-auditioned, so there is something for everyone.

There is always something going on in Durham as long as you know where to go look!

Music can be a social activity, and at the heart of everything social is Karaoke. Open mic nights are where people go to show off without ‘taking it too seriously’ (but still taking it very seriously). Whether you want to get over your anxiety of performing or you just enjoy singing in a lighthearted setting, there are many opportunities to do just that! The university has a resident open mic society, which frequents on a Tuesday evening at the Food Pit and other pubs. A lot of colleges also sporadically host karaoke nights, which are typically open to all students.

For those of us who do take singing a little too seriously, or enjoy organised singing as a hobby, there are endless vocal groups that you can join. Ranging from competitive to non-competitive, choral to a cappella, the university really flaunts such diverse vocal groups. Almost every college has a choir of some sort, so you’re definitely not short of options! If you decide to audition for a society, the auditions will usually take place within the first week of October. We don’t want you to miss out because you didn’t know about an audition!

If singing isn’t your scene but you enjoy live music with your pints, scout out the local pubs and college bars, or enjoy jazz nights on Sundays at Fabio’s and Wednesday’s at The Holy GrAle.

During this Fresher’s week, you may have also been subjected to the cheesy tunes of Klute and Jimmy’s. Don’t stress if this music hasn’t been to your taste so far (understandably so!), there is plenty more on offer. If you fancy being at the core of Durham nightlife, get involved with Rotate Durham – they bring global DJ superstars like Sammy Virji and Zero to Durham, while also showcasing emerging student talent at Loft and Fabio’s. College events also host student DJ’s from silent discos at BOPs to headlining summer balls.

If the thought of performing terrifies you, don’t fret, there are plenty of behind the scenes roles for you. Why not try composing? Whether you are the next John Williams, or simply want to give it a go, the DU Film and Media Scoring Society would love to have you. Alternatively, you can apply for the creative team at the DU Audio Drama Society. Both societies collaborate with student-written productions, giving students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of music and theatre.

For those with previous musical experience who fancy stepping up to the podium, conducting could be your forte. If you have played in an orchestra before, this is a fantastic opportunity to gain a different perspective and take on a leadership role. Conductors are essential to many of Durham’s musical societies, so if you have some musical experience, pick up your baton and audition! Similar roles involving musical directing and arranging are also available for a cappella groups and bands.

With so many societies to choose from, you’ll probably want to join as many as you can– which we totally recommend, if you can balance it all! However, societies don’t often mention the subscription fee that members pay in order to join. Subscription fees are necessary to keep societies running and fund things that all members can enjoy, like stash! This can (understandably) be a surprise to students, financially, but there are many options available for scholarships and bursaries to support your involvement in societies. You can find all Music scholarships by looking at the Music Durham website and checking out the scholarships your college offers. Most deadlines take place at the beginning of October, so don’t hesitate to apply! We want everyone to be able to fully experience music at Durham and enjoy all that Durham has to offer.

For regular updates on all things music, including auditions, concerts, and events, follow societies and venues on social media. Plus, check out Music Durham and Durham Student Theatre socials.

Image credit: Claudia Tan

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