My Oxford Story: The Countdown Begins

Despite countless solo recitals and orchestral concerts where I’ve performed to thousands of people, attempting to start this introductory post to my new series ‘My Oxford Story’, feels completely different; I suddenly feel like I’m back on my first day at secondary school where, in turn, we were forced to stand up one by one in front of the class, hands sweating and knees trembling, and awkwardly introduce ourselves. This feels no different.

I suppose we all have to start somewhere. My name is Grace and I’m a musician. I grew up in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, where I studied at The Priory School. Having just finished my final year of A levels, consisting of English Literature, History and Music (and a seemingly rather random Extended Project in Human Rights Law), I am going on to study music at the University of Oxford in October 2020.

While it was my love for the academic side of music that pushed me in this direction, finding particular interest in identity politics and nationalist music, performance has always brought me great enjoyment, playing both viola and piano. I also love to sing and, having toured with choirs to both Australia and Belgium, additionally found my love for travelling and exploring new cultures: I’m fascinated by meeting new people with such different backgrounds and experiences. Next year I’m planning to volunteer in Kenya teaching children music (postponed from July 2020), and I’m also hoping to go backpacking with friends post-Covid!

My journey to studying at Oxford was perhaps slightly different to what you might have expected: I went to a comprehensive co-educational school where very few people went on to study at Oxbridge. Quite honestly, I question whether I would be reading music (let alone the University of Oxford!) if it wasn’t for the support I was lucky enough to receive from my school’s music department who recognised my musical abilities and were committed to making sure that any child with a serious passion for music had access to as many opportunities as possible. They helped me apply for scholarships, bursaries and instrumental loan schemes so that I could progress further in my viola studies; they also encouraged and supported me in preparing for auditions and recitals. Perhaps it was thanks to these teachers, who so strongly advocated the belief that classical music should be accessible to everyone despite their background, that I’m now so passionate about our company’s ethos. I’ve worked at Olsen Verlag for just over a year now and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

This is the first of a series of blog posts where I’ll be sharing with you my experiences as a music student at the University of Oxford. I’m writing these in the hope that that other young musicians who are perhaps interested in reading music at university, but maybe think it’s too difficult an option for them, or that they wouldn’t ‘fit in’, can gain a better idea of what life is truly like, and realise that nothing is out of their reach. The purpose of this blog is not to sugar-coat my experience, but rather to be brutally honest and say it how it is. Truthfully, as I write this at my desk in Hitchin, just over a week before I make the journey to Oxford, I’m not sure what to expect, and that’s certainly a scary feeling. I suppose the current climate of being in a pandemic potentially doesn’t help. But whatever comes of it, it’ll be my unique experience that I share with you.

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