Manchester 2020

UPDATE: Owing to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we are sorry to announce that our Women Conductors course on 30 and 31 March, in partnership with the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester Camerata, has been postponed. Participants have been notified by email, and we very much hope to proceed with the two-day course at a later date.


This year, the Royal Philharmonic Society is pleased to be launching a new phase in its acclaimed Women Conductors programme, especially for young women studying music in the North of England.

Presented in association with the Royal Northern College of Music and the Hallé Orchestra, with support from the Manchester Camerata and BBC Philharmonic, the specially-devised course will bring together a cohort of 8 participants for two focal moments – one in March and one in September – in Manchester, with residual contact and support between and afterwards.

The course is free and aimed at encouraging female music students – principally at undergraduate level, though those in their final year of A Level study may also apply – to discover their capabilities as conductors, with a view to conducting becoming a central or component part of their future careers in music. You may be an absolute beginner or have a little experience on which you'd now like to build. It is hoped that the experience, coaching and support you receive from this course may inspire you to consider postgraduate study in conducting at the RNCM or elsewhere.

What does it involve?

The course involves three activity days which take place in Manchester during 2020. Candidates should be available for all of these in order to apply. Between and after these dates there is further support and contact as outlined below:

Monday 30 – Tuesday 31 March 2020, Royal Northern College of Music, Oxford Road, Manchester

Over the first two days, you will explore the principles of conducting with acclaimed conductor Alice Farnham who founded the RPS Women Conductors courses and features on the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List. Alice is acclaimed internationally for her work nurturing and empowering female conductors. With her, you will initially have the chance to conduct two pianists then a five-strong string ensemble with players from Manchester Camerata, and throughout Alice will offer guidance and encouragement. You will also work with specialist coach Alma Sheehan on physicality, posture and confidently making an impression on your fellow performers and audience.

Thursday 17 September 2020, Hallé St Peters, 40 Blossom St, Manchester

The cohort will reunite for a day to conduct an ensemble of professional musicians drawn from the Hallé Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic. Coached by Alice, you will have the chance to become comfortable conducting and collaborating with professional players on a range of repertoire. It promises to be a fun and rewarding day, and a great experience to feature on your CV.

After the initial activity days in March, the RPS will keep in close touch to help you reflect on your progress so far and address how you can put into practice all you have learned. This will be tailored to each individual, looking at your own personal aspirations and objectives, and we will make useful contacts for you where possible, as well as helping you consider where you can find further experience, and help you craft the optimal tools – CV, covering letters, etc – you need to attain that.

You’ll also be able to join the RPS’ growing Women Conductors social media community, a collective of individuals who have taken part in our previous courses or who generally support our cause, who share opportunities, ideas, insights and encouragement with one another online.

Who can apply?

This course is for female music students currently studying in the North of England and planning to establish a career in music. We are particularly pleased to hear from those who are studying Music at undergraduate level at such institutions as the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester University, the University of Leeds, the University of Liverpool, Newcastle University, the University of Nottingham, the University of Sheffield and the University of York. While it is principally for those at undergraduate level, if you’re in your final year studying A Level music and planning to establish a career in music, you are also very welcome to apply.

If you are studying elsewhere but are principally based in the North of England, you can also apply, and should simply explain your circumstances in your application. You may not be studying music at either undergraduate level or A Level final year but feel you might still be a suitable fit for an opportunity like this. In this instance, please do contact us on 020 7287 0019 or admin@philharmonicsociety.uk to tell us more about your situation.

All applicants should have a fundamental understanding of what conductors do, as well as – naturally – the ability to read music including a basic musical score. Those granted places will be asked to familiarise themselves with several short pieces prior to attending each activity day.

How can I apply?

Applications for this course have now closed. We had aimed to let applicants know the outcome by Friday 28 February but, due to an unexpectedly high volume of applications, we will now be notifying applicants in the week commencing 2 March. We apologise for the delay and will be in touch with all applicants as soon as we can.

If you are offered a place, we’ll then provide you further details of the activity days and what you need to prepare. While the course is free, participants need to make their own arrangements to get to Manchester for the activity days and for any overnight accommodation in Manchester that this may require, if you are not based there. Basic refreshments will be provided on each activity day though you should make your own arrangements for meals, and each day there will be an hour-long lunch break.

Any further questions?

If you have any queries about the opportunity, we’d love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the RPS team on 020 7287 0019 (weekdays 09.30 – 17.30) or by email to admin@philharmonicsociety.uk.

"I was a complete beginner and only 16 when I took part in the Women Conductors course, but it has given me so much confidence - and I am going to seek out and embrace all conducting opportunities."
Emily Page, Phase 1 participant