The Royal Northern College of Music is a world leading conservatoire in Manchester, England. It is one of four conservatoires associated with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. In addition to being a centre of music education, RNCM is one of the UK’s busiest and most diverse public performance venues. The RNCM has a rich history, dating back to the late 19th century and the establishment of the Royal Manchester College of Music (RMCM). In 1858, Sir Charles Hallé founded the Hallé orchestra in Manchester, and by the early 1890s had raised the idea of a music college in the city. Following an appeal for support, a building on Ducie Street was secured, Hallé was appointed Principal and Queen Victoria conferred the Royal title. The RMCM opened its doors to 80 students in 1893, rising to 117 by the end of the first year. Less than four decades later, in 1920, the Northern School of Music was established (initially as a branch of the Matthay School of Music), and for many years the two institutions peacefully coexisted. It wasn’t until 1955 that NSM Principal, Hilda Collens, in recognising the importance of performance in training students, met with RMCM Principal, Frederic Cox, to raise the question of merging. Discussions continued until September 1967 when a Joint Committee was formed to oversee plans to combine the two colleges.
The RNCM was formed in 1972, moving to its purpose-built home on Oxford Road in 1973. 2013 marked the 40th anniversary year of the RNCM. The college building was built in 1968 to 1973 by architects Bickerdike, Allen, Rich and greatly extended 30 years later. Currently the college offers both undergraduate (BMus and joint MusB/GRNCM course with the University of Manchester in any of the five specialisations offered) and postgraduate taught programmes (PGDip, MMus) in musical performance and composition. In association with Manchester Metropolitan University the college offers research degrees (MPhil, PhD) in musical performance, composition, musicology and music psychology as part of its Graduate School. In January 2005, the RNCM was awarded £4.5 million by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to become a recognised Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), the only UK conservatoire to be selected. RNCM Research is recognised as world-leading, and in the 2014 HEFCE Research Excellence Framework we were ranked the highest of all UK music colleges. Recent projects which illustrate Research-led Outreach at the RNCM are the AHRC-funded PhD entitled Interactive Performance for Musicians with a Hearing Impairment, the award-winning opera Anya17, and the interactive workshop Music in the Third Age: Practice and Research. Undertaken by Robbie Fulford, Interactive Performance for Musicians with a Hearing Impairment explored how technology can help deaf musicians perform together. It also researched the possibility of perceiving music using vibrations.
The projects developed and researched vibrotactile technology that will help musicians with hearing impairments to play music together. The future aim is that the research will contribute to the development of vibrotactile technology that will enable people with hearing impairments to have better access to music and to facilitate music performance throughout their lives. Written by Adam Gorb, Head of Composition at the RNCM, and librettist Ben Kaye, Anya17 addresses the issue of human trafficking. It has been performed in Germany, Romania and the USA as well as here the north-west and has generated wide media and civil society attention. UK and international anti-trafficking campaigning groups have endorsed the opera and used it to raise awareness and help leverage their agenda to change legislation. In November 2015, RNCM Research hosted an interactive workshop dedicated to music and the Third Age, with a particular focus on dementia.
Taking place in the Forman Lecture Theatre, Music in the Third Age: Practice and Research was a free public RNCM Engage event to raise awareness of the existing initiatives, activities, training, projects and research on music-making for, with and by the elderly, including people with dementia. Guest speakers included Professor Alistair Burns, Gill Drummond, Clare Morel and Philip Curtis. The RNCM currently has 770 students and 320 teaching staff, the majority of whom are part-time visiting tutors. Many of the staff also teach at the Junior RNCM, a Saturday music school for talented young musicians who are keen on pursuing a musical career. The college is divided into 6 schools by area of specialisation includes School of Composition, School of Keyboard Studies, School of Strings, School of Vocal Studies, School of Wind, Brass & Percussion, School of Popular Music Performance. There is also a School of Conducting within its Graduate School.
The RNCM Students' Union (RNCMSU) is the main student-run organisation. Besides representing the study body, the RNCMSU also plans and organises social programmes and provides peer support for students. The RNCMSU is member of the National Union of Students. There is a large residential hall, Sir Charles Groves Hall, located next to the campus, which is managed by Liberty Living. Alternatively, students may choose to rent a flat at the Manchester Student Homes, the sole provider of housing for university students in Manchester.