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Top 5 Tips For Freshers

Hi there, and welcome to Oxford!

Whether you’re returning from the summer or coming to Oxford for the first time, there are few things better than the first few weeks of the year. With the city rejuvenated from the new intake of students, it’s a time of seeing old friends and making new ones. One of the hardest things for anyone coming to Oxford to navigate is its expansive music scene. Not only do you have OUMS, the official music society, you have independent groups, college music societies and more choirs than you can count! So here are a few tips as to how to make the most of your time in Oxford

1) Get involved with OUMS!

oums collage

It might be slightly self-promoting, but getting involved with OUMS is the best thing for any musician. Whatever you’re standard there’s a group for you, and it’s the largest collection of  players across the university. Not only is it a great way to get your name out there, but it’s also full of lovely, talented people, and you’ll be sure to make friends! Even if you don’t play an orchestral instrument, OUMS Socials are one of the best ways to meet other musicians, so be sure to pop along to those!

How do you do that, you ask? Simple:


Come find our table at the Freshers’ Fair and sign up for our auditions. They’ll take place at the music faculty over the weekend after Freshers’ week. Essentially, all you need to do is prepare 5 mins of an unaccompanied piece, then you’ll do 5 mins sight-reading. The way it works, you audition for all the OUMS ensembles in one go. It’s a really relaxed environment for us to find out which orchestras you would best suit, and for you to find out more about OUMS. Have a look on our Facebook page for further details.

2) Figure out what you love

oujo pic

You and your well-being are really important too! There’s loads of fun stuff to do in Oxford but there’s so much time to have a look around, so don’t feel any pressure to sign up to everything at once. Once you’ve had a term to settle in you’ll start getting more offers than you can count to take part in various projects. Whilst it’s great to know that you’re valued, it’s also really important for yourself to cherry-pick what you like doing. Getting involved in another chamber orchestra playing Beethoven V may not be your thing, but maybe you really love playing Renaissance Viol, so it’s worth dedicating your time to that. Learning to say “no” is really vital – everyone has a lot on their plates and will be really sympathetic if you can’t do their ensemble, as long as you tell them well in advance. During your first year you’ll want to have a few evenings free a week, so I’d recommend doing 3-4 ensembles max. If you ever feel like you’ve got too much on or need to have a chat be sure to talk to your Fixer, Manager or anyone on OUMS Committee, we always have time to help!

3) Join a Committee


This sounds really lame, but committee work can often be the best part of music at Oxford. When you join a committee, you get to help the ensemble/orchestra you love function! By the end of the first term there’ll be loads of positions open, which, whilst they might sound a bit scary, actually won’t involve too much work. Become Fixer or Social Sec for an orchestra, and within a few months you’ll be putting on concerts, setting up socials, and organising tours!

4) Try things out before starting your own thing

OUChorus pic

If you love Renaissance Viol then it may be really tempting to start up your own ensemble, and this is the way that lots of them get formed. But start it too soon, and you won’t have enough resources, connections and know-how to do it properly. Build up your network, figure out how best to run your group, and then start it! Additionally, it’ll make your life a lot easier if you can adapt existing ensembles to meet your needs, rather than starting from scratch. Maybe you could do a concert in the OUMS Chamber Music series, or maybe even become conductor of OUSinf and do a Period Instruments concert. Within OUMS there is tonnes of room for you to explore your own interests.

5) Get in on the ball scene


One of the highlights of Oxford life are the balls that happen every year, and as a musician you’re in a unique position. Not only can you get paid for playing at such events, but many balls allow you to stay on afterwards and enjoy the party to the full! Play the violin? Join a string quartet! Play the saxophone? Then join a jazz band like OUJO, or a funk band like DFO or Sisters of Funk.

You’ll learn so much about who you are and what to do once you get to Oxford, and these few years can truly be fantastic. I hope that this short guide’s given you a bit of advice, and all of us at OUMS look forward to seeing you at the start of term!

OUMS love x


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