Josh Venables

Undergraduate Student at Jesus College

How I came to study Music

My path into studying music at Oxford began in my home in West London. Fortunately, despite my Dad’s complete lack of musical knowledge and my Mum’s limited piano skills, we had an old upright piano in the house so she got me started learning around the age of 5. My own spark of love for music began to grow when at the age of 10 I started being able to perform in small concerts that my piano teacher would host for her pupils. Playing in front of people gave me such a thrill. As I approached my teens, I got a new piano teacher who inspired me with a new view of, as he would say, “playing the music rather than the notes”. This came as my musical ear was developing and I began to experiment with piano covers on YouTube as a hobby. These all contributed to a path where piano became my love through my teens. Another reason for this emergence was when I managed to get a sponsored place in a Saturday music school in central London. The joy of making music with others in piano chamber groups and on bassoon, which I took up at the age of 13, made Saturdays the highlight of my week.

Despite my love for music throughout my life, I was unconvinced about whether I wanted to study music at university when I had to decide during sixth form. I saw it as something that seemed far less valuable when compared with other more practical subjects, and certainly studying it at Oxford seemed such a step into the clouds of unnecessary academia. My aim to make the biggest difference I could in the world didn’t seem to fit with a path studying music. These doubts even continued after I decided to apply for music; the only thing strongly convincing me to apply was that it was a subject I deeply loved and had invested a lot of time in during my life. However, I’ve come to see that the skills and content that I’ve learned on my course as well as the experience of being a part of a vibrant college community have been far more valuable than I envisaged.

Although Oxford might seem a daunting and traditional place to study music, the verbal and written communication skills developed through tutorials and essays accompanied with the close links between students and tutors allow for a hugely dynamic and increasingly flexible course. The doors that studying any subject at Oxford opens afterwards along with the connections created with other keen aspiring musicians as well as those aiming to go into all sorts of fields leave the future wide open for me. Although my career plans are hazy, I think that I’m in such a fortunate place to be able to think through the options. Helping others through music is something I’m keen to do and therefore becoming a music teacher at a school as well as a piano tutor is likely. I can also see myself continuing in performance in some way. Perhaps you see studying music as impractical or as a dead end. The opportunities to learn skills which are applicable to a huge range of things whilst focusing in on studying an art form that genuinely fascinates and inspires so many of us makes me say I can highly recommend music to all considering it.