Sophia Hall

Undergraduate Student at Jesus College

How I came to study Music

From a very early age I wanted to play the saxophone. So much so that I begged my parents for one age four and was presented with a silver toy version from Boots – it wasn’t until I was seven that I was given a real saxophone and started having lessons with a trombone teacher at school. Although my family weren’t musicians, my parents bought me an electric piano when I was 4, as my mother had read a newspaper article that suggested there were ties between learning a musical instrument and doing well in school. Academia was always at the forefront in my childhood and music was very much pushed aside by my family and school who were all too willing to constantly remind me that a career in music wasn’t feasible.

Everything changed when I was 13 and the music teacher at my secondary school recommended I audition for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO2). This ultimately led to me meeting someone from the Purcell School of Music who suggested I audition for the music school. Age 14 I won a Government Music and Dance scholarship to study classical saxophone, piano and clarinet at the music school, and later age 16 I also started having lessons on Saturdays at the Royal College of Music in London. I loved my time at Purcell, but it was certainly a place where we were being trained to be full-time performers. Almost everyone in my year went on to attend conservatoire after we graduated and I felt pressured to audition as I thought the only career you could have in music was as a performer. Thankfully, I also applied to a whole mixture of other university Music courses both in the UK and abroad, and the second I walked into my first interview with Suzanne Aspden (my college tutor), I knew that Oxford was where I wanted to be for the next three years.

Whilst I was at Purcell, I was placed into foster care. The UK’s care service has a lot of stereotypes surrounding it, and only 5% of care leavers go on to higher education. Convincing social services that I was going to apply for Oxford got me a lot of rolled eyes and sympathetic smiles, but not much support. However, thanks to the support that Oxford gives care leavers during the application process (as well as during their time at Oxford) I was able to gain an offer and accept my place at Jesus College.

My time at Oxford has shown me that there are countless routes I can take in the music industry that don’t have to include musical performance. For example, I currently sit at the Alto 1 chair in the Oxford University Jazz Orchestra and really enjoy playing with the band. However, I’ve also been the orchestra’s President this last year and single-handedly organised a two-week international tour for OUJO to Thailand. Since coming to Oxford I have worked for the BBC (Music TV), the Royal Opera House (Learning and Participation) and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, all of which helped me realise my love for working in large-scale arts organisations. Consequently, from September onwards I’ll be starting my Masters degree in International Business as I want to become the CEO of a major Opera House. This is a pathway I never would’ve even considered as a child, but thanks to the teaching and support at University, I now know that there are countless options for my career within the music industry.