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Carlos del Cueto

Carlos del CuetoCarlos was an undergraduate student here at the School of Music, and is currently Junior Fellow in Conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). He completed his PhD at Clare College, Cambridge, focusing on historical aspects of nineteenth-century Italian opera. While in Cambridge, he was principal conductor of the Cambridge University Symphony Orchestra, and conducting scholar of the Cambridge University Musicological Society. Next year he will be staff conductor for English Touring Opera's Spring Season. 

Photograph © Matthew Seed Photography

I chose Cardiff University because I was going to study English  Lit., and besides being a good University, I was delighted that in my first year I could study three subjects, and that one of them would be music. In the end it took me no time to realize that after the first year I wanted to just do music, so switched programs, and this was very easy because of how the University is set up. 

It sounds hyperbolic perhaps, but in fact my whole three years at Cardiff were a highlight because they gave me exactly what I wanted. I was a little older when I started my undergrad (21 already), and I was really focused, wanting to learn as much about music as possible. I was delighted at the calibre of professors and lecturers we had, and at the range of courses.

I was able, for instance, to specialize in topics related to opera and the orchestra. Having said that, there were two elements that were as much a highlight, if not more, than the academic program. The first was taking part in Chamber Choir with John Hugh Thomas as director. Rehearsals were always my favourite part of the week. But even more importantly, I was given piano tuition by Richard Ormrod, one of the finest musicians I have ever met, and one of the deepest influences in my own music-making. 

I took a year out after graduating to study conducting privately, and during that time I produced a very strong application for postgraduate study at Cambridge University. I was fortunate to be awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which I was awarded again when I went from Masters to PhD. My current position as conducting fellow at the RNCM was possible because while at Cambridge I split my time more or less evenly between my research and my conducting, so I was able to get huge amounts of conducting experience during these years. 

I perhaps should say that my experience at Cardiff was different than most other people I studied with, because at the time I wanted to do nothing much more than my degree, so I was able to invest all of my time into it, and thus take full advantage of what the faculty had to offer. Not that this is the only way, but I would say that Cardiff School of Music is full of wealth for somebody that really wants to do a music degree. It's very easy to be passive during the studies because nobody mothers the students, so one can have a very average experience there as well. I suppose it's no different than any other program, where it is really oneself that does the learning.

In any case, of course I would recommend it for anybody who wants to really learn about music from an academic point of view. I think most of the amazing professors that I studied with are still there, and some others that have come since sound top class.