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Postgraduate course

Musical Leadership MA

Passionate about musical ensembles? Take your musical leadership skills to the next level with our dedicated postgraduate course.

A group of students play brass instruments together in the university chapel.

If you have experience in directing or leading musical ensembles, this is the postgraduate course for you. By taking part in practice-led teaching and research, you will develop your understanding of leadership in music. We will also help you broaden the scope of your work by providing multiple opportunities to lead university ensembles.

  • Subject to final approval

York campus

  • Duration – 1 year full time or 2 years part time
  • Start date – October 2022
  • School – School of the Arts

Minimum Entry Requirements

    2:2 in Music or another related subject

    6.0 IELTS score if English is not your first language

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2020-21 £6,500 full time

    International 2020-21 £12,750 full time

Course overview

Your practice as an ensemble leader is placed at the centre of this course. By studying a variety of key concepts relating to leadership, ensemble interaction, and musical development, you will reflect on your existing practice to further understand how it may improve. We will support you as you initiate new strategies in your practice inspired by your research.

On the course you will be given multiple opportunities to participate in university-based ensembles as a musical leader and work with your existing external ensembles too.  This will see you perform in venues across the historic city of York to a range of audiences. All of this experience broadens your scope as a musical leader and prepares you for future employment avenues. 

When you study our Reflective Practitioner module, you will work alongside students from the other courses on our postgraduate Music suite. This allows you to gain a cross-disciplinary awareness of musical leadership and its relationship with other key areas of musical study. Your Ensemble Independent Project module builds on the taught modules and allows you to apply new theories, ideas and strategies to areas of your practice you would most like to improve. This research may encompass work your conduct with external groups, or draw on your experience with university ensembles. Whatever aspect of musical leadership you choose to study, your academic supervisor will be there to support you through the process. 

Course structure

How you will study 

You can study this postgraduate course full time, or part time. This allows you to fit your studies around other commitments.

For postgraduate study, our academic year is split into 3 terms.

If you choose to study full time the course will take 1 year to complete. You will:

  • Take 2 compulsory modules in term 1
  • Take your Ensemble Leadership Independent Project across all 3 terms.

If you choose to study part time the course will take 2 years to complete. You will:

  • Take 2 compulsory modules in term 1 of your first year
  • Take your Ensemble Leadership Independent Project in both terms 2 and 3 of your first year and throughout your second year.


Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module, you will explore the connections between practice and theory. Focusing on your work within ensembles, you will consider how knowledge can be both generated and communicated through the work you do. By doing this you will gain a broad understanding of the relationship between arts practice, knowledge and research. This module will help you become an articulate practitioner who can communicate the research within your work. 

Credits: 40

Compulsory module

A thorough understanding of different leadership and rehearsal strategies is needed to lead ensembles effectively, because there is no single approach that suits all circumstances. You will study key concepts in ensemble leadership through your practice, so wherever your musical background lies, the principles can be applied. You will also critique how these strategies might be impacted by a variety of musical and non-musical factors, including:

  • genre
  • instrumentation
  • repertoire
  • ensemble goals
  • dissemination
  • social contexts.

Credits: 120

Compulsory module

This module is the culmination of your skills, knowledge and creativity. Work independently as you develop a significant piece of work, or body of work based on originality and technical mastery. Although this is your project to work on independently, you will be supported throughout by supervisors on a 1 to 1 basis. This module is your chance to showcase yourself as an artist who is maturing into the professional you want to be. 

Teaching and assessment

Teaching on this course will include periods of intense learning activity broken up with periods of independent reflection. Teaching will be delivered using a range of methods that will most likely include:

  • Lectures 
  • Demonstrations 
  • Seminars 
  • Workshops 
  • Individual and group tutorials 
  • Visits to arts venues and performances.

Outside of this contact time, you will be expected to play an active role in your own learning and continue your studies independently. During these times, you will be set specific tasks by tutors which may involve: 

  • Technician supported learning sessions
  • Group critiques 
  • Reading and research activities 
  • Engaging in forums and discussion groups on the  Virtual Learning Environment. 

We use a range of assessment methods on the course and have designed them so you can align the assessments with your individual interests and practice. Assessment methods include:

  • Portfolios 
  • Viva voces 
  • Essays 
  • Oral Presentations.

You will receive support and feedback on assessments prior to submission. You will also receive feedback on each submitted assessment. This will allow you to continually improve your academic work.

Career outcomes

Your future with a Musical Leadership postgraduate degree 

This degree can give you the tools to progress in a career you are passionate about. 

This course can help you in your career if:

  • You are a freelance musician looking to improve your ability to lead ensembles in performance, production and pedagogic contexts.
  • You are a freelance musician looking to improve the quality of ensembles you lead and participate in as a gigging musician.
  • You are a freelance musician who wants to focus on recording with your ensemble, making you more efficient in achieving the desired quality of performance.
  • You are a teacher who leads ensembles as part of your work – regardless of if you teach primary, secondary, or tertiary education.
  • You are a community musician who wants to improve your ability to facilitate ensembles within the community. 

Whatever your ambitions, we can help you get there.

Our careers service, LaunchPad provides career support tailored to your ambitions. Through this service you can access:

  • Employer events
  • LinkedIn, CV and cover letter sessions
  • Workshops on application writing and interview skills
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities
  • Personalised career advice.

This support doesn't end when you graduate. You can access our expert career advice for the rest of your life. We will help you gain experience and confidence to succeed. It's your career, your way.

Entry requirements


Minimum Entry Requirements

    2:2 in Music or another related subject

    6.0 IELTS score if English is not your first language

Entry onto this postgraduate course requires a minimum of a 2:2 undergraduate degree in a related subject.

If your undergraduate degree is not in a related discipline but you can provide evidence of professional experience in leading musical ensembles, your application may still be considered.

International Students

If you are an international student, you will need to show that your qualifications are equivalent to those above.

If your first language is not English you must show evidence of English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

APEL policy

If you can't meet these minimum requirements it may be possible to take into account evidence of Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) as an alternative way to meet the entry requirements. Appropriate references, records of employment, and artistic portfolios can be presented to support your case for admission.

Fees and Funding

UK and EU 2022 - 2023

The tuition fee for 2022 entry to this postgraduate course is £6,500 for full time UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

For UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students studying part time, the tuition fee for 2020 entry to this postgraduate course is £3,250 per year.

Postgraduate loans are available to help you pay for your master’s course. Find out more about postgraduate funding opportunities.

International (non-EU) 2022 - 2023

The tuition fee for 2022 entry to this postgraduate course is £12,750 for international students.

Due to immigration laws, international students on a Student Visa must be studying full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

More information about funding your studies is available on our International Fees and Funding page.

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2020-21 £6,500 full time

    International 2020-21 £12,750 full time

Alumni Scholarships

If you are an alumni of York St John University we have scholarships available to help you continue your studies.
[button] Scholarships for alumni

Additional costs and financial support


Whilst studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.


View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

Apply for this course

You can apply directly to the course by selecting the appropriate link below. This will take you to a customised form for your chosen course.

You will need to create a login and password and complete the online form. Please contact 2 referees in advance of submitting your application as an automated request will go out as soon as you submit, and your application will not be reviewed until both references are in place. 



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