Find out what life is really like at Durham University


Performing live at Sage Gateshead with Sir Tom!

DUOS Sir Tom at Sage Gateshead

Following a (surprisingly) successful audition in late-September 2017, I first rehearsed with Durham University Orchestral Society (DUOS) in my very first week of university. I was immediately overwhelmed by the high standard of the orchestra, as well as the quantity of exciting opportunities on offer. That year, we performed in Durham Cathedral on multiple occasions (one time, to HRH Prince Charles), toured to Barcelona, featured in the world-famous Gramophone magazine, and hosted numerous other concerts, too. It’s therefore safe to say that the DUOS that I have experienced in my final year has been very different – however it has remained an incredible organisation to be a part of, in which I have made lifelong friends and have benefitted from some amazing opportunities.

Music through the pandemic

The Covid pandemic did scupper many of our plans this year, though I’ve definitely learnt a huge amount about performing, auditioning, and more generally the current state of the professional music industry, thanks to the numerous special guests that have kindly delivered (online) discussion sessions, workshops, and masterclasses with us.

Excited to perform again

The lockdown restrictions have now sufficiently eased to allow us to go ahead with our incredibly exciting end-of-year concert at Sage Gateshead – this will be the first time a Durham ensemble has performed in this world-class venue so is an incredibly exciting prospect, and this is only compounded by the involvement of our incredible Durham Chancellor, Sir Thomas Allen, who will be narrating the world première of Faultlines by Marcello Palazzo. At the beginning of next week, we will also be performing Holst’s bombastic Jupiter in the Music Durham concert in Durham Cathedral, which has been unbelievably exciting to prepare for. Above all, I’m just loving practising playing alongside other musicians, in a venue other than my tiny bedroom – I’ll definitely never take rehearsals for granted ever again, after this year!

President of DUOS

For the past 16 months, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as the President of DUOS – definitely a challenging experience amidst a global pandemic, but also one in which I have learnt a lot. I’ve really improved my resilience, organisational skills, and leadership ability, and this experience has proven really invaluable when applying for graduate jobs in the professional music industry. As a (supposedly) wise, old graduand, I would advise anybody remotely interested in music to just get stuck in as much as possible. It is an amazing way to gain performance or administration experience and make friends – and there are so many different musical societies at Durham that there really is something for everyone.

Find out more about Student Music at Durham University
Visit the DUOS website

Emma Farmer

Hello! I’m Emma, a Liberal Arts finalist student at St Cuth’s. I am the President of the DU Orchestral Society, and am also involved in a wide range of other music ensembles and theatre groups. Following graduation, I hope to work in the music industry.
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