School of Arts

The blog of the School of Arts at the University of Surrey

Music alumna conducts newly released recording of Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate

Odaline de la MartinezA newly released CD recording of Ethel Smyth’s comic opera The Boatswain’s Mate, the first modern recording of the work, is conducted by University of Surrey alumna Odaline de la Martinez.

Cuban-American conductor Odaline de la Martinez (pictured) graduated with a MMus in composition in 1977, studying with Reginald Smith Brindle. In 1984, she became the first female conductor at The BBC Proms. A renowned interpreter of the music of Ethel Smyth, she returned to The Proms ten years later to conduct a special performance of Smyth’s opera The Wreckers.

Appearing in the centenary year of the opera, which premiered on 28 January 1916 at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, the 2-CD set features the Lontano Ensemble, which Odaline de la Martinez founded in 1976, and also includes historical recordings of Smyth conducting extracts from her operas in 1916 and 1930.

The CD is the debut release by Retrospect Opera, a specialist recording company founded in 2014 to focus on 19th- and early 20th-century opera by British composers. Extracts from the recording are available for listening online:

Further information on the CD is available at Retrospect Opera’s website:

The recording has received an excellent review by leading classical CD review site MusicWeb International, which may be read here:

Surrey Undergraduate Research Journal features articles by two School of Arts students

The most recent issue of Surrey Undergraduate Research Journal (Vol. 2, No. 1) features articles written by two School of Arts undergraduate students. 

Adrianna MichalskaAdrianna Michalska, who is currently undertaking her professional training placement year as part of the BA Dance and Culture programme, is the author of the article ‘The Disruptive Power of the Disabled Body in Dance: Lloyd Newson’s The Cost of Living’. Adrianna’s essay considers perceptions of disabled bodies in society, and reflects on how they are deconstructed in the film through the analysis of selected dance scenes with a disabled dancer. Adrianna said: “As the world of inclusive dance practice rapidly develops, it is important to simultaneously engage in academic research to further enhance the understanding of what happens when a disabled body enters the dance stage.”

Christopher PidgeonRecent graduate of the BMus Music programme, Christopher Pidgeon, has contributed an article entitled ‘The Forgotten Work of Clara Schumann: German Society’s Influence on a Female Composer’. In it, Chris evaluates Clara Schumann’s life and the factors that led to her being cast by the wayside in relation to her male counterparts (including her husband Robert), despite overwhelming evidence of her compositional ability and the aesthetic value in her music. Chris says that “gender studies appears to be a big topic in musicology, [so] it seemed like a relevant but also very interesting area to research.”

Surrey Undergraduate Research Journal (ISSN: 2058-5551) is an online, multi-disciplinary journal, whose articles are peer-reviewed and copy-edited by a team of the University’s postgraduate researchers. The current issue may be accessed here: 

A Celebration of Professional Training and Dance

In a recent university wide celebration of professional training Dance was honoured for its strong relationship to industry through its professional placement program.  The day began with a flash mob, directed by our second year students, which got alot of people out in the sun and dancing!

Nine Dance students presented posters on their placement year, highlighting their personal project and overall placement experience.  Of them Amy Sharkey was awarded Dance Student of the Year for her work with Akram Khan Dance Company. 

The evening also awarded students across disciplines for exceptional work on placement with a top award going to Zoe Harman for her work in social care. Students received cash prizes and certificates as part of their recognition.  A special Employer of the Year Award  went out to East London Dance for their long affiliation with The University of Surrey, for providing consistent placement experiences of depth and value, and for their leading edge work in promoting, developing and making dance accessible for both artists and communities.

A guest panel of speakers spoke to the depth of work being done across the UK in community dance, advocacy for dance, dance and health research and support for artists.  The panel was comprised of Polly Risbridger of East London Dance, Marianna Rocha of OneDance UK and Olive Kane of Greenwich Dance. The panel was well received, with colleagues and faculty across the university expressing excitement at the depth and breadth of ways dance has a part of our everyday lives. 

The ceremony was attended by the Provost and Vice Chancellor, the Mayor Elect of Guildford and the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences in addition to many of our industry partners. Twenty-four students in total represented each of the placement programs at The University of Surrey.  This year celebrated a special focus on Dance. Future years will focus on our other exceptional programs here at Surrey.

Guardian league table 2017 results: Music at no.1, Drama & Dance at no.2

The Guardian logoThe University of Surrey is celebrating excellent results in The Guardian’s UK university league tables 2017, published today.


Music (which includes programmes in Music, Creative Music Technology, and the flagship Tonmeister course) has topped this year’s subject league table, positioning it as the no.1 music department in the country:


Drama & Dance (which incorporates Dance, Theatre & Performance, and the programmes offered by the Guildford School of Acting) moves up one place from last year’s subject league table, to no.2 in the country:


The University of Surrey as a whole consolidates last year’s excellent position at no.4 in The Guardian’s institutional league table. It remains the top-ranked university in England outside of Oxbridge.

The Guardian league tables, part of the Guardian University Guide, represent one of the most influential rankings of UK universities, and this fantastic result consolidates the University of Surrey’s standing as a leading higher education institution for the Arts.



Arts celebrates successes at the 2016 USSU Annual Student Awards

School of Arts staff and students were recipients of several major awards announced at the 2016 USSU Annual Student Awards at an evening ceremony hosted by the University of Surrey Students’ Union on Thursday 19 May.

Christopher PidgeonFinal-year BMus Music student Christopher Pidgeon was awarded Student Course Rep of the Year. Previously in 2016, Chris received the awards of Course Rep of the Month (in January) and Longstanding Course Rep of the Year at the Course Rep Awards, in recognition of his sustained excellence in student representation. He has been particularly commended for his organisation, his proactivity in collating student opinions on a range of issues, and the outcomes he has achieved. Chris has also represented Music at every open day and applicant day throughout his three years at the University of Surrey. There are currently around 600 course reps across the University, so Chris’s awards reflect an exceptional achievement for which competition was extremely fierce.

Dr Maureen BonelloAssociate Lecturer Dr Maureen Bonello was the winner of The Lynne Millward Award for Academic Staff Member of the Year. As Performance Co-ordinator, Maureen works tirelessly for Music students on all programmes, organising concerts both on and off campus, accompanying students on the piano (in the University Choir, Chamber Choir, and other ad hoc Ensembles, as a guest soloist with the University Orchestra, and working with solo performers), delivering performance seminars, and arranging guest-speakers. This award reflects Maureen’s outstanding, long-standing commitment to the student experience: she consistently goes above and beyond to ensure that the students have plenty of worthwhile performance opportunities, and she is a steadfast positive force who has an impact on every student in the department.

Eleanor DickensEleanor Dickens, a talented first-year BA Theatre and Performance student and member of Musical Theatre Society, received the award of Society Member of the Year. This year, Eleanor has Set Designed for and performed in Musical Theatre Society’s main show, Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin, as well as performing in both the Autumn and Summer Showcases. She has recently been elected President of the Musical Theatre Society for next year. She has also been a part of Theatre Society, Set Designing and building for their main production of Animal Farm in the Star Inn in Guildford town centre, and she has undertaken some prop-making for the new musical Elysium, currently being developed at the University of Surrey.

Others from School of Arts who received nominations include Oliver Bowring, a second-year BMus Music and Sound Recording (Tonmeister) student, for the Student Media Award; and PhD Music student Alex Harden, for Course Rep of the Year, having earlier been awarded PGR Rep of the Year at the Course Rep Awards. Theatre Society was shortlisted for both Most Improved Society and Fundraiser of the Year. Theatre Society’s production of Animal Farm as well as Musical Theatre Society’s production of Pippin received nominations for Student-Run Event of the Year.

Ragtime MarmaladeProviding entertainment during the evening was Ragtime Marmalade, a funky six-piece Trad Jazz band comprising Trombone, Trumpet, Clarinet, Banjo, Bass, and Kit. Its players all met through the music department at the University o f Surrey, collectively studying the full range of Music courses available here. With repertoire ranging from classic jazz standards to modern pop arrangements, they have previously performed at the University Annual Review 2015 launch event, the University’s summer open days, and the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Odeon Guildford. They were delighted to have been chosen to play at the USSU Annual Student Awards.

This fantastic series of awards and nominations for the School of Arts follow multiple successes at last year’s ceremony, on which further information may be found here:

With thanks to Christopher Pidgeon, Eleanor Dickens, and Nick Smith (of Ragtime Marmalade) for their contributions to the above text.

University of Surrey Annual Review 2015 profiles an Exceptional Student and an Inspiring Academic from the School of Arts

School of Arts students and staff are among the 6 Exceptional Students and 3 Inspiring Academics profiled in the University of Surrey’s Annual Review 2015. Read it in full here:

Nick Smith (final-year BMus Music student)Nick Smith (pictured; profiled on p.9 of the Review), a final-year BMus Music student, organised a highly successful tour for the University’s Big Band, which saw the ensemble perform gigs on canal boats along the River Avon for a week in June 2015. Alongside his degree course, Nick is a member of 5 different music ensembles, including 3 bands founded with friends (The Imaginary Hat, Ragtime Marmalade, and Bare Jams), which perform at a range of venues and events in and around Surrey. He has worked as manager of the University Orchestra and as President of Big Band, co-organised the annual Department Ball for the last 2 years, and won the Joyce Dixie Composition Competition last year. He has also performed on Eagle Radio and in the annual Surrey’s Got Talent competition, and carols he has composed have been performed at the University Carol Service for the last 2 years.

Nick says: ‘I have gained an incredible amount of experience in management, team leadership, and organisation from being part of these ensembles on top of my degree as well as with a part-time job. I see University as an incredibly diverse and expansive toolbox full of opportunities and achievements, just waiting for you to get stuck in and try something new.’

Dr Christopher Wiley (profiled on p.11 of the Review), the School’s Director of Learning & Teaching, discusses highlights of the year including the ‘Careers in the Arts’ panel discussion and Opportunities & Networking Event, being nominated for the Students’ Union Academic Staff Member of the Year award, gaining Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, and writing a report on the use of electronic voting systems in arts and humanities teaching, as well as his prolific activity in 2015 as a research-active Musicologist, publishing book chapters, organising an international conference, presenting papers at major UK universities, and giving talks for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Glyndebourne Tour.

Also mentioned in the Annual Review is The Freedom Game, a community opera commissioned by Surrey Arts to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and performed at the Royal Albert Hall in May 2015, upon which four recent graduates worked.


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