BA (Hons) Music

With our open learning approach, the OCA’s BA (Hons) Music degree provides a real alternative to traditional campus based learning. Our inspiring course materials enable you to work at your own pace, in your own time, and whenever you choose to study. We have a thriving community of students all following their passion and achieving at the highest levels, supported by tutors who are experienced teachers and practising artists.

Degree overview

The OCA’s BA (Hons) Music Degree provides a unique opportunity for students to fulfil their creative potential through the study of Composition and Contexts. Centred upon practical work, this Open degree provides students with the skills required for a career in music, including composition, orchestration and arrangement and the practical implementation of historical knowledge. Practical modules are supported by musicological units which encourage a broadening of knowledge through research, and demonstrate the important relationship between theory and practice. All students will gain an overview of the music history, an understanding of harmony, analysis and form, and experience in compositional techniques through the core modules at Level Four. Through a range of electives at Level Five, students can opt to follow one of three major music degree pathways, composition, orchestration or music history, which will manifest in the Level Six major project through a portfolio of practical work based on the student’s chosen specialism. In this way, students will have the opportunity to tailor the content of their programme of study in relation to their personal aims or professional requirements

Throughout this Open Music degree, students are encouraged to explore a range of methods of communication for their practice-based research to specialist and non-specialist audiences, including through academic essays, the creation of multimedia and web-based presentations, programme notes, event organisation, lecture recitals and performance.

Key Stages

Level Four Units: Developing Key Skills and Concepts

Level Four units introduce key concepts and the contextual framework for the study of music. These units combine practical and theoretical exercises and assignments to develop awareness in styles of Western art music throughout its history, in addition to a practical knowledge of notation, harmony, analysis and the building blocks of compositional techniques. The study focuses on equipping students with the strategies, skills and confidence to move on to the increasingly independent work expected at Level Five. Students will learn to study independently, set goals, manage their own workload and meet deadlines. They will learn to present theoretical concepts and practical ideas in appropriate formats, and to identify, describe, research and critically evaluate aspects of music through listening, score reading and their own compositional work. Critical self-reflective skills will be developed through the production of a listening and learning log, placing the student’s work into the context of other practitioners and preparing the student for the discipline required at higher levels.

Level Five Units: Intermediate Stage

At Level Five, students are encouraged to develop as independent practitioners by building on the skills already gained at Level Four in the selection of two integrated specialist areas. Each unit enables students to explore a particular area of music in greater depth, leading towards the development of a specialism at Level Six of the OCA BA (Hons) Music degree programme.

Through working closely with their tutor, students at this level may choose the direction and content of elements of their coursework and develop the research skills necessary for the completion of assignments. They are encouraged to develop working practices which will enable them to evolve an individual style in their creative work, informed by contextual research. They will be expected to develop technical proficiency, with imaginative approaches to creative work.

Level Six Units: Becoming an independent Practitioner

Level Six aims to expand the horizons of the students through embracing the combination of practical, theoretical and conceptual issues which are central to the study of music. They will be encouraged to demonstrate a breadth of inventiveness, ideas generation and techniques in the creation of their practical work, leading to the creation of a major project based on either composition, orchestration or a practical application of historical research through the creation of a scholarly modern performing edition of a manuscript. Students will gain an understanding of the professional skills required for a career in their chosen musical pathway, including an understanding of the vocational context within which the discipline sits and in particular personal initiative, responsibility and decision making in challenging contexts.

A dissertation supports the work undertaken for the major project, creating a body of work on an own choice aspect of music that has significant topical importance for the student. They should, at this level, make appropriate use of primary sources and scholarly reviews, including those at the forefront of debate. Students will be expected to have an awareness of the work of the leading scholars in their chosen field, and must demonstrate an underpinning understanding of the relevant theory and concepts that are inherent within and surrounding their practical work.  The topic of the dissertation should be carefully considered in consultation with the tutor. Through their project, students will be asked to demonstrate their ability to communicate information and justify their work convincingly.

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The two mandatory course units at Level 1 (HE4) are:

In addition to the mandatory course units, students are required to study one of the following units:

Degree aims

  • To widen access to education in music composition and contexts at undergraduate level through Open and Flexible Learning.

  • Ensure students gain the technical skills in composition and related practical areas to form a solid foundation for further development.

  • To provide an intellectually stimulating programme of study based on high quality study material and tutor support.

  • To develop students’ creative capacities and their ability in interpretation and application.

  • To develop students’ critical understanding of the theoretical and conceptual issues central to musical practice and the social, historical and cultural context in which it takes place.

  • To provide an environment in which the student has the possibility of changing their view of the world and their interaction with it both artistically and intellectually.

  • To foster high-level ethical and professional standards and an awareness of the possibilities offered by existing and new developments in music to expand their application areas.

  • To develop autonomous learners capable of applying intellectual and practical skills in music appropriate to employment, further study or life-long learning.

Course content

Full details of the content of the BA (Hons) Music degree, and pathways available can be found through the degree handbook and pathway documents, downloadable below. If you need more information about the content of this Open degree and the course units available through it, please call the office to speak to an advisor.

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The OCA BA (Hons) Music degree handbook

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The OCA BA (Hons) Music degree pathway

Carla Rees

Programme Leader for Music

I studied flute and composition at the Royal College of Music in London, where I recently also completed a PhD, researching the development of repertoire for Kingma System (quartertone) flutes. My career encompasses performing, research, teaching and publishing, as well as arranging and composing.

I have been teaching the flute privately since the late 1980s and have held positions in educational establishments such as Morley College, Wycombe Abbey School, Nottingham University, London College of Music and currently Royal Holloway University of London where I am also an Honorary Research Associate. I have given masterclasses and workshops for flute players and composers at some of the world’s leading institutions, such as the Juilliard School of Music in New York, CalArts and UCLA in Los Angeles and at all of the major London music colleges. My association with the Open College of Arts came initially through being a student on the photography courses, and I have been a tutor on the music courses since February 2007. I am currently Programme Leader for Music.

My main performance work is as Artistic Director of rarescale, an educational charity and professional contemporary music ensemble, which was founded in 2003 to promote the alto flute and its repertoire. My work with this ensemble enables me to work closely with composers to develop new works and I have given several hundred premiere performances to date. With rarescale I also teach on an annual summer school for composers and flute players and run an associated traning ensemble for flute players, rarescale Flute Academy.

I perform regularly both with rarescale, other chamber ensembles and as a soloist throughout the UK, Europe and the USA, with UK concert highlights including recitals at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, ICMC, Bangor New Music Festival, Proms Composer Portraits, Spitalfields Festival, NonClassical and the Handel House in London. International work has included performances at the Spark Festival in Minneapolis, Sonic Circuits Festival in Washington DC, the Tirol Easter Festival (Austria) and appearances at flute festivals in the USA, Canada, Costa Rica, France and Switzerland. I have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, including an interview for the Modern Muses series featuring composer/performer collaborations. I have recorded 13 CDs for rarescale records, EMI, Capstone, Metier, Atopos and Cadenza, as well as incidental music for BBC Radio 4, and for film and TV. I am also the Director of Tetractys Publishing, a small publishing house which specialises in repertoire for low flutes.

As a composer and arranger, my works have been performed throughout the UK and internationally. I was the winner of the RCM Woodwind Composition Prize in 1999 and was subsequently commissioned by the Royal College of Music Wind Ensemble. I have more than 50 published arrangements, which are often included in reading sessions and performances in the UK, Canada and USA.

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OCA BA (Hons) Music Degree course units

The available course units for the BA (Hons) Music degree can be viewed below.

Level 1 (HE4)

Level 2 (HE5)

Level 3 (HE6)

To be confirmed.

Degree Programme Enquiry Form

Please fill in this form to begin the process of enrolling on the OCA BA (Hons) Music degree or one of OCA’s other undergraduate Open degree programmes. You are not committing to anything by filling in this form, and a member of the Head Office team will be in touch shortly to further discuss your application.

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All of our Open degrees are awarded by the University for the Creative Arts – one of the UK’s leading specialist universities.