Top universities for music lovers – England

Vintage microphone at front of crowd
These universities offer loads of music societies and cities full of sounds.

Which universities in England are great for local music scenes and have masses of societies for students who like to sing, compose, perform, DJ, dance or simply go to gigs and swap tunes?

University of Birmingham

Birmingham’s musical heritage has swerved from classic rock (Judas Priest, half of Led Zeppelin, The Spencer ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ Davis Group) to pop (ELO and Duran Duran). Lately, its local acts have performed a nice line in psychedelia and alternative rock. It is home to large venues such as the Barclaycard Arena, Symphony Hall and O2 Academy. However, plenty of medium-sized and small establishments – Sunflower Lounge, The Institute, The Flapper and Hare of Hounds – host unsigned and up-and-coming talent and the occasional national name. Roadhouse in the Bourneville area is known for tribute acts, open mic nights and local bands.

University societies

Dancing

  • University of Birmingham Argentine Tango Society
  • BALADS: Ballroom And Latin American Dance Society (also includes rock ‘n’ roll)
  • University of Birmingham Bhangra
  • Breaksoc: breakdancing
  • BUDS: Birmingham University Dance Society, offering classes at all levels in ballet, tap, modern, contemporary, Irish dancing, musical theatre dance and hip hop
  • DCL: Dance Club Latino mostly focuses on dance classes in salsa but also runs workshops in kizomba, bachata and merengue
  • UoB Shuffle: a dance based upon rapid movements of the heels and feet.

DJing

  • Brum and Bass: drum and bass society
  • Dubsoc: reggae and dub
  • Mixsoc: for students to practise their mixing skills.

Musical listening and appreciation

  • UoB Hip Hop Society
  • Birmingham Metal Soc: for fans of metal, thrash, death, power, metalcore
  • Rocksoc: rock music society
  • Vinyl Society: with a record collection that includes pop, rock, soul, jazz, electronic and classical.

Musicians/bands

  • Folksoc: playing folk music but also involved in folk dancing and telling folk tales
  • Jabsoc: jazz jamming and improvisation; the group also arranges nights out watching jazz acts
  • LUMsoc: Live & Unsigned Music Society provides gigs for students from the University of Birmingham who are in unsigned rock, pop, indy and dance bands
  • Songsoc: songwriters’ group, which also arranges gigs and open mic sessions and collaborations between artists.

Singing

  • A’Capella: acapella society currently with five groups – two mixed sex/auditioned, one all-female/auditioned, one mixed sex/open to all, and one mixed sex/semi-auditioned. The society is also for students interested in beatbox
  • Gospel Choir.

Student music festival

  • ValeFest is a one-day charity music festival run by UoB students on the Vale Village campus with 6 stages, dance tents, music workshops, comedy, open air cinema and fire breathers.

University of Bristol

Bristol is still very much influenced by the ‘Bristol sound’ of the 1990s, a mix of soul, punk, hip hop, reggae, psychedelia, James Bond soundtracks and RnB as typified by Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead. But these days there are additional carnival sounds, with a lot of gypsy and Latin acts dotted around the city – and jazz, classical and folk too. Bristol is due to get its first arena-sized venue but in the meantime, larger acts play at the O2 or Colston Hall; cool acts play at the Thekla, which is a boat; tribute acts play at the Fleece; and there are more music pubs of all types along the Gloucester Road than you could shake a very large stick at.

University societies

Dancing

  • Bollywood Dance Society
  • Breakdancing Society
  • Bristol University Latin American and Ballroom Dancing Society (BULABDS)
  • University of Bristol Capoeira Society: a society for the Brazilian martial-art-infused dance
  • UoB Dance Society: lessons in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, street dance, Cuban dance, Irish dancing, lyrical dance, zumba, hip hop, limbering and world fusion
  • LeRoc: a blend of jive, rock ‘n’ roll and dirty dancing
  • Rag Morris and Folk Club.

DJing

  • DJ Society: appreciation, gigs plus workshops on mixing and technology
  • Jazz, Funk & Soul: see musicians and bands below.

Musical listening and appreciation

  • BristAlt: for students into left-field music – indie rock, trip hop, experimental art music, post-punk, math rock and more
  • Bristol Hip Hop Soc: appreciating the music and embracing the culture of graffiti and breakdancing
  • LiveSoc: musicians and music lovers go to big-name gigs and explore the Bristol music scene; also helps students form bands, find gigs and run open mic nights
  • Reggae Society
  • Rocksoc: ‘for all those who rock – from punk rockers to metal heads’.

Musicians/bands

  • Big Band Society: an auditioned group and non-auditioned ensemble perform swing, funk, Latin and pop. The society plays locally and tours in the UK and abroad
  • Bristol University Music Society (BUMS): orchestras and auditioned and non-auditioned classical ensembles
  • Jazz, Funk & Soul: regular jam session with cheap drinks and instruments provided in a local pub. Also student DJs and occasional student bands from universities outside Bristol. Also for fans of Afrobeat
  • Symphonia: non-auditioned classical orchestra with an emphasis upon popular music from Beethoven to the Beatles.

Singing

  • Bristol Revelation Rock Gospel Choir: non-auditioned acapella group
  • Bristol University Madrigal Society: singing madrigals, barbershop, folk and jazz
  • University of Bristol A Cappella Society: with three auditioned and two non-auditioned groups
  • University of Bristol Church Choir.

University of Manchester

Manchester is world famous for seminal music bands such as New Order, Oasis and the Smiths but also for the Madchester sound – a scene that merged influences from rave to the Rolling Stones. The city is still producing huge acts such as Elbow and music gigs are buzzing in venues such as Night and Day, Deaf Institute and The Ruby Lounge.

It has a strong tradition of classical music too. Lizst, Chopin and Mendelssohn all played or conducted in the city. It’s the home to the Halle and BBC Philharmonic orchestras and has excellent classical music venues: Bridgewater Hall, Royal Exchange Theatre and Manchester Cathedral.

University societies

Dancing

  • Ballroom and Latin Society
  • Belly Dance Society
  • Bhangra Society – Ruhan Punjab Diyan
  • Dance Society: teaches all styles
  • Folk & Ceilidh Society
  • Indian Dance Society
  • Swing Dance Society.

DJing

  • Audio Academy: weekly workshops in DJing and music production. Beginners welcome. Also provides networking for more experienced DJs and music producers
  • Beats and Bass Society: DJ gigs, club visits and workshops for DJing and production
  • University of Manchester Drum ‘n’ Bass Society (UMDNB): introductory appreciation sessions, tips for DJs/producers and trips to hear legendary DJs on Manchester’s club circuit
  • Hip Hop Society: for DJs, producers who create and stage events, and fans who dance and appreciate the culture through discussion, films and club nights
  • Manchester Reggae Society.

Musical listening and appreciation

  • Manchester University Music Society (MUMS): see musicians/bands below
  • Other Sounds: promotes alternative music through gigs featuring acts from Manchester’s experimental music scene such as Rose and the Diamond Hand (trip hop/ambient) and I Am Your Autopilot (electronica with influences that include Simon and Garfunkel, and band members including Hacienda alumni)
  • Manchester Reggae Society
  • University of Manchester Rock, Metal and Alternative Society: gigs for goths, punks, rockers and metal heads
  • Vinyl Frontier: vinyl fans swap and share from a wide collection of 7-inch and 12-inch discs.

Musicians/bands

  • Manchester University Big Band: jazz ensemble playing 1920s swing to contemporary avant-garde – you need to audition
  • Folk & Ceilidh Society
  • Manchester University Jazz Orchestra (MUJO): plays jazz, funk, swing and soul, and can cover anything from Stevie Wonder’s Superstition to Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man
  • Live Music Society: jams, gigs and visits to open mic nights for student musicians
  • Manchester Medical Orchestra and Choir (MMOC): student doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives play and sing. Repertoire has included excerpts from Disney’s Frozen and popular classics such as Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Manchester University Music Society (MUMS): auditioned and non-auditioned classical ensembles and free/discounted tickets to classical music concerts
  • Manchester Universities String Society (MUSS): ambitious collaboration between the University of Manchester and Royal Northern College of Music – members are students who want to be professional musicians.

Singing

  • A Capella Society: acapella and beatbox versions of the latest pop songs
  • Choir and Orchestra Society (CAOS): non-auditioned collaboration between choristers and musicians
  • Harmony Gospel Choir: open to singers with or without experience – and with faith or with no religious beliefs
  • Manchester Medical Orchestra and Choir (MMOC)
  • Manchester University Barbershop Singers (MUBS).

Student music festival

  • Pangea Festival: a student-run carnival with local and student bands and student DJs playing house, techno, grime, disco, funk, Afrobeat, hip hop, bashment, reggae, dubstep, Latin, jungle, bass, indie, pop and more.

Other options

The universities listed above have been chosen because they are among really healthy local music scenes plus have lots of societies to keep all sorts of music lovers very happy. But there are undoubtedly other university cities in England where music is a passion, especially Brighton, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Sheffield.

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