Top universities for music lovers – Scotland and Wales

Close up of four violinists
Come on tour with us to two main musical hot spots in Wales and Scotland.

Learning the soft shoe shuffle or being signed up to a university record label – just two of the possibilities if you join one of the societies below. And you’re in the thick of things too, with plenty of musical culture to enjoy in these cities.

University of Cardiff

Research by the Performing Rights Society once showed Cardiff to be the second most musical city in the UK, according to the number of bands with origins in the city. It’s certainly produced some indie-rock biggies, including Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Super Furry Animals . And it has Spillers Records – billed as the oldest record shop in the world. At the moment, Cardiff’s scene takes in metal, electronic, psychedelia, rap and 1960s Americana with interesting acts such as Asteroid Boys, Until the Ribbon Breaks and Climbing Trees.

Being a capital city, Cardiff has some very large rock and pop stadiums in the form of Motorpoint Arena and Millennium Stadium. But there are excellent smaller venues such as The Globe, Full Moon and Gwdihw. The Student Union pulls in good, known acts. At the time of writing, Alien Ant Farm, The Alarm and Maccabees have played there.

For classical music, head to the Wales Millennium Centre.

University societies

Dancing

  • Breakdance Society
  • Bollywood Dance Society
  • Broadway Dance Society: classes in jazz, tap, Irish, hard shoe and soft shoe shuffle
  • Capoeira: a Brazilian dance that’s also a martial art
  • Cardiff Snakecharmers: cheerleaders who dance for Cardiff Cobras, the university’s American football society
  • Dancesports Club: ballroom, Latin American and salsa
  • Expression: contemporary dance classes and trips to Glam nightclub
  • FAD: this is the society for you if you want to dance like Beyoncé, Britney and Little Mix
  • Slash Hip Hop Dance: Forget Flash Dance and welcome to Slash Dance, the society’s very own creation – a blend of hip hop, locking (where you ‘lock’ the body into a shape), waacking (fancy arm movements inspired by 1970s LGTB disco) and other cool urban moves. Slash Hip Hop Dance has won awards for being the university’s best small society.

DJing

  • Traffic: describes itself as a DJ school running tips and practise on everything from mixing to promoting events and creating décor for clubs. Also has discounted admission to top Cardiff club nights.

Musical listening and appreciation

  • Altsoc: discounted nights out at alternative music venues, dancing and watching non-mainstream acts
  • GRIMsoc: for all genres of raucous guitar music. Gigs, clubs and Zombie Choir (singing carols in a twisted death-metal style at your local shopping centre)
  • Live Music Society: going to gigs by good, local unsigned bands.

Musicians/bands

  • Bellringing Society
  • Brass Band Society: with a pedigree in the National University Brass Band Championships of Great Britain (Unibrass)
  • Healthcare Music Society: a mixed bag of student healthcare professionals in two orchestral ensembles. They mostly play popular classical music and film themes
  • Jazz Society: has four large and several smaller ensembles under its belt from 18-piece big band to a niche saxophone group. Also includes a jazz choir
  • MuSoc: ‘supports musicians from across the university by providing them with regular performance opportunities and social events’
  • Windband: centres around The City of Cardiff Concert Band, a symphonic ensemble for brass, percussion and woodwind that has an annual tour of a European country.

Singing

  • Blank Verse: non-auditioned, all-female choir performing everything from folk to jazz
  • Operatic Society
  • TCUPS (The Cardiff University Purcell Singers): singing pop tunes and classical favourites in a non-auditioned, mixed choir.

University of Glasgow

A huge amount of music has come out of Scotland’s largest city. In their times, Aztec Camera, The Fratellis, Glasvegas, Simple Minds and Primal Scream have been feted by Glaswegian audiences and throughout the UK. The city has a reputation for ‘fey but thoughtful’ acts typified by Belle and Sebastian. But go out most nights in the city and you can find most musical genres represented.

There are rival claims between Glasgow and Edinburgh as to who has the best music scenes. The truth is they’re both really good. But Glasgow has some great venues including King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, allegedly where Oasis was signed. Then there is the Barrowland: Public Image Ltd sings its praises, Scissor Sisters offered to buy it, Bob Dylan made a special visit there, and David Bowie stole a bit of its ceiling.

For classical, world music and concert-level jazz, there are Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, City Halls and Old Fruitmarket.

Like Cardiff’s above, Glasgow’s student union has a strong bill of musical events.

University societies

Dancing

  • Bellydance Society
  • Dancemania: classes in ballet, dancehall, hip hop, tap and more
  • Flamenco Society
  • Freeda: freestyle dance association – big hair, fast moves, fabulous outfits and all the sass and razzmatazz you could wish for
  • Scottish Country Dance Club
  • Student Dance Company: takes part in shows, competitions, flash mobs, videos and T in the Park. Styles include Bollywood, contemporary, hip hop, jazz, modern and tap.

DJing

  • Philanthrobeats: see musicians and band, below.

Musical listening and appreciation

  • Eurovision Society. Says it’s for students who give the ‘the greatest show in Europe’ douze points – or even for those who award the competition ‘nul’ and for whom it is a guilty pleasure
  • Glasgow University Vinyl Club: lending, borrowing, swapping and listening to music recorded on vinyl
  • MORGUL: The Glasgow University Rock and Metal Society. Puts on events and compiles recordings, especially of bands with rune-like logos and metal-wizard-warrior-sounding names – Bolzer, Circle of Fire, Ninkharsag, Scordatura, Wodensthrone…
  • Tech House Society: for techno fans. It runs its own events and promotes the events of others.

Musicians/bands

  • Glasgow University Big Band: jazz, funk, Latin, blues and soul
  • Composing and Songwriting Society: beginners welcome – events for complete new works and improvisations starting from scratch or based around pre-selected chords
  • Contemporary Musicians United: facilitates collaboration between musicians with a wide range of styles and backgrounds – metal, chamber music, Buddhist chants and indie-funk to name a few
  • Glasgow University Music Club: generically named society that includes nine non-auditioned ensembles for brass, choir, chamber choir (classical and Renaissance), flute, folk, saxophone, percussion, wind and jazz
  • The Kelvin Ensemble: a student orchestra working to professional standards and performing popular symphonic music such as Bernstein’s West Side Story, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, Sibelius’ Finlandia and Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
  • Philanthrobeats: a student-led, Glasgow-based charity and social enterprise, organising club nights, collaborating with communities and providing ‘an open platform for free expression and activism’. Has a SoundCloud channel featuring its own compositions of an ambient techno flavour
  • UoG Records: student record label and PR company.

Singing

  • RAP Society: organises hip hop parties.

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