A day in the life of a graduating conservatoire student: Arefeh Hekmatpanah

11 juni 2024

Exam season has started and the energy at the Royal Conservatoire is electric! We'll be shadowing some of our most talented musicians and dancers. Dive into their daily routines, discover their study hacks, and witness firsthand the passion that fuels their artistic journeys.

Today, we take a closer look at the daily life of Arefeh Hekmatpanah, a Bachelor composition student, as she prepares for her final exams.

The structure of the Composition Exam

Other than in the performing departments the final exam for composers consists of two parts: Arefeh explains: ‘One part of it is the portfolio discussion with the teachers and the jury members of the composition department, and the other part is the graduation concert.’

The portfolio, presented to the jury, includes scores and recordings of her work. During the half-hour discussion, the jury provides comments and feedback, and Arefeh must defend her pieces. The graduation concert, organized by the students, features one of her works performed live.

Selecting pieces for the portfolio

Choosing the pieces for her portfolio was a thoughtful process. Arefeh aimed to showcase her artistic development and versatility. "For me, one important thing is to show the diversity of the mediums that I work with and also the diversity of ensembles that I work with," she shares. Her portfolio includes pieces composed over the past years, demonstrating her range in working with choreographers, dancers, solo musicians, ensembles, and even unconventional setups like using paper as an instrument..

One of the pieces Arefeh wrote during her bachelor was for the Residentie Orkest:

Collaboration as an essential part of growth

Collaboration plays a significant role in Arefeh’s studies. She values working with a diverse range of musicians and artists, seeing it as essential for her growth. "Collaborating with other students will help me to explore and expand my knowledge on different instruments and expand my connections outside school," she notes.

For her graduation concert, Arefeh chose a piece that is part of a series exploring feedback and its interaction with performers. "This one specially that I will present in the graduation concert is for clarinet and feedback. Feedback is a sonic phenomenon that happens between a microphone and a speaker in an acoustic space," Arefeh explains. "It's usually known as an unwanted phenomenon that, in concerts, people don't want and they cut it out, but I decided to use that as my main element and make it an essential part of my composition." Her piece for clarinet and feedback incorporates choreography, demonstrating how the movement of the body can influence sound, and creating an interchangeable loop between sonic events and visual elements for a compelling performance.

A day in the life of a KC-composition student

A typical day for Arefeh during the exam period is packed with rehearsals, lessons, and personal practice. "For example, Wednesdays were the days that we were assigned to work on the new piece I wrote for graduating harp student Alba (you can read more about it in this article). We usually came very early in the morning, so I think at 8 we had the studio reserved, and then we would experiment on sounds and movements and rehearse the parts that I already finished" she recalls.

After rehearsals, her day continues with lessons such as analysis of contemporary music, advanced rhythm and music and multimedia. In the evening she usually stays at Amare because she prefers working at school to maintain focus and she often books a practice room to compose on her new pieces.

Challenges and time management

Balancing exam preparations with other assignments and external projects is a significant challenge. "It's now overlapping graduation and getting all the assignments that I have to finish done," Arefeh admits. Managing time and prioritizing tasks is crucial to navigating this busy period.

‘One thing I still need to do before my exam is make sure that all scores look professional and clear enough to show them to the jury.’

Arefeh takes out a sketchbook:

Composer Sketchbook

"This is a score that I have for the piece that I'm going to present in my graduation concert. It's not a conventional score; it has text in it, it has some choreography information," explains Arefeh. She must transform these handwritten, crossed-out drafts into readable, professional formats for the jury. "We have to build a nice portfolio, which I haven't done yet. But we have to put links to the performances, provide information, and make sure that all the scores and documentation that we provide the jury are up to date."

Don't miss out on the composer’s graduation concert!

Join us for the graduation concert of the composition department to experience Arefeh's captivating piece for clarinet and feedback. On top of that, you can also witness the diverse and innovative compositions presented by all the graduating composers in a single concert. Arefeh is thrilled to share this significant moment with her friends, family, and fellow students.

Mark your calendars: Arefeh’s exam will take place on Thursday, June 13th at 15:30 in the Conservatoriumzaal.

Click here for more information on all the exams