Matthew Hopkins, in his 3rd year of studying Physics at St John's, tells us about the musical activities that he enjoys alongside studying for his degree.

Matthew HopkinsMany studies have shown that playing and listening to music can be good for both your physical and mental health, reducing cortisol levels and improving blood flow in the brain. Additionally, playing music in a band or orchestra teaches you valuable transferable skills such as teamwork and commitment.

That’s not why I do it though.

I play the trombone, and I do it because it’s really fun.

From playing a mashup of “Will Grigg’s On Fire/Seven Nation Army/Darude - Sandstorm” with Rough Edge Brass Band to the cheering crowd at Pembroke College Ball, to pranking my housemates by locking myself in the kitchen at 6 am with a co-conspirator to re-enact this video, playing the trombone has enriched my university experience in an uncountable number of ways.

Matthew HopkinsIn addition to playing with Rough Edge, I also play with the slightly more serious Donut Kings, Oxford’s sweetest big band. With both bands I perform at public concerts throughout the year, JazzSoc nights at The Mad Hatter, and Oxford’s renowned balls. Watch out for me at St John’s 2020 Commemoration Ball next year!

In addition to these two, there are many other ensembles to join for every genre or instrument. Any musician can join the Oxford University Music Society, whose members make up the university wind orchestra, jazz orchestra, brass band and philharmonic and symphonic orchestras. Additionally there are a wide range of non-affiliated groups, from St John’s own Oxford Alternative Orchestra to the pop/funk band Green Bean Machine, regularly seen at garden parties and balls.

The highlight of my musical experience in Oxford so far was the Donut Kings’ European tour this summer, where we participated in the Jazz à Vienne festival in Lyon and performed at the world renowned jazz venue Kafe Antzokia. This was made possible by both the college, which helped fund my travel with its Special Grant, and the St John’s JCR, which gave the band £200 for the tour out of its Financial Motions Budget. These are just two examples of the generous financial help available at St John’s: The JCR’s Financial Motions Budget is a specific budget for funding causes of the students’ choice, and the college provides many bursaries, grants and scholarships, including four music bursaries and a scholarship to help finance music lessons.

What I perhaps should have said at the beginning of this article is that I am not a music student, I am actually studying Physics. Hopefully this shows that irrespective of your chosen degree there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with music, and at St John’s there is plenty of support too.

Photo credits: Simon Devenport (right) and Iker Garcia Millán Photography (left).