Dr. Jennie Joy Porton
The UK conservatoire experience through the lens of alumni: Identity and Power

Our first guest this semester is Dr. Jennie Joy Porton, Lecturer, Researcher and Saxophone Tutor at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She will give her lecture "The UK conservatoire experience through the lens of alumni: Identity and Power". This lecture provides a snapshot insight into research focused on contemporary British music conservatoires and their practices, as experienced from the perspectives of alumni. Using the key themes of notions of ‘talent’, curriculum, and health and wellbeing, this lecture will discuss how the conservatoire experience, specifically dynamics of power in institutional practices, shaped the identity of the alumni during their studies and (crucially) how this experience continues to impact their self- and musical- identity beyond their time at the institution, as they navigate the profession thereafter. An additional key theme central to this study is that of social background, i.e. social status and class. Specifically, this lecture will reflect on how alumni’s social background (class) is intrinsically interwoven with their notions of self- and musical-identity and how power dynamics operating within the British conservatoire system serve to support hierarchies which perpetuate class distinctions and divides .

Dr. Jennie Joy Porter

Hailing from inner-city Cardiff, capital of Wales, Dr Jennie Joy Porton attended the Royal College of Music in London a ‘year early’ aged 17, on the rarely awarded Joint Principal Study pathway, on clarinet and saxophone. She also took a semester of study on clarinet at the Universitat Mozarteum, Salzburg, and received intensive saxophone training in New York from Dr Paul Cohen (of Manhattan School of Music). With support from numerous scholarship bodies, Jennie completed a MMus at RWCMD, also on Joint Principal Study clarinet and saxophone pathway (the first dual-instrument Masters graduate in the UK), earning the award for the highest postgraduate recital mark.
Jennie has a PhD from Royal Holloway University, also undertaken with scholarship. A published researcher, ongoing research interests centre around identity, equality, diversity, inclusion and representation as well as access to the arts. In 2021-22, Jennie was employed as Research Consultant for CUK (Conservatoires UK) for a study centered on widening access and participation at the junior level. To support her teaching work at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, she also holds a Diploma in Counselling, in recognition of the increasing importance of preventative health and wellbeing measures in the conservatoire space.
As a busy freelance performer, Jennie enjoys a varied career, specialising primarily in orchestral clarinet/saxophone doubling. Recent highlights include highly acclaimed Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company world premiere production of Romeo + Juliet, with a residency in Sadler’s Wells London, live performance screening in cinemas across the UK and UK tour (2019 and 2023). Jennie was also 1st Clarinet (job share) for their production of Nutcracker! in London. She has a longstanding freelance relationship with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Welsh National Opera, frequently working with them for BBC television soundtrack recordings, concerts, televised productions, UK and worldwide tours, performing on clarinet and saxophones. In musical theatre, Jennie was chair holder on Miss Saigon (Cameron Mackintosh Productions, UK & Ireland tour) and The Show Must Go On (Dominion Theatre, London) and has deputized on a host of shows in London's West End and across the UK including Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Cats, Half a Sixpence, Billy Elliot. Jennie also performed on the UK leg of Idina Menzel’s world tour at venues including Wembley Arena. Other highlights include commercial performances with the Bourne Orchestra (in London and Europe) and NYC disco group Escort (on European tour legs).