Leeds: the music capital of the North

Leeds has one of the best and most varied music scenes in the UK. It is a vibrant city with an active student life and lots of opportunities for young musicians - a world-class place to study music.

It's a Saturday in Leeds, and a hush falls over a packed crowd at indie hot-spot Nation of Shopkeepers, as singer-songwriter Georgia Thursting comes to the stage.

A London soul sensation coming through the ranks of Leeds College of Music, she's going down a storm - playing one of the opening slots for this year's Live at Leeds, the city's Spring metropolitan music festival.

A celebration of the best in upcoming local bands alongside more established national acts, Live at Leeds is one of many weekly, monthly and annual events helping feed the city's voracious appetite for live music.

And Georgia is only one of a growing number of artists on the Leeds music scene that are making an imprint not only on the local, but the national scene.

Popular/Indie

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“Go well beyond the label of ‘indie'”

It turns out that there's a lot more on the cards for Leeds' growing musical creations than The Music and Kaiser Chiefs. It is a city whose alternative scene is spinning a web of genre definitions that go well beyond the label of 'indie'.

With Leeds College of Music spawning names such Everything Everything drummer Michael Spearman; the up-and-coming Dan McDougall of Tom O'Dell's band; and exceptional singer-songwriter John Newman, the city's thriving popular music scene also claims Mercury prize winners Alt-J, Hadouken!, Soft Cell and dramatic nu-folk crooners Wild Beasts amongst many others.

Dance/Electronica

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“A solid base for experimental dance”

A growing dance and electronica scene has seen underground nights like The Warehouse Project and more commercial ventures like Speed Queen grow in number and size, as well as specialist independent music stores like Tribe Records cropping up. 

With Leeds College of Music nurturing Music Production alumni that range from international touring DJs like Benji Boko and Jack Wickham, to artist-producers such as Aamir Yaqub and Cynikal – a solid base for experimental dance and hip-hop music has taken root. 

And while Georgia takes her bow and The Walkmen, Everything Everything, and Leeds veterans Sky Larkin close Live at Leeds to sold-out audiences, the same Saturday night across the river ends with the sweet sound of the Leeds jazz scene.

Jazz

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“A jazz scene defying convention”

With St Chad's Jazz Concert featuring Art Themen and Friends blasting out in Headingly; quartet Sonando Libre bringing together some of the hottest Latin players in the North playing at Seven Jazz in Chapel Allerton; and Heart radio hosting their Leeds College of Music Student Showcase – on any given night the jazz scene in Leeds is alive and bursting with talent today as it ever has been.

Innovative jazz duos are in high demand in the city and abroad. Quei Due, formed by Leeds College of Music students Adam Taylor and Caterina Comeglio, might play an acoustic set at any one of Leeds' packed-out live music venues one night, and a European festival the next - as they did with the Bucharest International Jazz Competition in May.

Take one look at Mercury Prize nominees Roller Trio and you'll see why this is a jazz scene defying convention, but holding on the traditional discipline and purity that makes the genre what it is. 

Classical

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“Some of the biggest names in the classical world”

Classical music is housed across the city integrated and isolated for pure listening and watching pleasure.

Access for music lovers of all ages at Opera North, Northern Ballet, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and the West Yorkshire Playhouse give year round bases for some of the best traditional and contemporary classical performances across the country. 

In addition, the Leeds College of Music concert season, Leeds International Piano Competition, and the Leeds International Concert Season gives seasonal bursts of classical music that grounds the city in a prestige of some of the biggest names in the classical world including Wolfgang Manz, Charlie Siem and Emmanuel Vass, as well as giving young classical musicians a chance to showcase their performing talent. 

So, it seems like no matter what kind of music you are interested in, there's something for everyone in this city of growing musical passion.

As Rachael Sutcliffe (The Heathen Kings) sums up: 

“One of the best things about Leeds' music scene is that it's neither insular, nor inaccessible to anyone who wants to get involved.

“Folk, world, popular, classical, jazz, dance, electronica – all of these genres and more have a strong foothold here that gives them roots to grow outwards and upwards across the country and the world"

Heather Iqbal, Media and Content Officer, Leeds College of Music (UK)

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