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Chorister scholarships- anyone had experience of them?

(20 Posts)
Downnotout Fri 20-Jan-12 15:54:41

DD has been invited to audition as a chorister after spending the day singing with the cathedral choir. The choristers are given a scholarship to attend a specialist music school to age 13. At which point they have to leave or be assessed in another instrument and be at an acceptable level to continue. I'm sure there are a few of you out there who have been down this route.

DD is already singing in a well respected northern choir and is their junior concert performer of the year. She has piano lessons and recorder but is ready to move on from that. However she is not naturally gifted in these instruments. Singing is her thing.

It has thrown me tbh to get this invitation. I have no problem with her going for the audition, but we really had not thought along these lines educationally. Whilst I can see it may be a fantastic opportunity, I understand it is a huge commitment and the possibility is she may have to board, at least part time, because of that.

Although I realise it's probable that she will not reach the accepted standard to stay on at 13 with another instrument, this doesn't really bother me because its a good age to change school anyway and a specialist music school would be highly pressurised. I just wondered how other families had dealt with chorister life and do you regret it, as opposed to a more mainstream education?

Of course this may be all pie in the sky anyway because they may not take her. But I have to consider it in case they do. Any comments appreciated. Thanks

Colleger Fri 20-Jan-12 16:46:20

If its Chets then I would say no. I would not put academics at risk just to sing in a Cathedral. My son is at a specialist music school and was a chorister so I do understand the problems.

AMumInScotland Fri 20-Jan-12 17:02:02

DS was a chorister - but for us there didn't need to be a compromise about academic qualifications, as the school always had good results for that. If the school you are looking at doesn't manage that, then I'd be very worried, as it can be hard for choristers to get to the required instrumental standard to stay on - the time spent in the choir makes it hard to get to the standard reached by a similarly-gifted non-chorister competing for the same places.

So you are likely to have a 13yo looking for a school place elsewhere, and if their academic standards are not up to it, then finding a good place will be tricky.

I don't want to be negative, as DS got a great education both academically and musically, and we wouldn't have changed it for anything. But unless you're sure she has the talent and dedication to carry on into the later years and then want to go to a conservatoire, then the music itself is not enough.

Downnotout Fri 20-Jan-12 17:24:04

I don't know about the academic standards at the school. Are you saying that because it is a music school the academic side is not as good? Is there no benefit to her going there til 13 even if we planned to move her then anyway?

Downnotout Fri 20-Jan-12 17:29:07

And do you mean that being a chorister is ok as an addition to other instruments but that singing as the main focus is not enough?

As I said its a bolt from the blue so only wondering if it's worth considering.

azazello Fri 20-Jan-12 17:34:41

Both my brothers were choristers at a college choir but at a school which went up to 18. While they were in the choir it took up all their lives. My elder brother did have to board but the younger didn't.

Choir was 5 days per week with practising before and after school and then service at 6-7. When they got home they had to do homework ad practising. It was almost impossible for them to do any sport and we couldn't do much as a family at the weekends as they were always having to be back for choir practice. As it was a college though, it was only 8 week terms but with concerts / tours etc afterwards.

My brothers did well academically and one did very well in music as well and got a scholarship. Neither now do any music at all. Academically though, it very much depends on the school. I don't think either of them regrets it as such but have absolutely refused to consider sending their own children to a choir school.

azazello Fri 20-Jan-12 17:39:44

Sorry, I've just read my post back and it sounds really negative. They did some brilliant tours and concerts and sang for a few films which was really fun so a tricky decision.

teacherwith2kids Fri 20-Jan-12 19:15:58

Know of a family where the choral scholarship is the means by which a child gets the academic education that best fits them (as the linked school is an academic one with small class sizes and have been prepared to accelerate the child by a year). The child may well not carry on to do music, but it is the education that he recieves as a result of being able to afford to attend the linked school that is the driver behind the family's decision for him to take it up.

For me, choral scholarship with high-value scholarship to good academic prep school which would prepare a child for an academic scholarship to a parivate school at 13 would definitely worth considering IF you are in any way unhappy with the educational 'path' your child is currently following.

If the linked school is not good enough academically to provide significant advantage at 13 in terms of the next stage of education, I wouldn't consider it UNLESS your child is clearly going to be a professional musician in which case it is the quality of the music education available that would be the driver.

If you are already happy with your child's education, progress and prospects both musically and academically then I wouldn't do it. The family I know are clear that they are ONLY doing the choral scholarship thing because their child was failing to thrive in their previous school and the scholarship gave them an affordable way of accessing a different school. It is intensely disruptive to family life and is 'unbalanced' as an education UNLESS the attached school is a general one and is strong elsewhere.

TwoPinkShoes Fri 20-Jan-12 20:08:47

My youngest goes to a choir school. She's too young now (is loving the preprep - pastorally the school is excellent). Loads of the 13 years olds get academic scholarships to very good schools, and I have confidence in the academic credentials. It's a good, caring school.

I think the discipline of being in a serious cathedral choir is invaluable. They seem produce mature, sensible, thoughtful children to whom the experience has been useful. I don't think many at all ever go on to serious music or singing careers... If mine wants to, fair enough. But I am not entering her with that thought in mind. In my head, she'll get an amazing experience and then move on to whatever senior school suits her at 13. I expect her to have had an excellent academic schooling up to that point, with small classes, a family atmosphere and good teachers.

Downnotout Fri 20-Jan-12 20:12:56

Dd is current year 5 and would be moving after year 6 anyway. It is becoming increasingly obvious that she is a square peg in a round hole. It's a small independant school and this year we are left with 5 girls in the class and DDs best friend left last year leaving her the odd one out. She has left school crying every day since the Christmas break.

She is popular in her out of school clubs and is well liked by her teachers, she is confident enough to sing solo in concerts and has danced in front of 10,000 people without batting an eyelid, but there is some jealousy from the other girls and there is a bit of bullying going on. I would like her to be somewhere where there are others more like her. Don't get me wrong, she's no oddball, shes just the only musician/ singer in her class and gets a lot of stick for it.

So really it would not be difficult to move her this year and give her a few years to see if music is a route she would like to go down. And as you have said, that would be ok if the academic side is good enough. She is my last child at home so we are not tied for time or have any constraints to where she has to go.

This, of course, is not a reason to send her to a specialist music school, it's just that the question has come up so I am looking into it.

colleger why no to Chets? Is it only for the seriously gifted and therefore does it not do so well on the academic side? Also, and this may seen a little cynical, but were she to be offered this place, even if we decide it's not for us, would it not be a good thing to have in her portfolio for applications to more mainstream senior schools with decent music departments?

Colleger Fri 20-Jan-12 21:27:49

Being a chorister at Chethams is not the same as being a chorister at a choir school. The timetable alone is ridiculous and cuts the academic day in half. The commitment from the parents can also be very great and then there is the giving up of Easter and Christmas day. Chets would be fine if the chorister timetable was more in line with a choir school. The very best choirs in Britain function with a full academic and sporting timetable and Chets is compromised on both for a chorister.

choirmum Sat 21-Jan-12 00:52:11

My DS and DD are both cathedral choristers, though DD is a probationer at the moment, and have to board at the school in the cathedral precincts. Cathedral chapter pay the boarding element of the school fees so we have to fund the rest, although other help can be applied for. It is a prep school so both will have to leave at 13. We're currently going through the entrance exam process to other schools for DS. Neither of them are outstanding musical talents but love their singing and play other instruments. It is possible to play a full part in school life as well as fulfil their chorister timetable. We wouldn't change a thing and for the right child and family, it's a fabulous opportunity but the commitment from us all canot be overstated. Go for the audition - it doesn't commit you to anything - but try to speak to some current chorister parents about the realities of the lifestyle. If your child settles and you're all open to a different type of educational experience and all that brings with it, you won't regret it! It's not always easy and you do need to learn to be a bit 'hands off' when they're 'on duty' but we wouldn't change a thing and neither would our DC. Good luck!

BleatingRose Sat 21-Jan-12 01:02:41

Not sure I agree with colleger- oh yes, the burden is very heavy, but academics were fine (though going back a few years now).

I agree on lack of time for sports- depends how sporty she is though - my DB felt not enough focus on sport... but he went on to be a UK record holder, so I suppose he managed, and obviously super-sporty.

How close do you live? Would she need to board? (we didn't).

Pumble Sun 22-Jan-12 21:19:17

Have you considered Wells Cathedral School?

It is a specialist music school, but within a 'normal' school and so you get the best of both worlds, and the Cathedral choir was judged as the world's greatest choir with children in Jan 2011 by Gramophone magazine. As it isn't just a specialist music school, there is no requirement to leave when you finish being a chorister (as the school continues to 18) if you are not gifted enough musically for a specialist music scholarship. There is plenty of opportunity to do sports and other extra curricular activities whilst being a chorister too.

I realise that this would probably mean that your DD would need to board which may be something you aren't considering but I just thought I'd mention it as you get the music aspects of Chets with so much else thrown in!

toughnut Sat 29-Jun-13 11:33:59

My advice is a warning: don't send your son to a boarding school aged 8 - it's far too young!

Other reasons:

FOOD and DIET. School dinners are OK once a day, but do you really trust schools to feed your child really well 24/7? In my son's first year at school he would get into trouble (actually, he received punishments) for spending too long in the toilet. Basically, his body had to get used to a diet that was severely lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables. He was also expected to get energy from snack foods which he barely recognised as food at first - ie the cheapest varieties of biscuits - on a regular (2-3 times a day) basis. Apart this, he is a slow and fussy eater, so often doesn't eat enough. As a result, he is often cold and for well over a year suffered from a cough which everybody comments on but could do nothing to resolve.

READING. Before my son went to boarding school, he was an avid reader - and he still when I create appropriate conditions at home. However, at boarding school this habit was (not literally) beaten out of him. He is now 'afraid' (!!!) to read - even on bright summer mornings when he wakes up early before 7. They are allocated something like 10 - 15 mins each evening for reading (which, you can imagine why, is always less). If you are caught reading at any other time, you risk having either your book or torch or both confiscated.

YOUR CHILD'S EDUCATION. Extensive research has shown just how important and effective parental involvement is. It is the single most important thing caregivers can do to help children succeed academically (Cummins, 1993; Hannon, 1996; Morrison and Cooney, 2002). Studies have proved how these experiences as a child set them apart academically from their peers by age 15 (Borgonovi, 2011). It is the “genuine interest and active engagement” of the caregiver that is most important, and not their specialist knowledge. Is this clear? If not I'll tell you more...

My son, a boarder, almost never finishes his homework. This is because he is, like many children, a little slow to get started, always has quite a few questions to ask, and takes longer than most children. There is nobody at the boarding who ever notices or bothers to help although it is a well-known problem that he has. The educational results are quite as bad as you would imagine them to be: when my son started life as a chorister, he could have chosen which school/scholarship to take. Now he has no choice - currently, he wouldn't pass the CE for ANY reasonable private school. He is up the river without a paddle - we cannot afford private education without a scholarship. BEWARE! Unless your child is HIGHLY gifted academically and a VERY FAST worker - DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER THIS OPTION. The school may well be academic, but boarding will not do your child any favours whatsoever.

FREE-TIME IS SEVERELY LACKING. My son has little/no free time - to just relax and be a child.

They have a very busy schedule all week - until bed-time. On Saturdays: school, and sport, and rehearsals and service. On Sundays: usually two services and rehearsals. If he has spare time on the Sunday afternoon, he HAS TO go out on an expedition somewhere.

After the Christmas choir-time, he has about 5 free days, and then he has to start revising intensively for school exams in January. The Easter holidays are broken by 10 days of choir-time, as are the summer holidays. The summer half-term is spent revising for the summer school exams. Other holidays have to be arranged so that your child can continue to practise their musical instruments. At school they actually do not get enough time to practise - especially if they have 2 instruments - so it is up to parents to create conditions on their children's holidays to ensure they have time to make some headway.

Remember, if you are not rich and your child is not brilliant academically, a music scholarship with a bursary is the only thing that will save your child from going to the local comprehensive school - and only the local sink school has places available in Year 9.

COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS. Contact with parents is HEAVILY discouraged - even phone calls. You'll be lucky if you can have 5 mins in an evening on the phone - and this is never a conversation that is held in private.

YOUR SANITY. To be a good parent these days, you need also to work. When a child leaves the home at the age of 8 it is like suffering a death in the family. Remember - you will have to endure 5 years of mourning and grieving while you wait for your child to finish their duty. How will your mood effect your ability to function at all, let alone work?

YOUR ATTITUDE TO C of E. The pain of separation from your child will make you start to loathe church music and despise the league of ridiculously-dressed pompous priests that stroll around the cathedral preaching pointlessly the about things like the love of God, while doing their very best to spit (can't think of a better word at the moment) on the love that parents have for their children. In my experience, they do absolutely everything they can to keep you at arms lengths from your child. So, my advice is: DO NOT - for God's sake - LET THEM!

BULLYING. I think I mentioned before that I discovered after one whole year only. Staff did not notice! Even though they are good and very reasonable people. NOBODY can care for your child better than you can. NOBODY knows your child better than you. In parentis loco: it is just not possible if there 50 boys around! Think! Use your common sense!!!! Don't try to suspend your disbelief as I did. Trust your instincts. They are right. Don't be fooled by the prestige or the name of the organisation.

ZZZenagain Sat 29-Jun-13 11:56:57

lwhat are you going to do toughnut?

toughnut Sat 29-Jun-13 23:31:06

He wants to continue the singing so we'll sit it out for now.

I don't have an attractive alternative.

If before choir school he could have gone to any school, now he is damaged goods. What school will take him now that he has started failing so catastrophically academically?

ratherfedup Thu 27-Mar-14 17:34:10

I do sympathise with you toughnut, to send your 8 yr old child to a boarding school is tough. My daughter was a flexi boarder which worked well. She had a fantastic experience as a cathedral chorister. The choir school was nurturing and felt like our extended family. Even though she was only there a few years she got an excellent education, made some fantastic like minded friends and was awarded a very good scholarship to her next school, where she is doing well academically and musically. So well in fact she's just been offered a specialist music place at a music school for 6th form.
A choristership is a great option for the right child. If your child's passion is music and singing it can be great alternative to sending your child to a specialist music school.

givemeaclue Thu 27-Mar-14 17:37:58


BeckAndCall Fri 28-Mar-14 06:57:34

In fact, it's a zombie double! Jan 12 , Jan 13 and now! Was an interesting read though.....

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