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choral scholarships at Oxbridge?

(64 Posts)
roisin Wed 07-Jan-15 08:38:07

Have you been down this application route with dc? Successful or not?
ds2 is considering it as a possibility. He's in yr11 now.

TheFirstOfHerName Wed 07-Jan-15 08:48:38

I realise it's not Oxbridge, but I had a choral scholarship at King's College London.

There was a time commitment involved: I had to sing 3-4 times a week, more during Advent etc.

I absolutely loved it; I am still friends with other chapel choristers twenty-something years on.

FishWithABicycle Wed 07-Jan-15 09:12:05

Not with DC but I knew a couple of choral scholars at Oxbridge when were a lad. I was completely in awe of their singing - I had previously thought I was pretty good till I understood quite how much better it was possible to be. How good is DS2? How much experience does he have and what has he achieved in terms of prizes, medals etc?

gonegrey56 Wed 07-Jan-15 09:38:56

My DD is a choral scholar at a non Oxbridge Uni. She went to the choral open days at both Oxford and Cambridge . She was so taken by the Director of Music at Cambridge that she decided to apply there. Well worth doing these two visits when your son could get a feel for what is involved etc . Hugely enjoys the camaraderie of being in a great Uni choir . She was in NYC and grade 8 singing , (not boasting just indicating average standard ). But the key is apparently "choral potential " with quite good sight reading . The open days will really bra good guide .

gonegrey56 Wed 07-Jan-15 09:51:24

Be a good guide ! Typo .....
Oxford offer scholarships before academic offers, Cambridge is the reverse ( ie you have to have an academic offer before you apply for a choral scholarship). These days your choral ability does not form part of the admissions directors' considerations . DD was told informally that she had a very good chance of a scholarship but then did not get the place . Hope this helps

roisin Wed 07-Jan-15 18:02:16


He doesn't currently have singing lessons, because we've not found a suitable teacher since we moved. He's sung loads since he was about 11 (treble, alto, tenor and just moved to first bass), including in auditioned choirs. He currently sings in a large, high quality church choir that cover challenging material and chamber choir at school. He's also done residential singing course in the summer for the past 5 years. He's never done any singing exams, but was singing grade 6 pieces 3 years ago and his sight reading is very good. But he's a choral singer rather than a soloist.

He also plays the organ and is currently wondering about an organ scholarship, but I don't think that's realistic both in terms of the standard required and the time commitment. (He will read Maths, Computing or Natural Sciences.) I just wondered if anyone had been through the process and wanted to share.

GentlyBenevolent Wed 07-Jan-15 18:13:01

DD1 is also considering a choral scholarship as a possibility, she's in Y12. She has Grade 8, sings in school and church choirs (and frequently sings the psalm at mass) but has never done NYC because she plays in another national ensemble and there's a limit, basically...The only residential singing course she has done was jazz, she can't do that this year because of a date clash so is considering a classical voice course instead. She is considering going a singing diploma before Xmas (but realistically she may not have time). But she's a catholic, so she hasn't done any of that high church anglican choral singing that is so beloved of oxbridge colleges (I was a member of a college chapel choir when I was at Oxbridge, it was auditioned, I got in, so I must have been alright, but it felt rather alien to me).

Theas18 Wed 07-Jan-15 18:18:39

Yep. Eldest fell into the usual Oxford pit of got the choral scholarship but not the academic offer....

She, and DS now hold choral scholarships in nottingham and they would recommend it hugely - both the concept of choral scholarships and nottingham uni!

Look on the RSCM website for other university towns that offer choral scholarships - it's something that singers don't realise - there are many more " town" choral and organ scholarships than just those attached to collegiate universities. DS partly tailored his uni choices in line with these.

Especially for boys and Oxbridge choral stuff you need to tailor your choices to singing standard - a lot of the colleges aren't actually all that amazing when you hear them in a mid week evensong ( if you really know what you are hearing). Don't just go to a flagship service/ concert.

Most important skills are excellent sight reading and decent sense of pitch. they do huge amounts of repertoire on very little practice. Both mine were choristers and this was easy for them.

Pm me if I can be of further help - the kids have just returned from a new year choir tour to Germany !

MillyMollyMama Wed 07-Jan-15 18:19:20

I have. DD got a Choral Scholarship at Oxford. These are more competitive at the most well known colleges, so choose a less competitive one. There is a list of colleges who offer choral scholarships.

He urgently need singing lessons or you will be on the back foot because others will have prepared intensively for the audition. Grade 8 and at least Grade 5 Theory are the standards. My DD did musical theatre too. There are plenty who will have a go from the music schools and the best thing to do is go to the Eton Choral Summer School. My DD did a lot of choral singing at school and also helped in the Music Department. Choral Scholars are admin helpers too. In the audition my DD was asked to sing her prepared piece in a different way. Not the way the singing teacher had taught it. She had to sight read and talk about what choral singing she had done.

You still have to get a place academically though!

Theas18 Wed 07-Jan-15 18:20:51

Gentlybenevolent there are Catholic cathedrals/ big churches that offer choral scholarships too - the one in Nottingham does for instance.

LLJ4 Wed 07-Jan-15 19:13:54

I had one at Cambridge. At my college you applied for it after matriculation and they were awarded annually (I got mine every year but a friend didn't enter for her Finals year).

My commitment was around 4h/w IIRC plus the odd concert and trip. That's the lowest you can expect, really, and that's at a not-famous college. In return I had a small stipend, at least one meal a week, and the kudos.

LLJ4 Wed 07-Jan-15 19:16:52

yy to shit-hot sightreading, yes.

LLJ4 Wed 07-Jan-15 19:23:50

Sorry, triple-posting.

Had a friend who was a choral scholar at King's, ie the opposite end of the spectrum. He had time for his degree and the choir and nothing else - all his socialising was with the choir at dinner or on blooming coaches/trains to things. He wasn't reading anything as time-heavy as NatSci, either.

If your child wants to do something other than sing (eg a sport, or a sneaky paid job) then they could end up very short of time. That's why the less prestigious scholarships can offer a better experience, depending on the student.

AnnaBegins Wed 07-Jan-15 19:39:50

I was in my college choir though not a scholar. Being more of a choral singer than a soloist is actually a really good thing as the director of music will want a cohesive choir not a load of soloists.

He will need the academic ability too though.

Think about how much commitment he wants and time he's happy to spend in rehearsals. My college was a good compromise in that the standard was fairly high but only 3-4 rehearsals and 2-3 services per week. It's not all about the prestige of the college. Also some colleges eg Clare work their scholars really hard.

At my college all choir members got the 2 free dinners a week and subsidised overseas tours, but scholars got a stipend as well.

Also think about which college he'd want for his subject also.

MillyMollyMama Wed 07-Jan-15 19:53:47

Choral Scholars are not necessarily soloists. My DD was not but was a strong choral singer and team player. They are looking for these attributes not prima donnas.

roisin Wed 07-Jan-15 20:32:34

Thanks: all helpful. Academically he's very able, but obviously there are no guarantees at Oxbridge interviews.

He absolutely loves to sing and has a fairly heavy weekly time commitment already with services and rehearsals; I'm sure wherever he ends up he will be singing in some form or another. But it's just a question of what and where!

MillyMollyMama - I was thinking about looking for a teacher again in summer after GCSEs: that would still give him 15-18 months lessons before an audition. Do you really think the choral courses are essential? (Men tend to be in higher demand than women in all choirs I think.) Also exams. He did gr5 theory 3 yrs ago with almost full marks, so no prob there. But I'm not convinced singing exams are terribly highly regarded?

Theas18 Thu 08-Jan-15 08:00:23

OP my 2 haven't done any of the Eton choral courses and they were singing at grade 8+ but had not done any exams.

Time commitment wise they didn't drop any extracurricular stuff before A levels so were what MN would call " committed children" for all of their school career- it was no challenge for them to see how the singing could fit into a week, even when being aware that academic studies were the priority. Sounds like your DS is the same.

I'm sure a year or so of good lessons will be fine.

RandomFriend Thu 08-Jan-15 11:36:22

DD applied and was a candidate for a choral award, but hasn't got the academic offer.

The timetable is as follows:

April 2015: Open day
September 2015: Choral Scholars auditions
15th October 2015: Deadline for Oxbridge applicants

Several of the people she met on the choral open day, which takes place in April for Oxford, were planning to do this course.

I have the impression that there are lots of girls applying, but that there is a shortage of boys voices. Good luck to your DS!

TeaandHobnobs Thu 08-Jan-15 12:07:15

I was a Choral Scholar at Cambridge. I can't speak for all choirs, but I don't think being a "choral singer" rather than a "soloist" should necessarily be a hindrance - I'd expect the choral directors to be looking for voices that will blend (IME those with very "soloist" voices annoyed the crap out of me, always sticking out like a sore thumb - not appropriate for a lot of repertoire IMVHO).

However his audition would require him to sing one solo piece, and do sight reading and aural tests, so I think singing lessons would be beneficial to prepare in that respect.

Choral courses are not necessary - I never did Eton, I did join NYC (briefly) but I think that was after I'd been selected for a Choral Award (and only did one resi course, as my chapel choir commitments meant I couldn't attend any after that). I hadn't even sung in an anglican church choir before my audition (my take on how to sing an anglican chant psalm was met with rather a lot of amusement by the Director of Music auditioning me grin), so your DS is already ahead in that respect. A lot of boys auditioning will have been choristers at cathedrals and schools, but not all - I suppose that was less the case amongst the girls when I was there, because those opportunities didn't exist so much.

And choose the choirs carefully - with a degree like Maths/NatSci (and CompSci too I suppose, but I didn't know any personally so I'm not sure what their workload is like) he really wouldn't be wise to join a heavy-committment choir. I read Engineering and was in a choir which did 3 services plus an additional practice per week, and it was bloody tough. I don't regret doing it for a minute, but I certainly put myself through a hell of a lot of pain doing so (and my academic results suffered).

There is a Choral Award open day at Cambridge on 25th April - I really recommend going along.

Best of luck to him! thanks

TheFirstOfHerName Thu 08-Jan-15 14:38:57

my take on how to sing an anglican chant psalm was met with rather a lot of amusement by the Director of Music auditioning me

Yes, singing from psalm notation is definitely a niche skill but a skill nonetheless. smile Luckily I had been singing at monthly evensong since the age of 8.

roisin Thu 08-Jan-15 22:20:30

Thank you.
I had assumed that the choral open day was for yr12s? He's predicted shedloads of A*s for GCSE, but until he actually has the results in summer it's all rather hypothetical really. His former singing teacher (before we moved) has a pupil reading NatSci as a choral scholar at Clare, which I guess is pretty full-on!

summerends Fri 09-Jan-15 05:10:13

roisin if he is likely to want to join the chapel choir anyway for his pleasure and major socialising (and he sounds the sort of person at the moment who might) then I don't see why he should n't apply as a choral scholar. That is as long as he is not attracted to King's or one of the other major choral colleges in Cambridge or Oxford for academic / other reasons.
If he is still keen in year 12, then the quality of a chapel choir for his choice of college can be assessed by whether they do any recordings and what these sound like. The good choirs often do a tour during the holidays as well.

skylark2 Fri 09-Jan-15 20:30:33

I was never anywhere near a choral scholarship (I don't think girls could even apply at the time) but auditioned for and got into my college chapel choir. Goodness knows how as I had never even seen psalm notation before, and completely lost the plot when the very deep spoken voiced organ scholar who was auditioning me turned out to be a male alto and came in at pitch in the duet he'd asked me to sight-sing with him.

Anyway, that got me free tea on Sundays at the cost of two rehearsals and one service a week, which was very manageable without taking over my life.

PiratePanda Sat 10-Jan-15 12:35:11

These days you will not get favourable admission to Oxbridge just because you get a choral or organ scholarship; plenty of admitted scholars get turned down for course places.

There are other good reasons to have them, but they won't get you in.

A better strategy if your child is musical enough to get an organ scholarship is for them to apply to read music.

roisin Sat 10-Jan-15 15:48:01

He has Absolutely no desire to read music; he will continue to do extra curric music activities to a high level in sixth form, both in and out of school, but he won't be studying music even to AS level: his academic passion is STEM subjects. He is very high attaining and ds1 has just been through the Oxbridge application process (successfully), so we are well aware how challenging, unpredictable and demanding that is.

ds2 is not considering a choral application because of expectations of favourable admission (we know that doesn't happen at all these days) or any perks or financial benefits (which are very limited nowadays also).

He's considering it because he absolutely loves to sing, especially Anglican choral music: it's his passion and his joy, and curently the focus of his social life too and many, many hours of his free time. He comes home 'buzzing' after rehearsals, services and performances.

I created this thread to get personal anecdotes, advice, tips and suggestions from people who'd been through the process. Thank you to those who have contributed along those lines. Much appreciated.

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