Music

Musical life at Cambridge is lively, varied and buzzing with students from the Music Faculty and beyond. For performance, we offer superb chapels and concert halls. For study, our library collections of recordings, scores and books cover anything a musician might need. And whatever your musical interests, you’ll find someone who shares them.

Quartet in the Chapel at Christ's College, Cambridge

 

Why study Music at Christ's?

Music has always been the heart of Christ's College – from the glorious choral music of our Chapel choir to our many orchestral, vocal and chamber performances, with plenty of light-hearted musical fun in between. We’re small enough for our musicians to all know each other, and large enough to present exciting opportunities for musical collaboration at any scale.

Music and non-Music students alike are active members of Christ's College Music Society, which runs regular events including an annual dinner and informal 'squash o'clock' concerts in the Chapel. Christ's Choir is an outstanding mixed choir which sings thrice-weekly in College, regularly records CDs, and tours around the world, with regular concerts in London.

Some Christ’s graduates have gone into the music profession as performers, including Rosie Bowker (flautist), Hugh Williams (organist), James McKeon (director) and Jonny Sells (baritone) or become teachers or arts administrators. Others have used this degree as a springboard into quite different careers such as law, accountancy and management.

Course content

The Music course is a three-year degree designed to let you specialise as you go along, according to your strengths and interests. As well as providing an excellent grounding in a broad range of music-specific skills, the course hones your talents for critical evaluation and analysis, communication and teamworking.

Please visit the University website for full details of the Music course content and structure.
 

Teaching

Your lectures and exams are organised by the University’s Faculty of Music. Here at College, we teach in ‘supervisions’ (tutorial sessions 1-to-1 or in pairs) to give you individually tailored tuition and support – a major advantage of a Cambridge education. We also help you develop your essay writing and research skills, and train you to use subject-specific e-resources.

Christ’s Director of Music and Director of Studies in Music is musicologist and cultural historian Dr David Trippett. Our Director of Music is Professor David Rowland, a performer, conductor and writer.

Christ’s library has a wide range of course texts and readings in music history, while the Old Library holds first editions of major texts in the history of music theory, including Glaurean's Dodecachordon (1547).

All music students can use the College’s practice facilities and we have two performance spaces: the Yusuf Hamied Theatre and the Chapel. We also run a yearly performance competition where students compete for the Charles Blackham Memorial Prize. The College pays instrumental lesson fees for undergraduate Music students and travel to those lessons if needed.
 

What do our students think?

Simon, Claire and Emily studied Music here at Christ's College, Cambridge. They have written about their experiences in their student profiles:

If you would like to read more accounts from Christ's students, please see the student profiles page.

 

Approaches

The Music course is so varied that we don’t recommend any particular activities, books or listening strategies. We find that Music students arrive for interview with a very wide range of skills and interests.

If you see yourself as a performer, you need to learn more about the works you play. That way, you can appreciate them in their historical context and analyse them and their performance history to better understand their structure, content or horizons for interpretation.

If your musical interest is mainly academic, you should gain some basic composition skills in traditional areas. Good starting points would be the harmonisation of Bach chorales, the completion of two-part modal counterpoint exercises or keyboard variation sets.

Whatever your particular skills, you’ll get the most out of the Music course at Cambridge if you enjoy studying independently and are keen to pursue your own interests.

 

How to apply

Visit How to Apply for full details and a timeline of the application process. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and school types, all over the world. If you're applying from outside the UK, please read our international students section.

Subjects: what do you need?

We expect you to take Music as one of your post-16 subjects at A-level, IB Higher Level or equivalent. If you haven’t, you can apply with ABRSM Grade 8 in Theory with Merit (or above) instead.

It’s also helpful to take an essay-based subject such as English Literature or History.

We encourage competency across a broad range of skills, so you’re not necessarily at a disadvantage if you’re a beginner pianist. However, we do advise you to work hard on your keyboard skills so you can support harmony and counterpoint training.

Written work

After we receive your application, we ask you to send us two pieces of work you feel accurately reflect your abilities and interests:

  • A harmony exercise
  • An essay, preferably (but not necessarily) on music

This should be your own original work, prepared during the normal course of your studies and already marked by a teacher. We recommend you keep copies for your own reference as we may discuss it at interview.

We publish full guidelines on written work in the Current Applicants section on 20 September each year.

Interviews

If we invite you for interview, you usually have two interviews in Cambridge on the same day in early December. These usually involve:

  • A brief aural test
  • A harmonisation exercise
  • An analytical discussion of a short piece of music
  • A critical discussion of a piece of text relating to music
  • Discussion of some general themes in the study of music

You’re also welcome to bring your instrument, if you’d like to perform a piece during one of the interviews.

Read the information and watch the short films on Cambridge admissions interviews for an idea of what to expect when you come.

For Music, we ask international applicants to apply for interview in Cambridge, UK rather than an overseas interview (please check the eligibility criteria for any overseas interview location you are considering).

Offers

We decide the terms of each offer individually, but our typical conditional offer is:

  • A*AA at A-level including Music
  • 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects including Music
  • H1/H1/H1/H2/H2/H2 for Higher Level subjects in Irish Leaving Certificate including Music
  • AAA in Scottish Advanced Highers including Music

If you’re taking another qualification, we expect you to be working at or close to the top of the mark range i.e.

  • Option Internationale du Baccalauréat: at least 17/20, with 17 or 18 in relevant subjects including Music
  • European Baccalaureate: at least 85% overall, with 9/10 in relevant subjects including Music

Read about offer levels in other exam systems and international entrance requirements.

If you will apply after finishing school, please read about post-qualification applications.

 

Helpful resources

Guidance from the Faculty of Music This includes reading suggestions to help you prepare for the various elements of first year Music. See also Approaches above.
HE+ Music Helpful enrichment resources if you’d like to explore the subject beyond the school curriculum
Music research blog A blog on research at the Faculty of Music
BBC Radio 3 - Podcasts BBC Radio 3's Composer Of The Week is a guide to composers and their music (accessible in the UK only)
Discovering Music: early 20th Century British Library resource featuring composers such as Berg, Britten, Delius, Elgar, Holst, Ravel, Schoenberg, Smyth, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams and Webern. Access digitised treasures from the collections, sound recordings, and articles.
Cambridge Female Composers blog Promoting the study and performance of music by female and non-binary composers. 
Faculty of Music Youtube Channel Talks and films
Gresham College Music Lectures Lectures available online
CamGuides Introducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you be working.

 

Open Days

If you’d like to get a feel for Christ’s, come to a College Open Day where you can chat to staff and students about studying here in person.

 

Want to know more?

For more detail of what the course involves, read Undergraduate Music admissions on the University website, and take a look at the Faculty of Music information for prospective students too.

If you have any other questions, send them to us at admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk. We’re here to help.

 

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