Credit: Alex Brown (cropped)
Welcome to the Music subject page at King’s. Here you will find an overview of Music at King’s, the Cambridge Music course, the people who teach and research in Music at King’s, plus information about applying as an undergraduate.
- The Cambridge Music Tripos
- Studying Music at King's
- A student perspective
- King's Music
- Fellows in Music
- Applying to study Music
- Resources and events
- Further Information
The Cambridge Music Tripos
The Cambridge Music Tripos extends over three years. Part IA (Year 1) examines music of the period c. 1550-1830 by means of studies in harmony, counterpoint, and analysis. Two papers in music history investigate a changing range of topics; and there is also training in aural and keyboard skills. Part IB (Year 2) allows you to offer some optional papers from a wide list that might include subjects in Wagner, Schenkerian Analysis, and Music and Science. The element of choice becomes even greater in Part II (Year 3), in which no paper is compulsory, and you can offer a vocal or instrumental recital. Performance studies, including choral performance, are also prominent in the Part II syllabus. Further details are given in the Faculty prospectus.
There is no continuous assessment, but Parts IB and II allow a generous range of dissertation and portfolio submissions in addition to written examinations. The Faculty of Music provides lectures, seminars, and classes to support all papers. In addition, King’s organizes for you a tailored programme of supervisions, taken either individually or in small groups, with experts in each subject. See how you are taught.
Studying Music at King's
Rowe Music Library
Music at King’s has a history as long as that of the College itself and students receive excellent support in College for both academic study and extra-curricular music. King’s is unique among Cambridge Colleges in having five Fellows in music.
Reading Music at King’s, you can benefit from round-the-clock access to the Rowe Music Library, by far the largest and most important College music library in Cambridge, containing valuable manuscript and antiquarian volumes as well as present-day texts, and a huge collection of scores. King's College Library also provides a very pleasant place to study in College (see the virtual tour). In addition, King's is one of the nearest Colleges to the Music Faculty on West Road (which also has a specialist music library) and the University Library. See the map (Music Faculty marked by red pin).
Undergraduate rooms for Music students are provided with pianos for private study. The College also has music rooms and two Steinway pianos available for student use. There is funding available to assist with the cost of vocal or instrumental lessons, and also with travel for educational and other purposes. King's awards two Derek Cornwell Scholarships each year for the contribution made by talented instrumentalists, as well as participating in the University Instrumental Award Scheme.
Many of our graduates go on to pursue performance studies in leading conservatories, or doctoral research. Career opportunities in other fields are very wide, and have included law, publishing, finance, and teaching in recent years.
A student perspective
Having just finished the course, Jess wrote about her experiences of studying Music, including what attracted her to the course, the transition from school, supervisions, relevant skills she developed, life at King's, and what comes after Cambridge Music. This is well worth reading to get a sense of what studying Music at King's is really like.
The King's Men close harmony group performing in King's at the annual Singing on the River concert
King’s has attracted and nurtured many internationally famous composers and performers over the years. Composers range from Robert Hacomplaynt, Provost of the College in the early sixteenth century, to Judith Weir, George Benjamin and Thomas Adès today. Performers include John Eliot Gardiner who formed his first choir and orchestra here at King’s in the 1960s, Andrew Davis, one of the world’s leading conductors and a former organ scholar; and Edward Gardner (King’s, 1993) and Paul Daniel (King’s, 1976), successive Music Directors of English National Opera.
The world-famous Chapel choir has been the training ground for many singers, including Robert Tear, Gerald Finley, and Andrew Kennedy, all of whom can be heard at opera houses and concert halls throughout the world.
Cambridge is famous for the excellence of its undergraduate music-making. King’s College Musical Society (KCMS) is one of the largest and liveliest in the University, and is run by undergraduates themselves. Major orchestral and choral concerts take place each term, in addition to lunchtime concerts and one-off events. 'Concerts at King's' is an all-year series of professional concerts which brings leading performers and ensembles to the College: in particular, the Dante Quartet is the College's resident string quartet, giving a series of performances each year and also engaging in coaching of student ensembles.
There are excellent singing opportunities for both men and women in King's. Choral Awards are available to sing in both the male voice Chapel Choir and King’s Voices, an SATB choir which sings Evensong in the Chapel on Mondays, gives concerts, undertakes an annual tour (Barcelona, Amsterdam and Copenhagen in recent years), as well as providing entertainment at some College feasts. Financial assistance with singing lessons is available to choir members.
Fellows in Music
The Music Fellows at King's are:
Richard Causton is a University Lecturer in Musical Composition. His works, which encompass orchestral music, chamber music and song, have been performed and broadcast widely. Recent pieces include a Chamber Symphony and Twenty-Seven Heavens, commissioned by the European Union Youth Orchestra as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Causton's music is published by Oxford University Press. Aside from composition, he has an interest in twentieth- and twenty-first century Italian music.
Stephen Cleobury teaches for the College and the University in Harmony and Counterpoint, and keyboard and choral studies, and is available for consultation by students of conducting and organ. He is a published composer and arranger, and has numerous recordings as conductor and organist to his credit. He is Organist to the University and Conductor Laureate of the BBC Singers. As Director of Music at King's, he is responsible for recruiting, training and conducting the College Choir. He also oversees the work of King's Voices, the College's mixed voice choir, and the activities of the College Musical Society.
Iain Fenlon is Professor of Historical Musicology and an authority on music in Italy in the sixteenth century and earlier. He has published many books and articles, including Venice: the Ceremonial City (2007). He also has interests in twentieth-century music, particularly Stravinsky. He edits Early Music History, and is a regular contributor to Gramophone magazine.
Nicholas Marston (Director of Studies) is a Professor in Music Theory and Analysis. His main field of scholarship is analysis and textual study of the music of Beethoven and Schumann, on which he has published widely. He supervises all first- and second-year King’s undergraduates for papers in music analysis, and for other papers as appropriate. He is a member of King’s Voices.
Applying to study Music
To apply to study Music at King’s, you need not be a brilliant performer (though it would be unusual if you were not competent on at least one instrument). What is more important is that you have a real appetite for approaching music as a subject of intellectual enquiry from a wide range of perspectives, and the curiosity and motivation to engage fully with this challenging course.
The application process is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise you to read thoroughly.
A typical intake to read Music at King’s tends to be around five or six each year, but there are no fixed quotas.
A level / IB Higher Level Music or an equivalent is essential for Music applicants. Beyond this there are no required subjects: humanities, languages and sciences are all good choices. You may find the general advice on subject choices useful. A list of our most common offers is given on the entrance requirements page and we welcome applications from suitably qualified students at any kind of school, all over the world.
Following your UCAS application you will be asked to submit a harmony or counterpoint exercise, and/or an original composition; and an historical or analytical essay, preferably on music, but another subject is acceptable.
Students invited for interview will be separately interviewed by at least two academics. The academics will be interested in exploring not just the present state of your knowledge and musical interests but also your potential to flourish and develop further. During your interviews you will be required to comment on a short piece of music and a passage of text relating to music history; you will have opportunity to study these materials beforehand. You may also be required to comment on unprepared scores.
There will not be a pre-interview written assessment or standard format written assessment at interview for Music candidates. Students who are invited for interview at King's will instead be required to sit a Music test set by the Director of Studies whilst they are in Cambridge. This involves a 45-minute written test in harmony and counterpoint of the period c1700-1810 (e.g. a Bach chorale harmonisation, or Lied accompaniment; adding an instrumental melodic line above a given bass), and a 30-minute aural test (dictation of a melody, and phrases of Bach chorale). You will not be required to perform on your instrument.
Resources and events
Do you enjoy thinking about music? Credit: Robin Zebrowski (cropped)
- Do read the information about developing your interests.
- There is no required reading material for Music applicants but there are some useful preparation tips in the guidance for offer-holders.
- Our subject resources section includes posts about humanities subjects.
- Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include: the Music+ programme (state schools in Manchester & London), Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, Music Taster Days (students at state schools only), CU Masterclasses, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.
- Music course information
- Extra-curricular music at King's
- There is also information available on the Music Faculty website including the Music Faculty prospectus, virtual tours of facilities, and information about opportunities to perform.
- Applying with limited support or advice
- Information for international students
- King’s welcomes enquiries and visits from prospective Music applicants at any time. If you have any queries or require further information, please contact the Director of Studies in Music, Dr Nicholas Marston (tel.: 01223 331331; email: email@example.com), or, for more general admissions enquiries, please email King's Admissions Office.
- King's offers instrumental awards, choral awards, and organ scholarships.