Over recent decades many of the most significant figures in British music have studied or taught at Cambridge: composers such as Alexander Goehr, Judith Weir and Thomas Adès; performers like Joanna MacGregor and Thomas Trotter; and conductors including John Eliot Gardiner, Christopher Hogwood and Edward Gardner. Our undergraduate course has a strong academic component, particularly focusing on history, analysis, composition (including screen and media composition) and performance, but also offering a range of other topics.
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.
Assessment takes place at the end of each year through written examinations; the submission of portfolios, compositions essays and dissertations; and through recitals. 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.
Music at King's
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 has attracted and nurtured many internationally famous composers and performers over the years, from Robert Hacomplaynt 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.
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. Undergraduate rooms for Music students are provided with pianos for private study, and 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.
Of course, 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, a mixed choir which sings Evensong in the Chapel on Mondays, gives concerts, undertakes an annual tour, as well as providing entertainment at some College feasts. 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.
Fellows at King's in Music:
Applying for Music at King's
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. 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.
Candidates invited for interviews at King's also sit a test when they come to Cambridge for their interview. The test happens on the same day and is set by the Director of Studies. Your performance in the test will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.
NB. If you have been reading about the admissions assessments in most subjects, please note that there is no standard format written assessment for Music.
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 at King's will be separately interviewed by at least two academics in early December. 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.
Alice has written about herexperiences of studying Music, including what attracted her to the course, the transition from school, supervisions, life at King's, and what comes after Cambridge Music. This account is well worth reading to get a sense of what studying Music at King's is really like.
Reading, Resources and Events
There is no required reading material for Music applicants but there are some useful preparation tips in the guidance below.
Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include: 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org), or, for more general admissions enquiries, please email King's Admissions Office.