School Life

Music

Ordinarily extraordinary

Music is the beating heart of this remarkable school. Christ’s Hospital is perhaps the only school in the world where every pupil hears live music played or sung by their peers on six days a week in term-time.

We are very proud of our musical tradition, and are constantly looking to create new, inspiring learning opportunities for our pupils.

Please click here to see this term’s Performing Arts brochure.

Expression – Opportunity – Achievement

Pupils of every age, ability and experience are encouraged to begin or continue their musical studies at Christ’s Hospital, and over 550 lessons are taught each week by our superb staff.

The school subsidises the majority of instrumental lessons and can provide instruments and sheet music free of charge. We believe so strongly in the educational and social benefits of music that we do all we can to enable any pupil who wishes to do so to become involved, irrespective of previous experience or means.

Click here to find out more information about instrumental lessons.

See for yourself

Please come and visit us and experience the musical life at CH, either at an Open Morning or by appointment – you would be most welcome.  To book an appointment please email: hello@christs-hospital.org.uk

Alex Hodgkinson MA (Oxon) FRCO Pmailto: hello@christs-hospital.org.ukGCE – Director of Music

Mr Hodgkinson became Director of Music at CH in 2017 following teaching positions at Repton School and Marlborough College. He is proud to lead this exciting and ambitious department. Amongst his other responsibilities, he teaches A Level harmony and directs the Chapel Choir and Symphony Orchestra. He read Music and held the organ scholarship at Keble College, Oxford. He is organist of a church in Horsham and a governor of a local secondary academy.  PAJH@christs-hospital.org

Alison Sims BMus (Hons) – Senior Music School Administrator

Ms Sims studied Music at the University of Birmingham and the Birmingham Conservatoire, and was a Junior Exhibitioner at the Royal College of Music, specialising in flute and piano. She has held several key administrative positions at schools and colleges, including the Royal Academy of Music. She joined the CH team in 2019 and looks after the daily operational activity of the Music School.  MusicAdministrators@christs-hospital.org.uk

Donna Lavery FdSc RVN CertECC – Music School Administrator

Mrs Lavery originally studied Veterinary Nursing at Vanier College, Canada. She has held various related roles such as Head Nurse, Office Manager, and, most recently, insurance claims handler. She joined CH in January 2022 and, with Ms Sims, looks after the daily operational activity of the Music School.  MusicAdministrators@christs-hospital.org.uk

MEET OUR PUPILS

Molly (LH-B / Gr-E, 2013-20) – French Horn, Voice, Piano. 

I was introduced to CH when I was 10 years old through an Old Blue family friend, who went on to kindly become my governor and benefactor. As a Music Scholar, I quickly became involved in all the major musical ensembles alongside my weekly lessons on the French Horn, Voice, and Piano.

Thanks to the expertise and encouragement of my teachers, I got a French Horn diploma in Deps (Year 12), and gained a place to attend the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department on Saturdays in my final two years. This was an amazing experience, and CH were very supportive.

As well as the instrumental music, I loved all the singing, be it belting out hymns with the whole school in Chapel, the weekly round of Chapel Choir duties, or singing a Bach Cantata with the Schola Cantorum. I was really pleased to get a choral scholarship and an offer to study Music at Oxford University, but decided the best way for me was the ‘joint course’ in Manchester, where I currently study Music at the University of Manchester and French Horn Performance at the RNCM, allowing me a broad range of options for postgraduate study and beyond. Throughout the university application process, the music staff at CH offered an unwavering stream of advice and support.

I have a lot to thank the Music Department at CH for; there is no doubt that I would not be where I am without the inspiration it provided me and countless others. And although I loved pretty much every aspect of my seven years at the school, my happiest memory of all is of the first time I marched out with the Band, aged 11: the sun was beaming onto the Quad, I was attempting to march whilst playing a French Horn I could barely lift and, though I was a full-boarder, I was home.

Mutsuki (Col-B / Gr-W, 2019-21) – Violin, Piano.

I joined Christ’s Hospital in Year 12 and spent two years there thanks to a scholarship from the Tazaki Foundation. Having grown up in Japan, coming to the UK was a huge change and challenge. It felt very overwhelming at first, but it didn’t take me long to settle in and realise how supportive CH was.

I can’t thank the Music Department enough. They were always there to help and provide me with exciting and challenging activities; I enjoyed leading orchestras, joining ensembles, and learning from first-class teachers in masterclasses. Performing in concerts was always my favourite part. I was also involved in a variety of things outside of CH, including attending the Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama on Saturdays, where I studied the violin. It was inspiring to be surrounded by like-minded people who all love making music together. Another great opportunity I had was to play a violin concerto with the Horsham Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately, I couldn’t perform in the concert due to the pandemic, but this experience certainly gave me confidence as a soloist. In addition to these, the Music Department helped me with my academic studies as well. Without their support, I simply wouldn’t have been able to get through the daunting process of applying to both universities and conservatoires.

I’m currently studying music at Clare College, Cambridge, which is a perfect environment for me; I can immerse myself in music as an academic discipline, which I started to love through my Pre-U Music studies at CH, alongside various performance opportunities.

All the experiences I gained at CH were invaluable to my development not only as a musician but also as a person. If you’re considering applying to CH, I can assure you that you will never regret joining this wonderful community!

Adrian (Mid-A / Gr-W, 2016-21) – Flute, Piccolo, Voice.

I was very privileged to join Christ’s Hospital on the LE (Year 9) in 2016. Having come from a school in urban East London, the green countryside was a particularly stark change!

I started flute lessons immediately and joined the Training Band and Chapel Choir. In GE (Year 11), I joined the Marching and Concert Band on flute and piccolo. For many years I loved singing with the pupil-led Gospel Choir, and, as a Grecian (Year 13), I was proud to become one of the leaders.

As part of CH’s celebrations for Black History Month 2021, I organised a Celebrating Black Excellence Concert. Historically, many black composers and performers have not had the recognition they deserve. This is of course changing, and I am pleased that CH was and still is a vehicle for that change.

I had so many memorable musical experiences at CH, but two that stand out are the evening Beating Retreat to celebrate the 150th year of the Marching Band in 2019, and playing Verdi’s Forza Del Destino in a Concert Band concert. I have taken these and so many more experiences with me and continue to have flute lessons alongside my studies in Law, French & Japanese at Cardiff University.

Max (La-B / Gr-E, 2014-21) – Clarinet, Piano, Jazz Piano.

My family live in York, so quite a way from Sussex, but my mum is an Old Blue and my grandmother had been a matron there, so it the school already had a familiarity when I arrived as a Second Former (Year 7).

At CH, I was involved with (as my houseparent once put it) “every possible activity under the sun”. I made it my mission to do as much as I could, and to it to as high a standard as possible. I played in the Symphony Orchestra, Big Band, Marching Band, and I sang in Chapel Choir and Schola Cantorum – amongst other things!

A particularly important thing for me was playing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra Academy Big Band every weekend, something that CH encouraged me to apply for and supported me throughout my time at school. I still hold the piano chair for the orchestra and plan on auditioning for the main NYJO band this coming September. I have learnt a huge amount playing with a professional orchestra like NYJO.

Whilst there were countless major concerts and performances that I took part in over my seven years (including 11 Big Band concerts and 7 Beating Retreats!), it’s the smaller, less grand moments that seem to have stuck with me most. I have left. I remember one Friday evening me and four other friends decided to meet up to sing some music by William Byrd together. We began in Music School but migrated to the gallery of the completely empty Chapel. One of the teachers had heard us singing from the Quad and popped in to see what was going on. One by one, various interested passers-by came into Chapel to hear us sing and, before we knew it, we had a mini audience – including the Head Teacher!

I am currently studying music at Manchester University and loving it. I am immersing myself in the music here (particularly the jazz scene) as much as I can, playing lots of gigs and joining as many groups as possible. CH not only gave me great teaching and performance opportunities, but it also instilled in me a work ethic to do as much as possible as well as possible.

Academic Music

Pupils at Christ’s Hospital may opt to study Cambridge IGCSE Music in Years 10 & 11 and, in Years 12 & 13, Edexcel A Level Music. Both courses include analysis and history, performance, and composition. We have a well-equipped Music Technology Studio that pupils can access for recording and composition. Many pupils have gone on to read music at universities and colleges, recently King’s London, Manchester, Southampton, York, Durham, and Cambridge.

For all pupils who opt to study Academic Music from Year 9 upwards, the school pays for one set of instrumental lessons to complement their classroom studies.

Ed Jones MA (Oxon) – Assistant Director of Music (Academic)

Mr Jones studied music at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a choral scholar. He has been at Christ’s Hospital since 2011 and, since 2013, has combined his role as Assistant Director of Music (Academic) with that of a Housemaster. Away from CH he maintains an active career as a professional singer. EBHJ@christs-hospital.org.uk

Singing

This is a singing school. Congregational singing in Chapel is strong, and every member of the school takes part in the annual House Singing Competition. There are also many opportunities for specialised group singing.

The Chapel Choir, made up of over a tenth of the school, is the most high-profile vocal ensemble, singing at the weekly Sunday Chapel service.

The most senior and experienced singers are invited to audition for the Schola Cantorum, a chamber choir of around 25 pupils. We have a fantastic Gospel Choir, led by pupils, who perform regularly in Chapel and at various school events, such as the annual Jazz Night.

There are many other choirs, auditioned and open, for various year groups, including small ad hoc consorts for the weekly services of Compline and Evensong.

For those who wish to have singing lessons, we have five singing teachers, three classical specialists, a jazz and pop specialist, and one with expertise in both.

We are always proud when pupils continue to sing at university and college. In recent years, pupils have won choral scholarships at Oxford, Cambridge, London, and elsewhere.

Verity Bramson MA (Cantab) PgDip (TLCMD) – Head of Singing

Miss Bramson read Music at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where she was a choral scholar, and graduated with Distinction in Postgraduate Vocal Studies from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance. She joined CH in September 2020, before which she enjoyed a busy freelance career as a soprano and singing teacher. Passionate about the ever-expanding field of voice science, alongside her role at CH she is currently completing an MA in Voice Pedagogy with the University of Wales and the Voice Study Centre.

The Band

Over 100 young musicians make up the famous CH Band which gathers four days a week to march all 900 pupils into lunch, through the school’s vast quad. This is one of Christ’s Hospital’s unique and most spectacular traditions.

The Band was formed 1868 when some of the pupils requested that instruments be purchased to enliven their marching drill. Over the years, the Band has grown from a small static group to a dynamic and highly trained group of musicians.

Today, the Band has an impressive record of engagements. It accompanies the school on its annual parade through the City of London on St Matthew’s Day and performs at Lord’s and Twickenham (RFU) where it entertains the crowds. The Band also takes part in the Lord Mayor’s Show each autumn and rounds off the academic year with Beating Retreat, a display of marching and countermarching as a tribute to those who are leaving.

Tim Carter BMus LRSM AMusTCL – Band Director & Head of Woodwind and Percussion

The School’s Band Director, Mr Carter, joined Christ’s Hospital in September 2020 from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. The experience and skill that Mr Carter gained in his 29 years playing and directing in that world-renowned organisation affords him the exact blend of expertise to train, lead and inspire the young musicians at CH both on parade and on the concert platform.  TMC@christs-hospital.org.uk

Orchestral & Chamber Music

The most advanced musicians in the school are selected for the Symphony Orchestra, which gives two major performances in the year.

Every Lent Term, we welcome players from our Professional Orchestra-in-Partnership, the world-renowned English Chamber Orchestra (ECO). These experienced and inspiring musicians give one-to-one lessons and lead workshop sessions in preparation for the Angus Ross Gala Concert at the end of term. This concert includes concertos played by Grecians and a major choral work. In the concert, our pupils have the benefit of playing side-by-side with our ECO guests, giving them a taste of life as a pro musician.

We also run a Chamber Orchestra (strings) and an Intermediate Orchestra for Second Form, Third Form, and LE pupils Years 7-9).

Smaller string, wind and brass groups run throughout the year. We feel working in chamber music groups is an incredibly important part of every instrumentalist’s training, and often these groups are pupil-led. There is an annual concert dedicated to chamber music.

Robert Thompson MM BMus – Assistant Director of Music (Performance) & Head of Keyboard

Mr Thompson studied at Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. In 2010 he completed his Masters with Peter Frankl at Yale University. Since then, he has gone on to perform in venues across the UK, Europe, and Asia, and frequently appears on BBC Radio 3. Passionate about teaching, he was Head of Piano at Bedford School for eight years and is now proud to lead the Keyboard Department at CH.  RJT@christs-hospital.org.uk

Emily Marsden BMus MA – Head of Strings

Following 20 years of playing with chamber and symphony orchestras such as the RPO, the London Mozart Players, the BBC Concert Orchestra and a full-time post with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Mrs Marsden was delighted to be offered the role of Head of Strings at Christ’s Hospital in 2017. She leads the String Department, oversees the various ensembles, and directs the Chamber Orchestra, and enjoys using her experience from the music profession to enthuse Christ’s Hospital pupils.  EJM@christs-hospital.org.uk

Concert Band & Big Band

The Concert Band offers opportunities for our pupils to gain wider experience of ensemble playing in many different genres, as it features woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboards and, during our must adventurous undertakings, string instruments. Performances take place throughout the year, most notably a dedicated concert featuring the Concert Band and junior bands every February.

The CH Big Band performs an eclectic mix of music from the from 1930s to the present day. This includes compositions and repertoire from Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman as well as more modern charts from The National Youth Jazz Orchestra and pop music primarily for our vocalists.

Steve Titchener BA MMus – Head of Brass

Mr Titchener studied Jazz at Leeds College of Music and Guildhall School of Music and completed a Master’s in Jazz Composition at Manhattan School of Music. While in New York, he led his own Big Band and was lucky enough to play with some of the best jazz musicians in the States. On this side of the Atlantic, he has played in many shows and with many bands, including The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, West Side Story in the West End, and for tours with Shirley Bassey.

Organs & Organists

We have an enthusiastic and relatively large cohort of pupil organists. Lessons are offered free of charge to interested pupils; a minimum of Grade 5 piano is expected. Students are prepared for ABRSM exams and university scholarships, and have many opportunities to practise, play in concerts, or participate in the round of weekly Chapel services. Several pupils have attended Oundle for Organists courses in recent years.

We are lucky to have five pipe organs on site, ranging from a single-manual instrument (Flight & Robson, 1826) to the mighty 5-manual (Rushworth & Dreaper, 1931, with a major rebuild by Manders in 2022-3) in Chapel, complete with the famous West End tubas. Lessons mostly take place upon one of our fine mechanical action instruments: a ‘Father’ Willis of 1878 in the Dining Hall, and an organ built by Saxon Aldred in 1981 in the Dominions Library.

Ruaraidh Sutherland BMus FRCO – School Organist

Mr Sutherland joined CH as School Organist in September 2019. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2006, winning all the major academic and performance prizes. Between 2006 and 2019 he held organist posts in the UK and the USA, latterly at historic Christ’s Church, Rye, NY, where he directed the busy parish music programme. Mr Sutherland is also Musical Director the Christ’s Hospital Choral Society and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.

Sixth Form entry

Many musicians join us in the Sixth Form. Some come as award holders, winning one of the generous music scholarships, and others as non-scholars. All of our pupils are encouraged, nurtured, and supported to achieve their best.

One thing that attracts musicians to CH is the plethora of learning and performance opportunities here, as well as the high-level music-making. In addition to the one-to-one tuition available, pupils can join one of our many ensembles; the flagship ensembles – the Chapel Choir, Symphony Orchestra, and famous Marching Band – as well as smaller chamber ensembles made up of friends in their year group.

And this is one of the special things about music at CH – the sense of community and camaraderie amongst the pupil musicians. A huge number of pupils are involved, and it is seen as something that deserving of kudos and respect by peers and the school at large. As well as the musical and educational benefits, music is a very sociable activity, and pupils get to play or sing alongside pupils from other houses and year groups. The fact that we are a full boarding school, with musical activities going on seven days a week, from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, also contributes to the valuable sense of community among our musicians.

Music Scholarships for 16+ (Year 12) entry

Many musicians join us in the Sixth Form, and we offer a generous number of music scholarships at 16+.

These pupils are the backbone of our musical community. We expect our scholars to be committed to their own progress, to contribute to school life through participation in choirs and ensembles, and to be enthusiastic ambassadors for music around the school and beyond.

In addition to a means-tested bursary, a scholarship attracts up to 20% fee remission and the school pays for lessons on one instrument. Studying Music at A Level is not a prerequisite for music scholars, but the school pays for lessons on an additional instrument for those who do.

As well as the plethora of learning and performance opportunities and mentoring at CH, a handful of pupils every year successfully audition for and attend the junior music colleges (Junior Guildhall, Junior RAM, Junior RCM) in London on Saturday mornings. This is something CH encourages and supports, and in some cases, financial assistance is available for travel costs and so on.

Pupils are also encouraged to attend summer courses (e.g. Rodolfus Choral Courses) and to audition for national ensembles (e.g. NYO), and again the school can support these ventures financially.

Please click here for further information.

Music Scholarships for 13+ (Year 9) entry

We offer Music Scholarships to both current and new pupils for entry into Year 9.

These pupils are the backbone of our musical community. We expect our scholars to be committed to their own progress, to contribute to school life through participation in choirs and ensembles, and to be enthusiastic ambassadors for music around the school and beyond.

In addition to a means-tested bursary, a scholarship attracts up to 20% fee remission and the school pays for lessons on one instrument. Music Scholars are expected to study Academic Music up to at least GCSE level; school pays for lessons on an additional instrument for as long as pupils study Academic Music.

We have several former cathedral choristers amongst our music scholars.

We are well aware that some prospective music scholars will have had access to more opportunities than others. It is for this reason that, in our audition process, weight is given to potential as much as experience. The audition is relatively informal and takes the form of a lesson more than a test – we want to see how pupils respond instinctively.

Please click here for further information.

Music Lesson Assistance Scheme for 11+ (Year 7) entry

Music Scholarships are not offered for entry into Year 7. Even though music lesson fees for first and second instruments are in accordance with parental means it is acknowledged that, in some cases, the additional financial burden, particularly of a second instrument, is unmanageable. With this in mind, Year 7 entrants are invited to apply for the Music Lesson Assistance Scheme.

Successful applicants will receive tuition paid for by the school on one instrument, but there will be no school fee remission attached. This arrangement lasts for Year 7 (Second Form) and Year 8 (Third Form) only, after which the pupil can chose to apply for a Music Scholarship for Year 9 (see information above).

Teaching Music at CH

The Music School is a happy and vibrant place. Between them, the nine resident members of staff and around 30 Visiting Music Teachers (VMTs) offer a full academic programme (including IGCSE and A Level) and teach over 600 instrumental lessons a week, supported by two administrators.

We have a superb team of dedicated VMTs, diverse in age and career background. Some colleagues have dedicated their working lives to teaching; some are recent music college graduates establishing their careers; others balance teaching with high level playing in the country’s best orchestra and band pits.

We care about our teaching and our pupils’ progress. We have recently founded the Music Teaching & Learning Group (MTL), an opportunity for colleagues to learn from one another and from outside experts, to share best practice and discuss any aspects of their teaching experience. This is led by two full-time colleagues, Robert Thompson and Verity Bramson, and all colleagues are invited (but not required!) to contribute.

Our pupils are customarily enthusiastic, high-achieving, and polite, and they relish the broad range of opportunities that are available to them at Christ’s Hospital. The vast majority of instrumental lessons are subsidised in accordance with pupil need, and the department provides instruments and accessories as necessary.

Where appropriate, pupils are encouraged to take advantage of external opportunities such as junior conservatoires, national ensembles (e.g. NYC and NYO), and summer instrumental and choral courses. The school supports these both in terms of the frameworks and flexibilities it creates, as well as, in many cases, financial terms. Many pupils have gone on to study music at tertiary level.

There is huge diversity in terms of racial and socio-economic background at this school, perhaps more than any other independent school in the country. For example, around 51% of our pupils are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

As positions become available, we advertise on the school website, and usually on TES and Rheingold. In response to specific adverts, we welcome applications from musicians of all backgrounds as we aspire to build a staff body that more closely reflects the social and cultural diversity of our student intake.