There is still one fantastic way to get a first-class education for very reasonable fees… if you can sing. While most school scholarships nowadays are nominal, choral scholarships are usually still very generous and can be further supplemented by bursaries from either the school or, in many cases, The Choir Schools Association. Most schools hold auditions year round, but contact the schools directly for details.
Choral scholarships for prep schools inside the M25
City of London School (boys)
107 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 3AL
Choristers of the Chapel Royal and The Temple Church are traditionally educated from the age of 10 at City of London School. While it is necessary for choristers to meet the usual academic entry requirements for the school, being a chorister surely must help your chances of landing a place and the discount on the fees is not to be sniffed at. See choirs below for further details.
Chapel Royal Choristers (boys)
Hampton Court Palace KT8 9AU
The Chapel Royal has no school, but the boys receive a free and outstanding musical education and traditionally enter City of London Boys School on a choral scholarship in Year 6. The Chapel Royal operates a local outreach programme with the express intention of offering this outstanding opportunity to any local boy with the right voice.
Admission: Boys aged 7 to 9 can register for the open day on Saturday 23rd September 2017 and can then apply for audition. Voice trials are held each October. Six places are available annually. Boys initially remain at their current school and sing with the choir until the age of 13 or until their voice changes.
Money matters: There are no fees. Boys receive a small weekly payment, music lessons are funded by a non-means tested bursary, further means tested support is available and parents are provided with a car park pass for the choir schedule. If the boys go on to study at City of London School then they are awarded a choral scholarship to the tune of 30% of the fees from the time they become full choristers.
Destinations: Boys usually attend City of London School on a choral scholarship.
Dulwich Prep (boys)
42 Alleyn Park, London SE21 7AA
The College Chapel Choir sings choral services in the Chapel of the Foundation, Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift, in Dulwich Village. The financial benefits are small when compared with the choir schools, but nonetheless free tuition is not to be sniffed at.
Money: Choral Probationerships receive vocal tuition. Auditions are held in June.
Admissions: Dulwich Prep has various entry points from 3+. Choral scholarships are available from 8+.
Destinations: Most boys expect to go on to Dulwich College.
The London Oratory (boys)
The London Oratory School, Seagrave Road, London SW6 1RX
A state school offering choral places. Choristers sing at The Oratory, Brompton (Roman Catholic). Choristers are selected by voice trial at 7+ and are all day pupils.
Money: Not applicable at this outstanding state school.
Destinations: Most pupils stay on to the senior school.
Admission: Ten choral places a year, priority given to Catholic applicants.
Reigate St Mary’s Preparatory and Choir School (co-ed)
Chart Lane, Reigate, Surrey RH2 7RN
The choristers of Reigate St Mary’s (Church of England), technically outside the M25 but close enough, are recruited from Years 4 to 6 of Reigate St Mary’s Preparatory and Choir School. From September 2017, for the first time, girls will be invited to join the choir. All choristers are day pupils. There are 16 choral scholarships at any one time.
Money: School fees are £4,780 per term and choral scholarships are £333 per term (Probationers) and £533 per term (Choristers).
Destinations: Most pupils go on to Reigate Grammar School.
Admissions: Entrance to the Choir, normally from the age of 8, is by initial voice trial followed by a probationary period. Choral scholarships are offered by the Godfrey Searle Choir Trust.
St Paul’s Cathedral School (co-ed school, all choristers are boys)
New Change, London EC4M 9AD
The choristers of St Paul's Cathedral (Church of England) participate in magnificent events at the cathedral, often in front of royalty and television cameras, as well as benefitting from an outstanding education. The school is a day school with a two-form entry (approx 36 pupils), but the choristers (approx. 6 per year) all board.
Money: If successful, a chorister’s tuition fee (£4,737 per term) and music lessons are paid for by cathedral and parents are asked to contribute only the boarding fee, which is currently £2,685.67 per term. Further assistance is available to low-income families.
Destinations: Pupils leave to an impressive array of senior schools.
Admissions: The next school open day is on Thursday 1st June 2017 at 2.00 pm. Auditions by appointment, but the next annual Chorister Experience Afternoon is on Tuesday 10th October 2017.
The Temple Church (boys)
1 Inner Temple Lane, Temple, London EC4Y 7AF
Choristers of Temple Church attend any school, but with a substantial scholarship to cover fees. They meet after school for rehearsals and lessons.
Money: Boys are given individual singing and musicianship lesson, as well as being taught music theory and performance in small groups.
Once on contract as a full chorister, boys receive an academic scholarship to the value of two-thirds of the fees of the City of London School for Boys (£5,577). Although most boys attend the City of London School, the scholarship can be used at any school of the parents’ choosing, subject to selection by the chosen school.
Admission: Prospective choristers are invited to contact the Director of Music throughout the year – auditions (from six and a half years) are informal with emphasis on potential. Successful applicants join the choir as pre-probationers and probationers, while they learn to be choristers.
Westminster Abbey Choir School (boys)
Dean’s Yard, London SW1P 3NY
Choristers of Westminster Abbey (Church of England) are guaranteed an unrivalled education and extraordinary opportunity to be present at some of the most important events of their generation. The school is tiny with just 6-8 boys in a class, with most boys entering the school in Year 4.
Money: All choristers board and fees are a very reasonable £8,240 per annum (2016 figures), including tuition on piano and one other instrument, but further bursaries are available if needed.
Destinations: Boys go on to top senior schools, often with music scholarships.
Admission: Trials are held throughout the year but there is ‘Chorister Experience’ day for 7-8 year olds on Saturday 20th May.
Westminster Cathedral Choir School (boys)
Ambrosden Avenue, London SW1P 1QH
Choristers sing at Westminster Cathedral and must be Roman Catholic. There are about six choral places offered a year and choristers enter the school in Year 4 with trials held throughout the year.
Money: All choristers board for a very reasonable £3,094/term.
Destinations: Pupils leave at 13+ to top senior schools, often with music scholarships.
Admission: The school says there are “about three serious applicants for every place” – competitive, but not impossible.
Other choir schools in the South East are
- King’s Rochester Preparatory School, Rochester
- St. Cedd's School, Chelmsford
- St George’s School, Windsor Castle
- Lanesborough School, Guildford
- St Edmund’s Junior School, Canterbury
- The Prebendal School, Chichester
- The Pilgrim’s School, Winchester
- New College School, Oxford
- Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford
- Magdalen College School, Oxford
- King’s Ely Junior, Ely
- St John’s College School, Cambridge
- King’s College School, Cambridge
- The Portsmouth Grammar School