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Choosing College for Music: Oxford

Hi guys, was wondering if anyone here could give me some insight into which college would be best for me at Oxford. I’m hoping to study Music and get a choral scholarship, within music my two main interests are composition and singing. I’m looking for a college with a good mixed chapel choir (without excessive amounts of chapel services as I have other performance interests) but also good composition prospects eg. Good tutors - maybe there is a composer in residence I could get lessons with? Tomorrow, I’m getting a tour around Somerville college as this seemed to be a decent fit, one time I heard they had good stuff for composition- would anyone be able to confirm this? It might have been something else.

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I am not sure myself but I guess you could use this site:
https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/colleges/which-oxford-colleges-offer-my-course

You can click music, which shows all the colleges that offer music, then you could go through each one to check what the school offers such as accommodation.
Original post by godofhammers
I am not sure myself but I guess you could use this site:
https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/colleges/which-oxford-colleges-offer-my-course

You can click music, which shows all the colleges that offer music, then you could go through each one to check what the school offers such as accommodation.

Ah ok, I couldn’t find this website 😂
Original post by SyllinGalanodel
Hi guys, was wondering if anyone here could give me some insight into which college would be best for me at Oxford. I’m hoping to study Music and get a choral scholarship, within music my two main interests are composition and singing. I’m looking for a college with a good mixed chapel choir (without excessive amounts of chapel services as I have other performance interests) but also good composition prospects eg. Good tutors - maybe there is a composer in residence I could get lessons with? Tomorrow, I’m getting a tour around Somerville college as this seemed to be a decent fit, one time I heard they had good stuff for composition- would anyone be able to confirm this? It might have been something else.

Hiya! Oxford music alumna here! The colleges officially affiliated with the bigger name composers are Worcester (Robert Saxton, though he's retired/retiring extremely soon, so will be gone by the time you may get to Oxford as an undergrad), and St Anne/St Hilda's (Martyn Harry). Mixed chapel choirs, you might like to look at Worcester, Queen's and Merton. @OxMus is better placed to advise more :awesome:

Enjoy your visit! :biggrin:
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
Hiya! Oxford music alumna here! The colleges officially affiliated with the bigger name composers are Worcester (Robert Saxton, though he's retired/retiring extremely soon, so will be gone by the time you may get to Oxford as an undergrad), and St Anne/St Hilda's (Martyn Harry). Mixed chapel choirs, you might like to look at Worcester, Queen's and Merton. @OxMus is better placed to advise more :awesome:

Enjoy your visit! :biggrin:

Oh Worcester looks good! A mixed choir and all male choir so I could get to do both :smile:, also says that you can get to write for the choir if you study composition with Robert Saxton, do you know if he will be replaced because that would be exactly what I’d want.
Original post by SyllinGalanodel
Oh Worcester looks good! A mixed choir and all male choir so I could get to do both :smile:, also says that you can get to write for the choir if you study composition with Robert Saxton, do you know if he will be replaced because that would be exactly what I’d want.

They're in the process of appointing a replacement and my understanding from the job advert I saw advertised online is that the replacement at Woosta will be a composer (though perhaps a different style/type of composition. Could be electroacoustic, for example) :yes:

Be aware that Woosta is one of THE most competitive colleges for music. That's not to put you off or say don't apply, but wouldn't be fair not to tell you that :smile:

I was at Woosta from 2007-2010 so if you have any questions about the college more generally, feel free to ask :biggrin:
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
They're in the process of appointing a replacement and my understanding from the job advert I saw advertised online is that the replacement at Woosta will be a composer (though perhaps a different style/type of composition. Could be electroacoustic, for example) :yes:

Be aware that Woosta is one of THE most competitive colleges for music. That's not to put you off or say don't apply, but wouldn't be fair not to tell you that :smile:

I was at Woosta from 2007-2010 so if you have any questions about the college more generally, feel free to ask :biggrin:

So if they were over subscribed there, would your application be passed about to other colleges, do you list an order of preference?
Original post by SyllinGalanodel
So if they were over subscribed there, would your application be passed about to other colleges, do you list an order of preference?

You only apply to one college - you wouldn't list other preferences. If Woosta is oversubscribed (which they will be!), some students will be invited to interview with Woosta as the host college, whilst other appealing/good applicants will be spread across other colleges. Music interviewees have at least two interviews (at least outside of pandemic times!) at two different colleges anyway.

Then after the interview period, all the tutors in the Faculty get together with all the passport photos of applicants and haggle things out as to who takes who. Kinda like The X Factor :biggrin:

As Woosta is such a popular college in general, as well as for music applicants, this means Robert/Robert's eventual replacement has a LOT of power within the Faculty. He takes his top pick of who he wants at Woosta for himself, but then he ensures that anyone else he liked is taken by another college.

What I'm trying to say/show is that although Woosta is oversubscribed, applying directly there will not have much negative impact on your ability to get into Oxford overall. If you are deemed worthy of a place, they'll do their best to make sure some college takes you, even if it's not Woosta :yep:
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
You only apply to one college - you wouldn't list other preferences. If Woosta is oversubscribed (which they will be!), some students will be invited to interview with Woosta as the host college, whilst other appealing/good applicants will be spread across other colleges. Music interviewees have at least two interviews (at least outside of pandemic times!) at two different colleges anyway.

Then after the interview period, all the tutors in the Faculty get together with all the passport photos of applicants and haggle things out as to who takes who. Kinda like The X Factor :biggrin:

As Woosta is such a popular college in general, as well as for music applicants, this means Robert/Robert's eventual replacement has a LOT of power within the Faculty. He takes his top pick of who he wants at Woosta for himself, but then he ensures that anyone else he liked is taken by another college.

What I'm trying to say/show is that although Woosta is oversubscribed, applying directly there will not have much negative impact on your ability to get into Oxford overall. If you are deemed worthy of a place, they'll do their best to make sure some college takes you, even if it's not Woosta :yep:

Ah I see, so the worry would be that you get less choice in the college if they start moving you about. Ok makes sense, thanks
Original post by SyllinGalanodel
Ah I see, so the worry would be that you get less choice in the college if they start moving you about. Ok makes sense, thanks

Do you know how that works choral scholarships, what if you got one for Worcester, then they started passing you about and you got into a different college?
Original post by SyllinGalanodel
Do you know how that works choral scholarships, what if you got one for Worcester, then they started passing you about and you got into a different college?

I'm afraid I'm not too clear about what happens in that instance :colondollar: OxMus may know, I believe they are a choral scholar (at a different college) :yep:
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
I'm afraid I'm not too clear about what happens in that instance :colondollar: OxMus may know, I believe they are a choral scholar (at a different college) :yep:

Right, well I’ll ask when I’m getting my tour!
Original post by SyllinGalanodel
Right, well I’ll ask when I’m getting my tour!

Fantastic! You can also email Stephen Darlington, current Director of Chapel Music, to ask him about it: [email protected] :yep:
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
Fantastic! You can also email Stephen Darlington, current Director of Chapel Music, to ask him about it: [email protected] :yep:

Thank you!
Reply 14
Original post by SyllinGalanodel
Hi guys, was wondering if anyone here could give me some insight into which college would be best for me at Oxford. I’m hoping to study Music and get a choral scholarship, within music my two main interests are composition and singing. I’m looking for a college with a good mixed chapel choir (without excessive amounts of chapel services as I have other performance interests) but also good composition prospects eg. Good tutors - maybe there is a composer in residence I could get lessons with? Tomorrow, I’m getting a tour around Somerville college as this seemed to be a decent fit, one time I heard they had good stuff for composition- would anyone be able to confirm this? It might have been something else.

The most renowned composers currently in Oxford are Robert Saxton (Worcester, leaving shortly) John Traill (St. Anne's) and Martyn Harry (St. Anne's, St. Hilda's), and there are plenty of others.

For a moderate amount of choral singing, avoid the choral foundations (Christ Church, Magdalen and New). Queen's and Merton are the best mixed-voice college choirs in Oxford and sing 3 services/week. Worcester, Somerville, Exeter et al. are fine; avoid Trinity, Lincoln, St. Edmund's, Brasenose and St. John's. When (if) you get to Oxford, consider auditioning for Schola Cantorum in Freshers' Week. There are several a capella groups as well, if you're into that.

I'm not a composer, but I understand that composing at Oxford tends to happen at the university level, rather than the college level: some people who take composition for Prelims (1st year) and finals have tutors from different colleges, and composition competitions (by colleges, the Faculty, OUMS etc.) are open to everyone regardless of college.

You apply for a choral award by filling in this form https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/choral-award-application-form by 1 September and fulfilling the other requirements detailed there. You attend auditions at your chosen college in mid-September. You are then expected to apply through UCAS to the college which offered you a place in their choir. You may be pooled to a different college when (if) you are made an offer; this is one of the ways in which you can sing and study at two different colleges. If you want to, you can try emailing your pooled college to ask to audition there instead, but this is subject to availability/whether they want you.
(edited 2 years ago)
Original post by OxMus
The most renowned composers currently in Oxford are Robert Saxton (Worcester, leaving shortly) John Traill (St. Anne's) and Martyn Harry (St. Anne's, St. Hilda's), and there are plenty of others.

For a moderate amount of choral singing, avoid the choral foundations (Christ Church, Magdalen and New). Queen's and Merton are the best mixed-voice college choirs in Oxford and sing 3 services/week. Worcester, Somerville, Exeter et al. are fine; avoid Trinity, Lincoln, St. Edmund's, Brasenose and St. John's. When (if) you get to Oxford, consider auditioning for Schola Cantorum in Freshers' Week. There are several a capella groups as well, if you're into that.

I'm not a composer, but I understand that composing at Oxford tends to happen at the university level, rather than the college level: some people who take composition for Prelims (1st year) and finals have tutors from different colleges, and composition competitions (by colleges, the Faculty, OUMS etc.) are open to everyone regardless of college.

You apply for a choral award by filling in this form https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/choral-award-application-form by 1 September and fulfilling the other requirements detailed there. You attend auditions at your chosen college in mid-September. You are then expected to apply through UCAS to the college which offered you a place in their choir. You may be pooled to a different college when (if) you are made an offer; this is one of the ways in which you can sing and study at two different colleges. If you want to, you can try emailing your pooled college to ask to audition there instead, but this is subject to availability/whether they want you.


Can I ask why you suggest not applying to the colleges you mentioned? Is it because they have only a very minimal number of services per week?
Original post by BigK215
Can I ask why you suggest not applying to the colleges you mentioned? Is it because they have only a very minimal number of services per week?

I believe she was just showing which had good composition prospects and which had good mixed choirs. Turns out I'm now going to Magdalen with a choral scholarship - so lots of singing with an all male choir (though a few female altos). They also have a mixed choir that sing once a week for the service, so it's a good compromise.
Original post by SyllinGalanodel
I believe she was just showing which had good composition prospects and which had good mixed choirs. Turns out I'm now going to Magdalen with a choral scholarship - so lots of singing with an all male choir (though a few female altos). They also have a mixed choir that sing once a week for the service, so it's a good compromise.


Can I ask what voice part you'll be singing? I know someone who's going to Magdelen with a choral scholarship too
Original post by BigK215
Can I ask what voice part you'll be singing? I know someone who's going to Magdelen with a choral scholarship too


I'm a tenor! What's their name?
Reply 19
Original post by BigK215
Can I ask why you suggest not applying to the colleges you mentioned? Is it because they have only a very minimal number of services per week?


No, it’s because the choirs aren’t very good.

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