Becoming an Organ Scholar

St John’s has two Organ Scholars at any one time. Their duties are both to accompany the College Choir and to assist in the training of the Choristers. Organ Scholars will sometimes taking morning rehearsals at St John’s College School and conduct services from time to time.

A candidate for the Organ Scholarship should have a solid organ technique, good sight-reading, and the ability to improvise musically. They should also have an enthusiasm for choir training and for enabling the boys and men to perform at a high technical and musical level.  

Organ Scholars can study all subjects at St John's with the exception of Architecture, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine.

The College encourages the performance of new repertoire and there is a fund available for the purchase of organ music. The College’s commitment to new music means that Organ Scholars have the opportunity to give first performances of new works by leading composers.

The Chapel organ was built by the British firm N.P. Mander Ltd in 1994, using the cases designed by J. Oldrid Scott in 1889. It has four manuals and pedal and is well equipped with a palette of colours - including a trompeta real - to accompany the Choir in daily sung services and to perform a broad range of repertoire. You can find a full specification here.

Organ Scholarships are open to both men and women. The College pays for organ and improvisation lessons and substantial performance fees are paid for the many ‘extra’ services and concerts which are undertaken by the Choir. Organ Scholars also benefit from playing continuo with professional orchestras and ensembles.  Funds are also available to support Organ Scholars working towards their ARCO and FRCO examinations.

Most former Organ Scholars have gone on to pursue high profile musical careers - Stephen Cleobury, John Scott, David Hill, Andrew Lumsden, Adrian Lucas and Iain Farrington, as well as former Director of Music Andrew Nethsingha, were all Organ Scholars at St John’s.  A full list of former Organ Scholars can be found on the Choir’s website.

Here's a short feature of our former Organ Scholar James Anderson-Besant, taken as he began his time here at St John's:

How to apply for an Organ Scholarship

Our next vacancy will be for entry in 2025.

OPEN DAYS: the next events are expected in early March 2024 (to be confirmed)

Late July/Early August 2023:  Organ Scholarship Applications open
1 September 2023: Submit online application and transcript

11 September 2023: Send references to first-choice college
20-23 September 2023: University Organ Trials
16 October 2023: Deadline to submit your UCAS Application


by 1 September 2023 (late applications will not be considered).

Applicants must submit a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application, including an academic and musical reference. A full guide on how to apply for an Organ Scholarship is available here.

How to apply for an Organ Scholarship


20-23 September 2023

The Trials consist of organ playing auditions, academic interviews and a range of musical tests. Information about the Organ Trials and auditions can be found below. Applicants will receive the decision of both the Organ Trials and academic interviews in late September/early October.

Information about the Organ Trials Information about the Auditions


by 16 October 2023

In order to apply to Cambridge, you must submit a UCAS application by 16 October. More information about how to submit your UCAS Application is available here.

How to submit your UCAS Application

If you are unsuccessful in securing an Organ Scholarship place, you may wish to either withdraw your application or continue as a standard applicant (you may be asked to return to Cambridge for an academic interview in late November of December).

Further information about Cambridge Organ Scholarships can be found on the University Organ Scholarships pages.


Contact Us

To learn more about being an Organ Scholar and any musical aspect of your application:

Email our Director of Music, Christopher Gray, at
Call the Choir Office on 01223 338178

We can also arrange for prospective Organ Scholars to meet our Admissions Tutor to discuss which subjects you might wish to study.

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Latest webcast

Recorded on
9 March 2024


A Meditation on the Passion of Christ is a service of music and readings reflecting on the Passion of Christ. This year the service features music by Byrd, Purcell, Weelkes and MacMillan, as well as the final piece of a triptych of works written for the choir by Joanna Marsh.

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