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, sometimes taking morning rehearsals at St John’s College School, conducting 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.  A candidate should also have an enthusiasm for choir training and for enabling the boys and men to perform at a high technical and musical level.  

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

Organ Scholars also receive free Singing Lessons with the College's Vocal Consultant, David Lowe. 

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 current 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 new Junior Organ Scholar James Anderson-Besant, taken as he began his time here at St John's:

We currently have Organ Scholar vacancies for 2019 and 2020 entry.

Step-by-Step guide for application to St John's for entry 2019

  • By 1 September 2018: Deadline for Organ Award Applications (late applications will not be considered). Applicants must submit a COPA (Cambridge Online Peliminary Application), as well as an academic and musical reference. A full guide on how to apply is available here.
  • 16-19 September 2018: Attend University Organ Trials. This includes an academic interview. The musical audition will involve several different tests, details of which are available here. 
  • September/October 2018: Applicants will receive the decision of both the Organ Trials and the academic interviews.
  • By 15 October 2018: Submit your UCAS Application. If you are unsucessful 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 or December).

Further information about Cambridge Organ Scholarships can be found on the University Organ Awards pages.​To find out more about being a Organ Scholar and any musical aspect of your application, email Andrew Nethsingha or you can call the Choir Office on 01223 338718.  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
25 November 2018

This week's webcast is our own recording of the Advent Carol Service, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on December 2nd.

The service includes a selection of readings, prayers and music for the season of Advent.

Latest news

The Choir processing in to St John’s College Chapel

The Choir’s Advent Carol Service – as well as the Choir’s latest release, Advent Live – featured on BBC Radio 3 this weekend

Choral singing comes no better

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer