Pupil's Success Story

Don't stop the music! My experience of being a music scholar




Playing the piano

Playing the piano

“At my school there is a relatively high expectation of Music Scholars and this can sometimes be quite stressful. However the positives far outweigh the negatives. To start with, there is the kudos of being a Music Scholar. You are looked up to by less experienced musicians and you are considered key in the musical life of the school. Your musical opinion will be given considerable weight.

Deciding whether or not to apply for a Music Scholarship

The most important thing to consider when thinking about applying for a music scholarship is quite simply whether or not you enjoy music. This is because, and I can only speak for myself here, your weeks are ten times busier than anyone else’s. If you feel that you would enjoy doing music every single day, then this is obviously the right thing for you.

The next thing to consider is the level of your playing. For each school there are different levels of competitiveness for a Music Scholarship. In general, I think grade 5 on two instruments is about the level which would be required for entry to a school in year 9. However, many music teachers and directors will say that the grade of your instruments is not of that much importance and to a certain extent this is true because you may not have taken grades but still be at that standard or above

Starting music

I started playing the piano just before my fifth birthday and then began the saxophone in year 3. To begin with the learning was quite slow but I didn’t give up and took my first ABRSM grade (piano grade 1) when I was eight.

Preparing for a music scholarship including pre-auditions

Before my actual audition, I was advised to attend two pre-auditions, two years and one year before the actual audition. I feel that these were good experiences as they prepared me more for the real audition and more importantly enabled me to receive feedback from the Director of Music about my present attainment levels. From this, I could build upon my skills in preparation for the audition.

The audition

Being quite a nervous and shy person, I rather dreaded both the pre-auditions and the audition itself. However the audition was set out in a way such that I had an informal talk with the Director of Music before I performed to the Heads of Music. This enabled me to realise that there was nothing to be afraid of and that I was not, in fact, playing to faceless monsters but to real musicians.

Before the audition I was given a piece of music which I had to learn in half an hour on my first instrument (piano). I then preceded to the concert hall where I performed my 3 chosen pieces, prepared in advance – 2 pieces on piano and 1 on saxophone. This was then followed by a short piece to sight read on my first instrument and after this I performed the piece which I had learned in half an hour. In addition I chose to submit a small folder of basic compositions.

About a week later, I was informed that I had been awarded a Music Scholarship.

Life as a Music Scholar

I had to hit the ground running. There was a high expectation and I had to deliver right from the off. Quite quickly there were auditions for various ensembles. As a music scholar I am expected to be involved in a number of ensembles. In year 9, I was a member of three ensembles – choir, wind band and swing band. However this was expected to grow over the years and now, in year 12, I am involved in six ensembles – the three previously mentioned in addition to the jazz band, senior piano trio and sax quartet. As you can imagine this keeps me pretty busy as there are practices for each of these each week as well as the odd performance.

In year 10, I decided to take up the violin and in just two and half years I have reached grade 5 standard. It was quite difficult to go from a high standard in my other two instruments to almost starting from scratch on the violin but it also been very enjoyable, although it has added to the amount of time which I am expected to spend practicing my various instruments. However it was my choice to add a third instrument, it was not compulsory.

My daily routine as a Music Scholar

Most days begin with the sound of marimbas, no I am not on Caribbean beaches, it is the rude awakening my alarm gives me, at 7 am. I get dressed into my uniform and go down to the dining hall for breakfast with my friends at about 7:15. This is followed by a quick personal music practice (my choice) in the music school for half an hour from 7:40 till 8:10. Next on the agenda is an assembly from 8:15 to 8:40. This is rather like spinach – not particularly enjoyable but probably doing me some good.

The first two periods follow assembly and we clamour back to house after this for a quick respite in the form of break. This allows us to collect the books we need for our next lessons and have a quick snack. There are another two hour-long lessons and then lunch in the dining hall at around 1pm. Having eaten, I make my way to the music school where most days there is a rehearsal for one of the ensembles I am in which will take about an hour. This is followed by either a sports session (twice a week) or two more lessons. Although these are the last lessons, it is far from the end of the day for the average music scholar. Most days after lessons, I have a music lesson on one of my instruments or a music rehearsal. The choir alone (compulsory for Music Scholars) has four practices every week.

In the evening I have prep to complete and supper to eat and once everything is completed, I go to sleep. Although relaxation is sparse compared to non Music Scholars, there are still enough opportunities to relax if you take care to manage your time correctly.


As a music Scholars you are expected to keep improving on your instruments. I was about grade 5 on piano and sax when I started as a music scholar. Since then I have progressed to grade 8 distinction on both of these instruments and hope to achieve grade 5 on the violin this year.

Important things to consider

If you are thinking of working towards a Music Scholarship, I feel that the most important thing are firstly determination and secondly having an enthusiastic teacher because the more that you enjoy the lessons, especially when you are young, the more you will want to improve.

Look at the music departments of various different schools and compare them and think about which would suit you best.

Final word

The work required to become a Music Scholar is hard but the rewards when you are a Music Scholar make it all worthwhile and I am really glad that my parents pushed me to make the most of my talents. As the saying goes “pain is temporary, glory is forever” – the pain lasts for the few months before the audition, the enjoyment of being a Music Scholar lasts for five years.”