Are you keen to blend your GCSE and A level studies with your goals as a professional artist? If you’re a budding musician or a parent with a vocally talented child seeking an educational establishment that’ll harness their potential early, it’s important to know the best schools for music and singing.
We’re lucky to have some of the best music schools in the UK, combining academics with performance. But what is the best school for singing? This will depend on your musical genre, so it’s a case of finding the right match for you, as well as somewhere nearby.
In this article, we’ll list the top ranking and most respected schools in the country, with guidance as to which might best suit you, or your child.
What is the best school for singing?
Singing is good for the body and soul – and it also has the potential to earn the individual a decent living. But starting early and starting well is all-important, especially in an industry where artist are being discovered at younger and younger ages. We know that music in education is immensely valuable for cognitive development. So finding a place that will value this as much as you do, is important.
Specialist music schools in the UK
With mainstream state schools reducing their musical offer – a relatively recent and disheartening change due to the removal of much funding – actively seeking out musical input is more important than ever. Fortunately, there are plenty of schools catering to those showing talent and passion at a young age. These programmes and designed to take into account the need to balance academic achievement with the pursuit of an artistic subject – in this case, singing.
How do I choose a music school?
There are a few questions to ask before you apply to any of the schools on our list…
- Am I willing to travel, or do I need to search close by?
- What age does the school cater for? Some are just for juniors, or purely for teens.
- Is it a good style and genre fit? Many specialise in types of music, like classical, choral, musical theatre, pop, rock and jazz.
- Do I (or does my child) meet the entry and audition requirements?
- Does the school offer the right balance of academic and creative subjects?
- Can I afford it (if it’s a fee paying school)?
- Are there scholarships on offer? (if you can’t afford it and it’s a fee paying school)
The Best Music Schools in the UK
Let’s take a look at some of the nation’s highest regarding establishments for children and teenagers.
The Purcell School for Young Musicians
Britain’s oldest music school caters to those aged 10 to 18 and is found in Bushey, Hertfordshire. It takes around 180 pupils at any one time – instrumentalists and composers, as well as vocalists. While it is a fee paying school, entry is based on ability as it is backed by the Government’s Music and Dance Scheme and has its own bursaries to award. The Purcell School offers both boarding and day places. It does have more of an emphasis on classical singing and provides small group academic lessons.
Fancy going to a school with its own radio station, four professional, purpose-built, digital 16-track recording studios, and a fully equipped MIDI composition/editing suite with a Dolby digital surround sound system? Hurtwood House is a boarding sixth form meets pre-university college, giving it a most unusual vibe. It runs Project YouTube, allowing students access to a channel with over 50,000 subscribers.
This independent boarding school is all about harnessing creativity in a liberal and progressive environment. Located in 120 acres of South Downs National Park in Hampshire, Bedales is on our list due to the abundance of opportunities to take part in concerts (both at the school and on tours abroad) it offers. Its Annual Rock Show is spectacular is especially important – Pete Townshend once performed at it and offered the school use of his entire crew and equipment for the show.
Beacon High School
While many specialist music schools are private, there are standard state schools with excellent opportunities too. The Beacon High School is one of eight in the London area, part of the Music in Secondary Schools Trust (MiSST); the Andrew Lloyd Webber programme. It offers bespoke music tuition (including singing) to young people
Academy of Music and Sound
One for those aged 16 plus, this is a further education provider. RSL Level 3 can be studied, with a specialism in vocals. The course is fully funded and accredited by OfQual and DfES, making it the equivalent to three A-levels. This is available at the Academy of Music and Sound’s Exeter and Gateshead centres. The course has been created by industry professionals, alongside educational specialists. Lewis Capaldi was once a record label apprentice at the Edinburgh centre back in 2016!
City of Edinburgh Music School
A state-maintained school, there are no fees for the pupils here. As such, it is the only one of its kind in Europe. The City of Edinburgh Music School covers both primary and secondary ages, running in association with the Flora Stevenson Primary and Broughton High schools. Teachers here have specialisms in classical, rock, jazz and traditional Scottish music. Singers, songwriters and instrumentalists give lectures on the music industry, ensuring the school is always keeping up with the business’ trends. Auditions follow two stages, the latter taken by a panel of experienced and renowned musicians.
If you’re based in Scotland, willing to pay fees and happy with a slightly more classical approach, also check out St Mary’s Musical School in the capital. Its vocal faculty is highly respected.
What is the best performing arts school in the UK?
If you fancy the ‘kids from Fame’ type of experience, you should choose a performing arts school. These will encompass all elements of performance and you’ll be mixing with aspiring actors and dancers, alongside singers. Whether you want to end up in pop music, musical theatre, or working on cruise ships, these are some of the best places to starts.
This is the frontrunner for aspiring pop and indie artists. Freya Ridings, Kate Nash, Katie Melua, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, Jessie J and Dane Bowers all attended the BRIT School. It’s based in Croydon and takes pupils from age 14 or 16. It offers the RSL Level 2 Certificate in Performance/Technology and Composition for Music Practitioners, equivalent to 1 GCSE 9-4, alongside core academic subjects, humanities, arts and languages. Students are expected to be heavily involved in extra-curricular musical activities and to be proactive in creating opportunities for themselves and each other.
The school is free to attend, but this does mean that competition is fierce.
LIPA Sixth Form College (LSFC)
If you’re in the north-west and want to take a further education diploma with a performance pathway at one of the country’s highest-rated sixth form colleges, look no further than LIPA. The college has been inspired by the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and has its own studio. Masterclasses are held by seasoned pros, including the likes of Will Young, Nile Rodgers and Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne. Those auditioning must sing a two to three minute original or cover song, with live or accompanied backing. There’s also a musical theatre pathway, for those wishing to combine singing with acting.
Southampton Arts Academy
Founded by freelance music teachers Dr Hadisi and Mrs Salimi (previous students of Music and Arts Faculties, University of Cambridge and Southampton), this school has been running for 12 years. Professional artists and musicians with experience of teaching in local schools, colleges and at Southampton University, run the sessions here. But Southampton Arts Academy is not a traditional school setup. Rather, it runs sessions and courses (and has its very one recording studios on site). In addition to its music range, you can take GCSEs and A Levels in maths, English and languages.
In addition to its fully fledged higher education faculty, Italia Conti has been a long-running secondary school with a stellar musical theatre reputation. Having its own agency, landing students work has provided alumni with some incredible opportunities. However, the secondary department closes its doors at the end of July 2021, so if you were considering it, you’ll now need to look elsewhere.
What is the most prestigious music school?
The UK has a strong tradition of choral music. Choir schools are attached to cathedrals and college chapels and many are highly esteemed, with tough competition to get in. There are 44 of these types of schools in the UK. While it may not be an obvious route into a pop career, many ex-choristers (from specialist schools and standard church choirs), have become big in the music industry. This includes Ed Sheeran, Avril Lavigne, Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Diana Ross and Katy Perry.
Chetham’s School of Music
From year 9, children can study as principal singers here at Chetham’s School of Music. Prior to this, pupils are choristers (those aged 8 to 13 can consider becoming choristers at Manchester Cathedral), second study singers or ensemble vocalists. Concerts and choral work is what’s on offer, so it’s formal and won’t suit everyone. However, universal skills such as harmony, sight reading and performance are instilled and the school has an excellent reputation.
Exeter Cathedral School
If your child is far younger – nursery, pre prep or pre age – a cathedral school can be a charming way to get then involved in singing. Exeter Cathedral School date snack to the 12th century, providing boarding and day places. Class sizes are small and there is a wealth of extra-curricular activities. 38 boys and girls from the school of around 275 make up the chorister ‘team’, who sing at around eight services per week.
Auditions take place in the form of voice trials and successful applicants are trained to a professional standard. There are some vocal scholarships available, making it possible for your child to enjoy a perhaps higher quality of pre schooling than they would be able to otherwise.
King’s College School
Your son may get the chance to sing with the world famous Choir of King’s College Cambridge, if they are enrolled as a chorister at the King’s College School. They perform in many concerts and broadcasts, and makes their own recordings, with additional trips to perform overseas. This is one to consider if kudos is high on your list.
Early years experiences and school days do much to shape who we become later in life. So making a good choice can really set the individual up for success and open plenty of doors along the way. We hope one or several of the schools on our list has got you excited about your own educational and vocational possibilities.
- Where can I study music in the UK?
If you’re over 18, you can study in a higher education setting. This can be via a uni course, or a music college offering diplomas and short courses. Topics of study range from all aspects of music production, to writing, instrumental and vocal. Many also cover the business side of the industry.
- What do music schools look for?
Most will have some kind of audition process. The panel will be looking for raw talent, and in some cases, technical ability. Entry requirement varies according to the type of establishment. More performing arts-based schools may also want to see some acting and dancing ability.
- What are the top 10 schools in the UK?
To find out which schools are consistently the highest performing, keep an eye on the league tables. These include a median of exam results. But it’s not always about how high performing a school is. It’s worth researching and learning by word of mouth, which have the best reputation for wellbeing.
Do you go to a school that’s well-known for singing? How do you find the balance of performance and academics? Let us know your experiences and why you enjoy where you are, in the comments below.