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Music thrives as an academic subject at Girton

Why choose Music at Girton?

Music thrives as an academic subject at Girton. In a typical year, four students are admitted to read Music (a higher figure than at most other colleges). What is more, the academic results achieved by Girton Music students have been far above the university average for many years. Their distinctions include the following:

  • In 2019 Girton students gained starred Firsts or Firsts in each year of the Tripos examinations; in fact, approximately half the Girton Music students were awarded either starred or ‘ordinary’ Firsts, and no-one received a class mark lower than a strong Upper Second.
  • In 2014 and 2013, 2 Girton students came top of their year; both gained the main University prize for Music.
  • In 2012 Girton achieved Firsts in each year of the Music course, with no class mark lower than a 2:1. Girton was the first college ever to achieve this feat, back in 2002.
  • Also in 2012, Girton students gained the highest marks in both the first-year and second-year Tripos examinations.
  • In 2009 a Girton student gained the highest ever mark in his Finals Recital, and another Girton student gained the highest ever mark in Practical Musicianship;
  • In 2006 Girton students came top in both the M.Phil. in Musicology and the M.Phil. in Composition;
  • In 2005 a Girton student achieved the highest ever First in Music. It’s thought that this achievement has still not been bettered.

Over the last ten years and more, Girton has consistently been among the top handful of colleges in the University for Music.

Girton College is keen to attract a wide range of applicants for Music. Potential students should have a serious interest in studying music within an environment that is primarily academic; however, the profile of individual students admitted to read the subject varies greatly. We have no preference for arts subjects over science subjects (or, indeed, vice versa) at AS or A2 levels; likewise, Girton has no particular views on gap years for Music students – applicants may choose to take a year out or not at their own discretion. Although the study of a foreign language (in particular, French, German or Italian) can be helpful to Music students, it is certainly not obligatory.

Most applicants will have facility on one or more instruments, but they are not expected to be specialist performers. Some undergraduates focus on composition, while others are primarily interested in history, analysis or other aspects of music. It is one of the strengths of the Music Tripos that students can navigate a course through their Cambridge studies that reflects their personal interests. That said, it is a course that is best suited to well-organised students with a strong sense of self-motivation.

At Girton we are looking for potential as much as for past achievement. Clearly, excellent results in public examinations (as well as supportive references) will be viewed positively. However, successful candidates come from extremely different backgrounds and present themselves at interview with very different levels of attainment, although all will be expected to meet Girton’s standard offer in the qualification system under which they are studying. You may be interested to know that many of those who ended up at the top of their class-list arrived at interview with only a rudimentary knowledge of traditional Western harmony. This should not be a cause for any concern, as harmony and counterpoint can be taught from scratch to those who have not covered the ground in their sixth-form work.

Undergraduate Music

  • No. of students admitted per year: 4
  • Entry requirements: All entry requirements are A-Level standard or equivalent, unless otherwise stated. Music (please note that Music Technology is not usually deemed to be an adequate substitute for A level Music), a good musical ear, some facility at the keyboard and some proficiency in harmony and counterpoint. ABRSM Grade 8 Theory (Merit) can be offered as a substitute for A Level Music.
  • Typical offer: A*AA
  • Assessment arrangements: If invited to interview, Girton applicants are required to take an aptitude test, which takes place shortly before the interview. Further information about the test will be released with the invitations to interview.
  • Interview arrangements: Usually two interviews, one general and one subject-specific. In addition, applicants are asked to submit in advance of the interviews a recent essay and examples of recent work in either harmony and counterpoint or composition.

For further information on how we select Music students, please see our Music Admission Guide.

Music undergraduate information

As well as offering highly motivating tuition, Girton provides an exceptionally rich environment for its Music students. No fewer than six senior members, including several figures of international reputation, contribute to its dynamic musical life. Music students are highly valued members of the College community: they are provided with a piano in their room free of charge for all three years of their undergraduate career, and the rooms assigned to them are among the best in the University. Though not required to perform as part of their degree, they often play a leading role in the practical music-making of the College and, as well as being eligible for the music awards available to all students, those reading Music are entitled to generous financial support towards music lessons. Find out more here

In common with other colleges in the University, Girton offers both Choral Scholarships and Organ Scholarships.

Music postgraduate information

Research and postgraduate students are admitted to the University by the Board of Graduate Studies and the individual faculties and departments. If you would like to pursue graduate work, you must therefore apply centrally, and not to the College. However, you must be admitted to a college to be able to study at the University; to ensure that this is Girton, you need to indicate this on your application form.

Career destinations

Girton musicians go on to a wide variety of careers. Many pursue careers outside music, and those who continue with music often take very different paths. Recent graduates have become internationally acclaimed soloists, conductors, musicologists, composers, teachers, investment bankers, lawyers, and much else besides. In fact, the Cambridge music degree is a gateway to all sorts of careers; the rigorous training afforded by the degree is recognised by the University Careers Service as one of the most useful in terms of subsequent employment.