Frequently asked questions

Am I good enough?

Without hearing you play, we can’t answer that for you. The only way to find out is to come and play for us.

If you wish to have advice on whether or not you should apply, we can arrange for you to have an Advice Audition with one of our instrumental tutors. After the lesson, you will receive advice on whether to apply straight away, or whether to work on certain aspects of your playing to help you audition successfully.

Graded music exams are a useful indicator of your ability, but are not vital to you being accepted for a place. However, for entry into the Sixth Form, Associated Board Grade 5 Theory is desirable.

What are you looking for in the audition?

The audition panel will be looking not only at your current ability on your chosen instrument/s, but your understanding of the music you play, musical creativity and the potential to improve and mature as a musician. Find out more about the application process.

How many instruments can I study?

Although it isn’t a requirement to audition on more than one instrument, we would encourage you to consider taking up a second instrument if offered a place. Most students stop at two instruments, and find that this is more than enough to occupy their time with learning and practicing to a high standard. However, with permission from your Head of Department, it is occasionally possible to take a Third Study instrument. Lessons for this third instrument would have to be paid for as an extra.

Many Chetham’s students do play other instruments besides their main studies, but do not necessarily get lessons. The musical culture of the school gives them the skills to play for their own enjoyment – or to call on friends to help them out.

Can I join the school in Year 11 or Year 13?

As a general rule we don’t accept students into Year 11 or Year 13, as this is half way through the GCSE or A-level programme. However, in exceptional circumstances we may consider it as an option.

Can I apply to the Lower School as a singer?

Voice is normally only accepted as a First Study from Year 9 onwards.

Students in all year groups take part in Choir sessions, with regular performance opportunities for the Lower School Choir and the renowned Chamber Choir. Non-orchestral players regularly sing in Chetham’s Chorus for major end of year concerts.

Chetham’s educates the boy and girl choristers of Manchester Cathedral, who may join the choir between the ages of 8-10 and usually remain as choristers until around the age of 13. Choristers receive first-class musical training from the Cathedral staff and study an additional instrument at Chetham’s, which means that in Year 8, most choristers are ready to successfully re-audition for the School as First-Study instrumentalists or singers. Entry routes and funding for choristers differ from other students; find out more here.

What performance opportunities will I have?

Eight Lunchtime Concerts every week ensure that every student can take the chance to hone their solo recital skills in front of an audience. Regular Performance Classes provide an additional space to perform to fellow students and staff and to gain useful feedback before facing a public audience.

Chamber music is a large part of the music training at Chetham’s and every student plays in at least one chamber group. Every spring term we place a special focus on chamber music, and around 100 chamber ensembles from across the School perform in front of audiences in an epic weekend of music making.

A busy performance programme throughout the year provides regular opportunities for students to perform across the region and further afield, and to apply for regular solo performance opportunities with the School’s larger ensembles. Three times each year, academic teaching stops for Music Course, when the whole school spends a week focusing on performance, and the school’s two orchestras – Chetham’s Sinfonia and Symphony Orchestra – perform in major venues in Manchester and beyond. Music Course performances have taken place as far afield as London, Norway and the Bay of Naples – ensuring that you are likely to leave Chetham’s with an international performance career already behind you!

What if I decide I do not want to be a professional musician?

Although students are drawn to Chetham’s by a passion for music, many go on to study other subjects at university or to other careers in the future. The excellent academic standards at Chetham’s, and the discipline of studying music to a high standard, provide a strong stepping stone for any path in life, and students have progressed both to leading conservatoires and universities to study Law, Medicine, Archaeology, German, Engineering, Mathematics and more.

How can I afford the fees?

Chetham’s is part of the government’s Music and Dance Scheme. This is a means-tested funding scheme run by the Government, which helps to pay for UK resident students to attend specialist music and dance schools. If you are offered a place at Chetham’s your parents will be asked to provide their income details to the Director of Finance who will then calculate what their annual contribution to the fees will be. As a rough guide, if your parents earn less than £20,000 per year they will pay only around £600 a year towards your boarding fees and education. If your parents earn over £190,000 a year then they will be asked to pay full fees. Everyone in between has to contribute on a sliding scale. Find out more about Fees and Financial Assistance.

I am paying University fees and living expenses for another of my children. Can these costs be taken into account?

Payments made by parents to support children at University cannot be taken into account.

What’s it like to be at boarding school?

The House staff at Chetham’s create an atmosphere which really does become a second home for boarders. Through a shared passion for music, most students make friends quickly and enjoy the shopping and cultural life of Manchester on their doorstep.

If you do have any problems, House staff and Personal Tutors are always around, and will be able to help you sort out difficulties with your timetable, with friends or with other tutors. You’ll go home every third weekend, as well as during holidays, and can contact your family at any time outside lessons or rehearsals – so you won’t feel as far away as you might think. On top of that, there are lots of social activities organised for evenings and weekends which means that most of the time, students have a wonderful time living at Chetham’s.

You can find out more about how students feel about life at Chetham’s, and more details about boarding, on our Study at Chetham’s pages.

What is the food like?

Meals are provided by Sodexo. All boarding students receive three meals a day (brunch and dinner on Sundays), plus snacks at breaktime, whilst a meal is offered to all students at lunchtime. The catering team works hard to ensure that students have a wide range of healthy and tasty choices, using fresh food cooked from scratch to create menus which are nutritionally balanced. The team led by the School’s own Head Chef, pride themselves on serving fresh and creative food that inspires, nourishes and maintains the health and wellbeing of students. Find out more.

What about EU students?

EU students are now treated as fee payers. If they do not have settled status in the UK, the School will support students’ visa applications.

What happens to Choristers after the age of 13?

Boy and girl choristers at Manchester Cathedral study at Chetham’s whilst they are choristers, usually between the ages of 8 and 13. Boys whose voices break early may cease to be choristers sooner. All choristers receive their academic education through Chetham’s and also take individual instrumental lessons.  In their final year as choristers, students may audition with Manchester Cathedral to become Choral scholars, performing alongside younger choristers and professional lay clerks; or may audition as singers or instrumental students at Chetham’s following the same process as other students.  If they are offered a place, they should then become eligible for funding through the Music and Dance Scheme.  Places are not guaranteed, but working and studying in the environment of a specialist music school stands choristers in good stead when preparing for audition.

Find out more about becoming a Chorister.

Can I go home at weekends?

Boarding students who live within reasonable travelling distance of Manchester are permitted to go home at the weekends if they wish.  Most weekends, students will have music timetabled on Saturday mornings and will therefore need to leave after 1pm on Saturday, returning in time for registration at 8.30am on Monday.  Approximately every third weekend is a Free Weekend for which Friday’s lessons end slightly early and all students go home to parents or guardians for the whole weekend.  These are sometimes extended to Long Free Weekends, with an additional night spent at home, when they coincide with Bank Holidays or fall within longer school terms.

Permission to go home at weekends is at the discretion of music and pastoral staff.  Boarders who travel home most weekends will still be charged for full boarding fees; students may only be classed as day students or full boarders in terms of funding.

Can you support students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)?

Our Compensatory Education (CompEd) department supports all students with SEND or with English as a Second or Additional Language. Students can be supported at all stages of the application process, and we strongly encourage the families of prospective students to tell us about additional needs before auditioning, so that suitable adjustments may be made if required. Musical audition is the only criterion for entry to Chetham’s, and neither academic ability nor additional support needs will ever compromise an offer of a place based on musical potential.