Music in Manchester to Maths at Oxford…

All the students at our school are bonded by a love of music, which makes Chetham’s a truly unique place to learn, live and make connections. But not everyone chooses to pursue a career in music.

Sebastian Higgins scored four A* and one A in his A-Levels and plays the trombone, organ and piano. He now has a place secured at the prestigious University of Oxford to study maths and we’re so proud of his achievements!

We spoke to his mum and member of our PTA, Nikki, about her decision to send her mathematically minded son to a specialist music school…

Why did you choose Chetham’s School of Music for Sebastian?

“Sebastian’s music teacher had a daughter attend Chetham’s, and she has gone on to become a professional oboist. The teacher recommended Sebastian attend the sixth form as he believed Chetham’s would help him to develop as a musician, but also allow him to continue academically at a high level.

“He started by studying maths, further maths, and physics as well as music. He then decided to add chemistry to the mix and the school was happy to accommodate this. He was one of four students who sat maths A-level at the end of year 12 and all achieved A*. They sat further maths in year 13. His days have been extremely full but there is a superb timetabling system and as he boarded at the school there have been no travel times – everything seemed to slot in.

“Initially, my worry was that we had a child who loved music but wasn’t planning on a musical career and the school wouldn’t cater for this. I needn’t have worried as the teaching was excellent and he ended up sitting more A-levels than he would have been able at his previous school. The standard of teaching and the small class sizes mean that lessons are tailored to individuals and each student can really thrive.”

What has your experience been like as a parent?

“My experience has been shaped by taking on a very active role in the PTA. As we live a long way away it might be easy to feel isolated, but being involved with the PTA meant I knew staff and parents. We set up initiatives to make other parents feel more integrated in the school community and it’s now easy to follow your child’s timetable and activities on Stream (an online platform that all parents can access) and to stay in touch with staff. This was hugely beneficial to my experience as a parent as I felt very connected to the school.”

What has been the highlight from Sebastian’s schooling?

“He has formed close friendships with the most talented group of young people I have ever met. The love and respect they have for each other, and for music, is amazing. Chetham’s is a place to find your people and to grow, with the support of passionate and talented staff. It plays out in the most amazing musical performances.”

What are Sebastian’s plans for the future?

“His college at the University of Oxford has fantastic music facilities, so he hopes to continue playing alongside his academic studies. After that, who knows! But I have no doubt he will continue playing music and stay in touch with all his friends from Chetham’s. It’s a family he will always be a part of.”

Why would you recommend Chetham’s to parents of aspiring musicians? Do you have any tips for them?

“Don’t be worried that your child may not be good enough. Come to an open day, chat to the school and audition if you like what you see. We were blown away by the standard, but Sebastian was offered a place despite us worrying he may not be successful. The fees vary depending on family income thanks to the Government’s Music and Dance Scheme. Most of all, the academic side is bespoke for each child – it’s not one size fits all – so they can succeed in many different subjects. I am extremely grateful to our music teacher who suggested Chetham’s for Sebastian. It has led to the best two years and a life-changing experience for our family.”

Photograph of organist Anna Lapwood with students from Chethams at Manchester Cathedral.
Credit Vincent Cole 27 April 2023



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