Meet some organ scholars

We have been speaking to some organ scholars in cathedrals and universities in the UK. Read their stories here.

Meet Philip

Philip was an organ scholar at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and went on to become an airline pilot!

I fell in love with the sound of the mighty pipe organ around the age of 5 when my parents took me to hear Ian Tracey at the helm of the legendary Willis at Liverpool Cathedral. My heart was set then on pursuing this career, so I became a chorister, a local church organist and eventually organ scholar of Corpus Christi, Cambridge. I’d set my sights on that path early in my teens though my academic progress at that time did not scream out Oxbridge to my teachers! However, I worked harder than I have ever worked before to get my playing up to the required standard and to achieve the A-level results that I needed.

Once at Cambridge, the college presented me with a wealth of opportunities that would carry forth into my professional life. I had been most attracted to Corpus by the fact that there was, at the time, no Director of Music on the staff. This meant that the organ scholars really held responsibility for all music in the chapel and often beyond. I was required to play the organ, direct the choirs and – crucially – manage all this while pursuing a degree course. This proved to be the ideal preparation for me to be a cathedral organist, going on to Winchester initially and then to Southwell as Assistant Director of Music.

Towards the end of my time in Southwell I got an inkling that maybe there might be something else I might like to have a go at in life and, through a curious turn of events, I found myself a couple of years later at the controls of a British Airways Airbus A320. Not a classic career path, you might think, but I am aware of a number of organists around the world who have pursued flying both privately and professionally. I think that many of the skills, not just of coordination and attention to detail, that I gleaned from my upbringing as a chorister and later organ scholar manifest themselves very well on the flight deck of an airliner. It is a venture that is all about successful teamwork, organisation, staying calm under pressure and, most of all, professionalism that for me was certainly shaped by those early days in the choir stalls.

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