Becoming an organ scholar

Every organ in every church, cathedral or chapel is a different instrument, and opens a new world… If the idea of playing on one of these on a regular basis sounds exciting and your keyboard skills are pretty good, why not consider training towards an organ scholarship?

What is an organ scholar?

An organ scholarship offers unparalleled opportunities to talented organists who wish to develop their skills as a professional musician. Organ scholars will play for services and may have the opportunity to work with and train the choir. An organ scholarship often includes organ lessons and plenty of time to practice on a fine instrument. An organ scholar’s life is a busy one, especially if you are balancing it alongside university or school studies.
Organ stops at Chelmsford Cathedral

Where are organ scholarships available?

You can be an organ scholar at many cathedrals, major parish churches and university chapels, but you often need to apply in very good time – and be organised!

If you’re looking for an organ scholarship, then the RSCM has a very useful directory of where they are available.

I was inspired to start learning the organ because it can create such an amazing variety of sounds and colours. As a chorister, I was lucky enough to hear the cathedral musicians play the organ almost every day, and once I’d started to have lessons with Sarah MacDonald, I quickly became hooked!

Miriam Reveley, Sixth Form Organ Scholar at Ely Cathedral

Organ scholar Miriam Reveley

Life as an organ scholar

Viraj, who was an Organ Scholar at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, explores what the role involves and explains some of the benefits of being an Organ Scholar.

He also discusses the application and audition process and offers some practical advice.

Support and resources

An excellent series of videos produced by Oundle for Organists and the Royal College of Organists helps potential organ scholars prepare for auditions.

There are also courses you can attend, usually in the holidays, such as the Oundle for Organists Summer School, which takes place in July.

The Young Organ Scholars Trust offers support for organ lessons for talented young people whose families would not otherwise be able to afford them.