Royal College of Music

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Royal College of Music
Royal College of Music Logo (correctly spaced).svg
Type Public
Established1882;140 years ago (1882)
Endowment £49.3 million (2021) [1]
Budget £28.9 million (2020-21) [1]
Chairman Guy Black, Baron Black of Brentwood [2]
President Charles, Prince of Wales
Director Colin Lawson
Patron Queen Elizabeth II
Students890 (2019/20) [3]
Undergraduates 440 (2019/20) [3]
Postgraduates 450 (2019/20) [3]
51°29′59″N0°10′37″W / 51.49972°N 0.17694°W / 51.49972; -0.17694 Coordinates: 51°29′59″N0°10′37″W / 51.49972°N 0.17694°W / 51.49972; -0.17694
Affiliations Conservatoires UK
Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music
Universities UK

The Royal College of Music is a conservatoire established by royal charter in 1882, located in South Kensington, London, UK. It offers training from the undergraduate to the doctoral level in all aspects of Western Music including performance, composition, conducting, music theory and history. The RCM also undertakes research, with particular strengths in performance practice and performance science. The college is one of the four conservatories of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and a member of Conservatoires UK. Its buildings are directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall on Prince Consort Road, next to Imperial College and among the museums and cultural centres of Albertopolis.




The college was founded in 1883 to replace the short-lived and unsuccessful National Training School for Music (NTSM). The school was the result of an earlier proposal by the Prince Consort to provide free musical training to winners of scholarships under a nationwide scheme. After many years' delay it was established in 1876, with Arthur Sullivan as its principal. Conservatoires to train young students for a musical career had been set up in major European cities, but in London the long-established Royal Academy of Music had not supplied suitable training for professional musicians: in 1870 it was estimated that fewer than ten per cent of instrumentalists in London orchestras had studied at the academy. [4] The NTSM's aim, summarised in its founding charter, was:

To establish for the United Kingdom such a School of Music as already exists in many of the principal Continental countries, – a School which shall take rank with the Conservatories of Milan, Paris, Vienna, Leipsic, Brussels, and Berlin, – a School which shall do for the musical youth of Great Britain what those Schools are doing for the talented youth of Italy, Austria, France, Germany, and Belgium. [4]

The school was housed in a new building in Kensington Gore, opposite the west side of the Royal Albert Hall. The building was not large, having only 18 practice rooms and no concert hall. In a 2005 study of the NTSM and its replacement by the RCM, David Wright observes that the building is "more suggestive of a young ladies' finishing school than a place for the serious training of professional musicians". [4]

Under Sullivan, a reluctant and ineffectual principal, the NTSM failed to provide a satisfactory alternative to the Royal Academy and, by 1880, a committee of examiners comprising Charles Hallé, Sir Julius Benedict, Sir Michael Costa, Henry Leslie and Otto Goldschmidt reported that the school lacked "executive cohesion". [4] The following year Sullivan resigned and was replaced by John Stainer. In his 2005 study of the NTSM, Wright comments:

Like the RAM at that time, the NTSM simply failed to relate its teaching to professional need and so did not discriminate between the education required to turn out professional instrumentalists/singers and amateur/ social musicians; nor between elementary and advanced teachers. And because its purpose was unclear, so was its provision. [4]

Even before the 1880 report, it had become clear that the NTSM would not fulfil the role of national music conservatoire. As early as 13 July 1878, a meeting was held at Marlborough House, London under the presidency of the Prince of Wales, "for the purpose of taking into consideration the advancement of the art of music and establishing a college of music on a permanent and more extended basis than that of any existing institution". [5] The original plan was to merge the Royal Academy of Music and the National Training School of Music into a single, enhanced organisation. The NTSM agreed, but after prolonged negotiations, the Royal Academy refused to enter into the proposed scheme. [5]

In 1881, with George Grove as a leading instigator and with the support of the Prince of Wales, a draft charter was drawn up for a successor body to the NTSM. The Royal College of Music occupied the premises previously home to the NTSM and opened there on 7 May 1883. Grove was appointed its first director. [6] There were 50 scholars elected by competition and 42 fee-paying students. [7]

Early years

Grove, a close friend of Sullivan, loyally maintained that the new college was a natural evolution from the NTSM. [4] In reality, his aims were radically different from Sullivan's. In his determination that the new institution should succeed as a training ground for orchestral players, Grove had two principal allies: the violinist Henry Holmes and the composer and conductor Charles Villiers Stanford. [4] They believed that a capable college orchestra would not only benefit instrumental students, but would give students of composition the essential chance to experience the sound of their music. [4] The college's first intake of scholarship students included 28 who studied an orchestral instrument. The potential strength of the college orchestra, including fee-paying instrumental students, was 33 violins, five violas, six cellos, one double bass, one flute, one oboe and two horns. [4] Grove appointed 12 professors of orchestral instruments, in addition to distinguished teachers in other musical disciplines including Jenny Lind (singing), Hubert Parry (composition), Ernst Pauer (piano), Arabella Goddard (piano) and Walter Parratt (organ). [6]

Front facade of the Royal College of Music Royal College of Music - April 2007.jpg
Front façade of the Royal College of Music

The old premises proved restrictive and a new building was commissioned in the early 1890s on a new site in Prince Consort Road, South Kensington. The building was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield in Flemish Mannerist style in red brick dressed with buff-coloured Welden stone. [8] Construction began in 1892 and the building opened in May 1894. [9] The building was largely paid for by two large donations from Samson Fox, a Yorkshire industrialist, whose statue, along with that of the Prince of Wales, stands in the entrance hall. [10]

Grove retired at the end of 1894 and was succeeded as director by Hubert Parry. [11]

Later history

Parry died in 1918 and was succeeded as director by Sir Hugh Allen (1919–37), Sir George Dyson (1938–52), Sir Ernest Bullock (1953–59), Sir Keith Falkner (1960–74), Sir David Willcocks (1974–84), Michael Gough Matthews(1985–93), Dame Janet Ritterman (1993–2005) and Colin Lawson (2005–). [12]

In addition to the college's permanent staff, faculty members at 2012 included well-known musicians such as Dmitri Alexeev, Barry Douglas, Håkan Hardenberger, John Lill, Colin Matthews, Sir Roger Norrington, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Roger Vignoles and principals of the major London orchestras including the London Symphony, BBC Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. [13]

Since its founding in 1882, the college has been linked with the British royal family. Its patron is currently Queen Elizabeth II. For 40 years Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was president; in 1993 the Prince of Wales became president. [14]

A hall of residence serving 170 students was opened in 1994 in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush. [15]

The college is a registered charity under English law. [16]


The college teaches all aspects of Western classical music from undergraduate to doctoral level. There is a junior department, where 300 children aged 8 to 18 are educated on Saturdays. [17]


Since August 2011, RCM has been collaborating with Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore, offering a Bachelor of Music (Hons) Degree jointly conferred by both institutions. [18]

Performance venues

The RCM's main concert venue is the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall: a 468-seat barrel-vaulted concert hall designed by Blomfield, built in 1901 and extensively restored in 2008–09. The Britten Theatre, which seats 400, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986 and is used for opera, ballet, music and theatre. There is also a 150-seat recital hall dating from 1965, as well as several smaller recital rooms, including three organ-equipped Parry Rooms.

The Royal College of Music Museum

Alfred Schnittke by Reginald Gray Schnittke by Reginald Gray DSC00520.JPG
Alfred Schnittke by Reginald Gray

The Royal College of Music Museum, forming part of the centre for performance history, houses a collection of more than 800 musical instruments and accessories from circa 1480 to the present. Included in the collection is a clavicytherium that is the world's oldest surviving keyboard instrument. The museum's displays include musical instruments, portraits, sculptures, photographs and engravings related to music. Admission is free. [19]

Owing partly to the vision of its founders, particularly Grove, the RCM holds significant research collections of material dating from the fifteenth century onwards. These include autographs such as Haydn's String Quartet Op. 64/1, Mozart's Piano Concerto K491 and Elgar's Cello Concerto. More extensive collections feature the music of Herbert Howells, Frank Bridge and Malcolm Arnold and film scores by Stanley Myers. Among more than 300 original portraits are John Cawse's 1826 painting of Weber (the last of the composer), Haydn by Thomas Hardy (1791) and Bartolommeo Nazari's painting of Farinelli at the height of his fame. A recent addition to the collection is a portrait of the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke by Reginald Gray.

10,000 prints and photographs constitute the most substantial archive of images of musicians in the UK. The RCM's 600,000 concert programmes document concert life from 1730 to the present day.

Early RCM pupils included (clockwise from top left) Coleridge-Taylor, Holst, Vaughan Williams and Ireland CT-Holst-RVW-Ireland.jpg
Early RCM pupils included (clockwise from top left) Coleridge-Taylor, Holst, Vaughan Williams and Ireland

Alumni and faculty

Since opening in 1882, the college has had a distinguished list of teachers and alumni, including most of the composers who brought about the "English Musical Renaissance" of the 19th and 20th centuries. Students in the time of Stanford and Parry included Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and John Ireland. [20] Later alumni include Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, Malinee Peris, Colin Davis, Olga Jegunova, Vasco Dantas, Gwyneth Jones, Rowland Lee, Neville Marriner, Hugh McLean, Gervase de Peyer, Madeleine Mitchell, Trevor Pinnock, Anna Russell, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Julian Lloyd Webber, David Helfgott, James Horner, Jacob Mühlrad, Isyana Sarasvati, Sir Reginald Thatcher, Gillian Weir, and the guitarist John Williams.

Directors of the RCM


Awards include ARCM (Associate), LRCM (Licentiate) and FRCM (Fellow).

Each year the Royal College of Music bestows a number of honorary degrees, memberships and fellowships on individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to life at the RCM and the wider musical community. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Hubert Parry British composer, teacher and historian (1848–1918)

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1st Baronet was an English composer, teacher and historian of music. Born in Richmond Hill in Bournemouth, Parry's first major works appeared in 1880. As a composer he is best known for the choral song "Jerusalem", his 1902 setting for the coronation anthem "I was glad", the choral and orchestral ode Blest Pair of Sirens, and the hymn tune "Repton", which sets the words "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind". His orchestral works include five symphonies and a set of Symphonic Variations. He also composed the music for Ode to Newfoundland, the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial anthem.

Walford Davies British composer (1869-1941)

Sir Henry Walford Davies was an English composer, organist, conductor and educator who held the title Master of the King's Music from 1934 until 1941.

Charles Villiers Stanford Irish composer, music teacher, and conductor

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George Grove

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Royal Northern College of Music

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Classical music of the United Kingdom

Classical music of the United Kingdom is taken in this article to mean classical music in the sense elsewhere defined, of formally composed and written music of chamber, concert and church type as distinct from popular, traditional, or folk music. The term in this sense emerged in the early 19th century, not long after the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland came into existence in 1801. Composed music in these islands can be traced in musical notation back to the 13th century, with earlier origins. It has never existed in isolation from European music, but has often developed in distinctively insular ways within an international framework. Inheriting the European classical forms of the 18th century, patronage and the academy and university establishment of musical performance and training in the United Kingdom during the 19th century saw a great expansion. Similar developments occurred in the other expanding states of Europe and their empires. Within this international growth the traditions of composition and performance centred in the United Kingdom, including the various cultural strands drawn from its different provinces, have continued to evolve in distinctive ways through the work of many famous composers.

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English Musical Renaissance

The English Musical Renaissance was a hypothetical development in the late 19th and early 20th century, when British composers, often those lecturing or trained at the Royal College of Music, were said to have freed themselves from foreign musical influences, to have begun writing in a distinctively national idiom, and to have equalled the achievement of composers in mainland Europe. The idea gained considerable currency at the time, with support from prominent music critics, but from the latter part of the 20th century has been less widely propounded.

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Marmaduke Barton FRCM was an English pianist, composer and teacher at the Royal College of Music for almost 50 years.

<i>Blest Pair of Sirens</i> Choral composition by Hubert Parry

Blest Pair of Sirens is a short work for choir and orchestra by the English composer Hubert Parry, setting John Milton's ode At a solemn Musick. It was first performed at St James's Hall, London on 17 May 1887, conducted by its dedicatee, Charles Villiers Stanford. The piece is about 11 minutes in duration.

Kendall Taylor British pianist

Edgar Kendall Taylor CBE, FRCM, Hon FRAM was a British pianist, who had an international career as a solo concert pianist. In the United Kingdom, he was well known for his concerts, which were broadcast on the BBC. He was also known for his recitals and broadcasts to the troops during World War II through the Entertainments National Service Association. He also had a career as a teacher and pedagogue.

This is a summary of 1903 in music in the United Kingdom.


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  3. 1 2 3 "Where do HE students study?". Higher Education Statistics Agency . Retrieved 1 March 2020.
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  8. "State opening of the Royal College of Music", Musical Times, 35 (1 June 1894:390); the style was reported as "Renaissance, freely treated"
  9. The date 1892 on a tablet in the peak of the central pavilion. The formal opening was in May 1894.
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  12. "Royal College of Music: Director", AIM 25, accessed 6 January 2012
  13. "Faculties", Royal College of Music prospectus 2012, accessed 6 January 2012
  14. "History of the RCM", Royal College of Music, accessed 6 January 2012
  15. "RCM - Hall of residence". RCM. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  16. "Royal College of Music, registered charity no. 309268". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  17. "Royal College of Music, Junior Department". Archived from the original on 28 December 2009. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  18. "RCM-NAFA degree programme". RCM Website. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  19. "RCM Museum of Music". Royal College of Music. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
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  21. "Honours and Fellowships | Royal College of Music". Retrieved 23 October 2021.