Royal College of Music

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 Art 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 Royal College of Music was named the top institution for Performing Arts in the United Kingdom and Europe in the 2017 QS World University Rankings. It was also ranked second across all Performing Arts institutions worldwide.

The prestigious league table places the Royal College of Music as the top institution for Performing Arts in the UK, followed by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Royal Academy of Music.

Royal College of Music
Royal College of Music logo
Former names
National Training School for Music
Endowment£28.8 million[1]
ChairmanGuy Black, Baron Black of Brentwood
PresidentThe Prince of Wales
DirectorColin Lawson
Students810 (2016/17)[2]
Undergraduates420 (2016/17)[2]
Postgraduates390 (2016/17)[2]
51°29′59″N 0°10′37″W / 51.49972°N 0.17694°WCoordinates: 51°29′59″N 0°10′37″W / 51.49972°N 0.17694°W
AffiliationsConservatoires UK
Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music



Royal College of Organists, former headquarters in Kensingon Gore, London
The National Training School for Music building, later home to the Royal College of Music (1883–94) and the Royal College of Organists (1903–91)

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.[3] 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.[3]

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".[3]

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".[3] 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.[3]

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".[4] 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.[4]

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.[5] There were 50 scholars elected by competition and 42 fee-paying students.[6]

Early years

Grove, a close friend of Sullivan, loyally maintained that the new college was a natural evolution from the NTSM.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3] 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).[5]

Royal College of Music - April 2007
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.[7] Construction began in 1892 and the building opened in May 1894.[8] 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.[9]

Grove retired at the end of 1894, and was succeeded as director by Hubert Parry.[10]

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 Mathews (1985–93), Dame Janet Ritterman (1993–2005) and Colin Lawson (2005–).[11]

In addition to the college's permanent staff, faculty members at 2012 included well-known musicians such as Dimitri 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.[12]

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.[13]

A hall of residence serving 170 students was opened in 1994 in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush.[14]

The college is a registered charity under English law.[15]


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.[16]


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.[17]

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

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.[18]

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

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.[19] Later alumni include Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, Malinee Peris, Colin Davis, Olga Jegunova, 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


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.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Royal College of Music. "Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 July 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "2016/17 Students by HE provider, level, mode and domicile" (CSV). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wright, David "The South Kensington Music Schools and the Development of the British Conservatoire in the Late Nineteenth Century", Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Vol. 130, No. 2 (2005), pp. 236–282 (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b "The Proposed College for Music", The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, Vol. 23, No. 467 (January 1882), pp. 17–18 (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b "Royal College of Music", The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, Vol. 24, No. 484 (June 1883), pp. 309–310 (subscription required)
  6. ^ Rainbow, Bernarr and Anthony Kemp. "London – Educational establishments", Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, accessed 4 January 2012 (subscription required)
  7. ^ "State opening of the Royal College of Music", Musical Times, 35 (1 June 1894:390); the style was reported as "Renaissance, freely treated"
  8. ^ The date 1892 on a tablet in the peak of the central pavilion. The formal opening was in May 1894.
  9. ^ "Royal College of Music | British History Online". 22 June 2003. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  10. ^ Young, Percy M. "Grove, Sir George (1820–1900)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, May 2006 accessed 2 November 2010 (subscription required)
  11. ^ "Royal College of Music: Director", AIM 25, accessed 6 January 2012
  12. ^ "Faculties", Royal College of Music prospectus 2012, accessed 6 January 2012
  13. ^ "History of the RCM", Royal College of Music, accessed 6 January 2012
  14. ^ "RCM - Hall of residence". RCM. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  15. ^ Charity Commission. Royal College of Music, registered charity no. 309268.
  16. ^ "Royal College of Music, Junior Department". Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  17. ^ "RCM-NAFA degree programme". RCM Website. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  18. ^ "RCM Museum of Music". Royal College of Music. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  19. ^ Firman, Rosemary. "Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers (1852–1924)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 11 December 2011 (subscription required)
  20. ^ RCM: Honours and Fellowships

External links


The ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) is an examinations board and registered charity based in London, UK, which provides examinations in music at centres around the world. ABRSM is one of four examination boards accredited by Ofqual to award graded exams and diploma qualifications in music within the UK's National Qualifications Framework (along with the London College of Music, Rockschool Ltd and Trinity College London). 'The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music' was established in 1889 and rebranded as ABRSM in 2009. The clarifying strapline "the exam board of the Royal Schools of Music" was introduced in 2012.The Royal Schools referred to in ABRSM's title are:

The Royal Academy of Music

The Royal College of Music

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

The Royal Northern College of MusicMore than 600,000 candidates take ABRSM exams each year in over 93 countries. ABRSM also provides a publishing house for music which produces syllabus booklets, sheet music and exam papers and runs professional development courses and seminars for teachers.

ABRSM is one of the UK's 200 largest charitable organisations ranked by annual expenditure. For the year ended 31 January 2014, income was £42.9 million and expenditure was £39.7 million.

Brian Easdale

Brian Easdale (10 August 1909 – 30 October 1995) was an English composer of operatic, orchestral, choral and film music.

Charlotte Henriette de Rothschild

Charlotte Henriette de Rothschild (born 28 November 1955) is a British soprano specializing in the recital and oratorio repertoire who is a member of the Rothschild banking family of England.

Eric Ericson

Eric Gustaf Ericson (26 October 1918 – 16 February 2013) was a Swedish choral conductor and influential choral teacher.

George Dyson (composer)

Sir George Dyson KCVO (28 May 1883 – 28 September 1964) was an English musician and composer. After studying at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London, and army service in the First World War, he was a schoolmaster and college lecturer. In 1938 he became director of the RCM, the first of its alumni to do so. As director he instituted financial and organisational reforms and steered the college through the difficult days of the Second World War.

As a composer Dyson wrote in a traditional idiom, reflecting the influence of his mentors at the RCM, Hubert Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford. His works were well known during his lifetime but underwent a period of neglect before being revived in the late 20th century.

George Grove

Sir George Grove (13 August 1820 – 28 May 1900) was an English writer on music, known as the founding editor of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Grove was trained as a civil engineer, and successful in that profession, but his love of music drew him into musical administration. When responsible for the regular orchestral concerts at the Crystal Palace, he wrote a series of programme notes from which eventually grew his musical dictionary. His interest in the music of Franz Schubert, which was neglected in England at that point in the nineteenth century, led him and his friend Arthur Sullivan to go to Vienna in search of undiscovered Schubert manuscripts. Their researches led to their discovery of the lost score of Schubert's Rosamunde music, several of his symphonies and other music in 1867, leading to a revival of interest in Schubert's work.

Grove was the first director of the Royal College of Music, from its foundation in 1883 until his retirement in 1894. He recruited leading musicians including Hubert Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford as members of the College faculty and established a close working relationship with London's older conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music.

In addition to his musical work, Grove had a deep and scholarly knowledge of the Bible. He contributed to the English literature on the subject, including a concordance in 1854 and about a thousand pages of Sir William Smith's 1863 Bible Dictionary. He was a co-founder of the Palestine Exploration Fund.

Gordon Jacob

Gordon Percival Septimus Jacob CBE (5 July 1895 – 8 June 1984) was an English composer and teacher. He was a professor at the Royal College of Music in London from 1924 until his retirement in 1966, and published four books and many articles about music. As a composer he was prolific: the list of his works totals more than 700, mostly compositions of his own, but a substantial minority of orchestrations and arrangements of other composers' works. Those whose music he orchestrated range from William Byrd to Edward Elgar to Noël Coward.

Herbert Howells

Herbert Norman Howells (17 October 1892 – 23 February 1983) was an English composer, organist, and teacher, most famous for his large output of Anglican church music.

John Williams (guitarist)

John Christopher Williams, OBE (born 24 April 1941) is an Australian virtuosic classical guitarist renowned for his ensemble playing as well as his interpretation and promotion of the modern classical guitar repertoire. In 1973, he shared a Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music Performance category with fellow guitarist Julian Bream for Julian and John (Works by Lawes, Carulli, Albéniz, Granados). Guitar historian Graham Wade has said: "John is perhaps the most technically accomplished guitarist the world has seen."

Leopold David de Rothschild

Leopold David de Rothschild, CBE, FRCM (12 May 1927 – 19 April 2012) was a British financier, musician, and a member of the Rothschild banking family of England.Leopold David was the fourth and youngest child and second son of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1882–1942) and Marie Louise Eugénie Beer (1892–1975). From childhood he had a fondness for music and became an accomplished pianist and violinist. As a vocalist, he sang with The Bach Choir of London for many years and would later serve as its president. While in his teens, he joined the Royal Navy, serving for two years. He went to work at Kuhn, Loeb & Co., as well as at Morgan Stanley and Glyn, Mills & Co. before becoming a partner at his family's N M Rothschild & Sons in 1956.While he had a long and successful career in banking, his love of music and the arts played an important role in his life. He was an honorary member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, among his many involvements, Leopold de Rothschild served as:

Music Advisory Committee of the British Council — Chairman

English Chamber Orchestra — President

Glyndebourne Arts Trust — Trustee

Jewish Music Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London — Co-President

Royal College of Music — Council Chairman and Independent adviser

Voices Foundation — founding member, and a member of the Consultative Council

Countess of Munster Musical Trust — Chairman

Wendover Choral Society; President from May 2009

Trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry [Science Museum], London and the National Railway Museum, York

Tring Park School for the Performing Arts — PresidentAmong his philanthropic works, through his "Leopold de Rothschild Charitable Trust" he contributed to numerous charities, including the St John's Hospice for the terminally ill. In addition, his Charitable Trust provides support to the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, the Rambert Dance Company, and provides scholarships for students to study at the Royal College of Music of which he was a Fellow (FRCM) and past Council Chairman.

Léon Goossens

Léon Jean Goossens, CBE, FRCM (12 June 1897 – 13 February 1988) was a British oboist.

He was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, and studied at the Royal College of Music. His father was violinist and conductor Eugène Goossens, his brother the conductor and composer Eugene Aynsley Goossens and his sisters the harpists Marie and Sidonie Goossens.

During the early and middle parts of the 20th century, he was considered among the premier oboists in the world. He joined the Queen's Hall Orchestra (conducted by Henry Wood) at the age of 15 and was later (1932) engaged by Sir Thomas Beecham for the newly founded London Philharmonic Orchestra, but he also enjoyed a rich solo and chamber-music career. He became famous for a uniquely pleasing sound no other oboist could match. Oboists of the past had tended to be divided between the French school (elegant but thin and reedy in tone) and the German (full and rounded but rather clumsy, with little or no vibrato), but Goossens brought together the best qualities of both styles.

Goossens commissioned a number of works for the oboe from such distinguished composers as Sir Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Rutland Boughton and collaborated extensively with other prominent soloists such as Yehudi Menuhin. Amongst his many pupils were the oboists Evelyn Barbirolli, Joy Boughton, daughter of Rutland Boughton and Peter Graeme, oboist of the Melos Ensemble.He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1950 and made a Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 1962.

Michael Moran (music producer)

Michael "Mike" Moran (born 4 March 1948 Leeds, West Yorkshire, England) is a keyboard musician, songwriter and record producer.

Music of Gibraltar

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory with many musical influences. Rock based music is undergoing a renaissance with a multitude of local bands playing original material and covers. Local venues have begun accepting Gibraltarian bands and those from nearby Spain, resulting in a varied mix of live performances every weekend as well as some weekday nights.

Musicians from Gibraltar include Charles Ramirez, the first guitarist invited to play with the Royal College of Music Orchestra, and successful rock bands like Breed 77, Melon Diesel and Taxi.

The best known Gibraltarian musician is Albert Hammond, who has had top 10 hits in the UK & US, and has written many songs for international artists such as Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Julio Iglesias among many others.

Concerts in Gibraltar by well known international acts have recently given local acts a showcase for original material in their supporting roles. These include Surianne supporting Suzanne Vega, Sarah Howard supporting Steve Hogarth, Jetstream supporting Ali Campbell and Jessie J and SuperWookie supporting Marillion at the annual Gibraltar Music Festival.

Neville Marriner

Sir Neville Marriner, (15 April 1924 – 2 October 2016) was an English violinist who became "one of the world's greatest conductors". He founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and his partnership with them is the most recorded of any orchestra and conductor.

Paul Esswood

Paul Lawrence Vincent Esswood (born 6 June 1942) is an English countertenor and conductor. He is best known for his performance of Bach cantatas and the operas of Handel and Monteverdi. Along with his countrymen Alfred Deller and James Bowman, he led the revival of countertenor singing in modern times.

Richard Bonynge

Richard Alan Bonynge ( BON-ing) (born 29 September 1930) is an Australian conductor and pianist. He is the widower of Australian dramatic coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland. Bonynge conducted virtually all of Sutherland's operatic performances from 1962 until her retirement in 1990.

Robin Blaze

Robin Blaze (born 1971 in Manchester) is an English countertenor.

Royal College of Music, Stockholm

The Royal College of Music, Stockholm (Swedish: Kungliga Musikhögskolan i Stockholm) is the oldest institution of higher education in music in Sweden, founded in 1771 as the conservatory of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. The conservatory was made independent of the Academy in 1971.

Thomas Allen (baritone)

Sir Thomas Boaz Allen (born 10 September 1944) is an English operatic baritone. He is widely admired in the opera world for his voice, the versatility of his repertoire, and his acting—leading many to regard him as one of the best lyric baritones of the late 20th century. In October 2011, he was appointed Chancellor of Durham University, succeeding Bill Bryson.


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