Workshop for young viola players at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge


Musical life at Fitzwilliam is active, varied and stimulating, and we aspire to the highest standards in both academic and practical music - in 2012 we were ranked at the top of the University for Music Tripos results. Each year we normally admit two or three students to read for the Music Tripos; an Organ Scholar (who may or may not read Music) is elected every other year.


Students reading Music will be taught for certain courses by the resident Director of Studies in Music. Supervisions are held either on a one-to-one basis for subjects requiring individual attention (such as Harmony and Counterpoint), or in groups of two or three where broader discussion is beneficial (History, Analysis, and so forth). These weekly sessions are designed to support and complement the instruction offered by the Music Faculty, which provides a wide range of lectures together with practical classes in Aural and other skills.

The weekly sessions are organised and taught by a team of supervisors appointed by the Director of Studies in Music which may include a mixture of senior faculty members, external supervisors and postgraduates whose area of specialist research is related to the topic or paper being supervised. Appointments are made on the basis of expertise in the particular field requiring tuition. The new College Library contains one of the two largest music collections in Cambridge.

Course structure

For first-year examinations (Part IA of the Music Tripos), students are entered for papers in Harmony and Counterpoint, History, Analysis, and Practical Musicianship. Harmony and Counterpoint exercises comprise harmonisation of a ground bass, continuation of a string quartet, three-part sixteenth-century counterpoint, and a fugal exposition. At present, Harmony and Counterpoint is assessed both by a three-hour examination that requires the student to write stylistically sophisticated exercises without the benefit of a keyboard and another paper in which the student has twenty-four hours to complete and submit the exercises; this enables the use of a keyboard.

First-year Historical topics concentrate on nineteenth-century music history, encompassing both instrumental and vocal repertoire and Renaissance music. Analytical work focuses on Baroque- and Classical-era music. Keyboard tests include score-reading and harmonisation, and the aural examination consists of both dictation exercises and an aural analysis.

In the second year (Part IB), students begin to specialise by choosing a selection of historical topics from the wide range offered.  All candidates sit a compulsory paper in music analysis covering music of the nineteenth, twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and must submit a Portfolio of Tonal compositions containing a fugue in either three or four parts and two contrasting pieces in tonal styles using traditional forms selected from a prescribed list.

For their final examination (Part II), students are allowed considerable latitude in choice of papers.  They may opt to pursue an individual research project in the form of a dissertation, submit a Portfolio of free Compositions or advanced tonal compositions, study the notation of mediaeval and renaissance music in more detail, sit papers in subjects like Acoustics, offer a recital, or undertake various specialised history papers.


The typical A Level offer for Music is A*AA, including Music.  The typical IB offer is 40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level.  In exceptional circumstances, ABRSM Grade 8 Theory may be accepted instead of A Level (or equivalent) Music.

Applicants are required to submit two pieces of recent written work as part of their application.

Successful applicants with a strong interest in traditional chamber music and a high standard of performing ability on an eligible instrument are also eligible to apply for a Chamber Music Instrumental Award tenable at the College, which is awarded on the basis of a university-wide competition held at the beginning of the academic year.

Musical life at Fitzwilliam

Fitzwilliam provides a plethora of opportunities for instrumentalists and singers of all varieties and interests. The College supports yearly residencies (including concerts and master classes) by the Fitzwilliam Quartet, founded in the College in 1968 and now one of the world's leading chamber ensembles. Collaborative performance projects between music students and the Quartet are warmly encouraged.  

The College Music Society organises frequent concerts, which take place in the new 240-seat Auditorium (which has a Steinway grand piano and a two-manual Goble harpsichord), or in the Chapel, where there is a fine two-manual Peter Collins organ and a Bechstein grand piano. The Music Society also hosts the annual instrumental scholarships competitions and all music Scholars, including Choral and Organ Scholars, are members of the Music Society Committee.

Prominent in the College's musical life is the Chapel Choir, which performs both in Chapel services and at other functions. Other Fitzwilliam ensembles include the New Music ensemble CB3, the renowned Fitz Barbershop and Sirens vocal ensembles (men's & women's), the Cambridge University 'Fitz' Swing Band and a number of rock bands. There is also a strong tradition of music theatre in the College.  2007 saw the foundation of Fitzwilliam Chamber Opera, Cambridge's only permanent college-based opera company, whose debut production of Handel's Xerxes performed to full houses in the Auditorium. Excellent practice facilities are provided, including a band room and four dedicated music practice rooms.

We are enriching the musical life of Fitzwilliam by friendly co-operation with the music societies of the other 'Hill' Colleges, with whom we share the Orchestra on the Hill.

Director of Studies and Fellows

Francis Knights, Fellow and Tutor.

Dr Martin Parker Dixon, Bye-Fellow in Music.

Catherine Groom is Director of Music and Bye-Fellow.

More information

Faculty of Music >>