Pembroke has a lively music tradition. A mixed-voice Chapel Choir sings a wide repertoire. A flourishing Music Society organises choral, orchestral and chamber concerts, as well as instrumental recitals throughout the year. The College is a member of the Instrumental Awards Scheme. The organ scholars play a major role in College as well as Chapel musical affairs. The College’s music is overseen by the current Director of Music, Dr Sam Barrett (from October 2016 by Anna Lapwood), who regularly conducts the Chapel Choir. The Director of Studies in Music is Dr Barrett, who is a Fellow of the College, and Reader in Early Medieval Music. A professional concert series featuring Lieder singers of international stature, and high level masterclasses for student Lieder duos, are organised by the College Musician, Joseph Middleton. Recent events include recitals and master classes with internationally renowned artists such as Dame Felicity Lott, Sir Thomas Allen and Ian Bostridge. Following a significant bequest to the College for the development of music within the College, music making of all kinds is generously supported.

The Music Tripos

The Music course at Cambridge is divided up into three units, Parts IA, IB and Part II, each of which is examined at the end of the academic year, in May. Information about the course can be found in the University Prospectus and on the page about Music on the University website.

The Tripos is intended to deepen your understanding of music and its historical and cultural context, and to help you gain fundamental skills in writing and analysing music.The core of the course involves studies in history, analysis and compositional techniques. During your three years you will have an increasing amount of free choice in the subjects you study, as well as the opportunity to explore aspects of music that will be probably unfamiliar, such as notation and ethnomusicology. Although many music students at Cambridge want to enter the musical profession in one guise or another, the course provides a broad education for those who take up other occupations. In the first year (Part IA), you study several subjects, all of them examined at the end of the year. Two concentrate on technical skills, one devoted to writing harmony, the other to writing counterpoint. The third and fourth involve music history. The fifth subject is Analysis which deals with music from 1700 to 1830. The sixth subject is Practical Musicianship, which develops your skills in aural and keyboard in particular.  The seventh subject provides an overview of music and techniques used for studying music in the present day.  You also choose one option from performance, composition and an extended essay. In the second year (Part IB) you study six subjects. Historical Study, Applied Tonal Skills and Analysis (this time of music from 1830 to the present) are compulsory. You can then choose the other subjects from a wide-ranging list, including more specialised historical study, notation, keyboard skills, performance, composition, and a dissertation on a subject of your choice. In the third year (Part II) you study six subjects, at least two of which are to be examined by a three-hour written examination. Students can choose between a range of topics, including analysis, notation, historical subjects, ethnomusicology, performance and music cognition.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching takes all forms: lectures (formal instruction given by members of the Music Faculty Staff), seminars (smaller groups supervised by the Faculty Lecturers but involving student participation), Faculty classes for aural training, and College-based supervisions (informal, but intensive discussion in small groups). Supervisions are arranged by the Director of Studies and may involve a number of teachers drawn from different Colleges. They are held in the supervisor’s own rooms, either singly or in groups of two to six students. Supervisions are given in all subjects being studied for the tripos and represent the core of work done during the term. Essays, and exercises in harmony, counterpoint and composition, etc. are set and marked on a weekly basis. For further information about teaching methods at Cambridge read the introduction to the current University prospectus. Music students have access both to the University Library and to the Pendlebury Library in the Faculty. The Pendlebury is one of the best equipped music faculty libraries in the country, containing a full range of complete editions, miniature scores, sheet music and music text books, as well as an excellent library of sound and video recordings. There is an audio room with listening booths for recorded music and a multimedia room with keyboards and audio visual equipment. Pembroke College library has a well-stocked music section, containing music scores as well as books on music. Undergraduates reading music are provided with a keyboard in their College room.


Pembroke College wishes to attract undergraduates who have a serious interest in a Tripos course which is primarily academic.  Applicants need not necessarily be specialist performers (music interviews will be primarily concerned with testing academic rather than practical aptitude). On the other hand, performance and composition are integral parts of the Tripos and  high levels of skill in either of these are well regarded as long as they are accompanied by an informed and inquisitive approach to practical music. The nature of the music course, which involves only a limited amount of time spent on lectures and supervisions, is best suited to well-organised and self-motivated students. Any combination of A-levels is acceptable. Either an A grade A-level in Music, or ABRSM Grade 8 Music Theory is essential (though it should be noted that A-level Practical Music cannot count as one of the two A-levels required in order to satisfy University matriculation requirements). A basic knowledge of harmony, counterpoint and analytical skills, such as can be studied at A-level, is a distinct advantage. Further information about the Music Tripos, the teaching of Music at Pembroke and admissions for Music candidates to the College may be obtained from Dr Sam Barrett. See also the page about Music on the University website.

Instrumental Awards

The College participates in the Instrumental Awards Scheme for gifted musicians interested in chamber music. More information about the Scheme can be found on the University’s website.  The closing date for this year’s scheme is 20th April 2016.