Music has been an intrinsic part of life at Sedbergh ever since it was founded as a chantry school in 1525. It is a whole-school pursuit; be it actively through the exceptionally strong congregational singing and inter-house competitions, or through being exposed to a host of musical performances on a weekly basis, from soloists to Choral Society, chamber groups to Symphony Orchestra.

The Music Department runs an extensive programme of extracurricular activities, which involve two hundred of our pupils in weekly rehearsals and individual music lessons. The programme is run by our three full-time staff and our team of visiting staff - all of whom are active as professional musicians at the highest level, and bring their dynamic and ambitious qualities to Sedbergh.

All pupils who have individual music lessons are expected to take part in at least one of the 20+ choirs and ensembles available to them at School. Some of these require audition, such as the Chapel Choir. In addition to visits to schools, cathedrals and other venues across the country by our full range of musicians, our Chapel Choir travel abroad frequently. Importantly, there are opportunities for all, and ensembles range from Big Band and Concert Band to chamber groups for all disciplines, as well as our Pipes and Drums Corps - one of the largest in England.

Guldrey Lodge & the Thornely Studio

Historic Guldrey Lodge is the home of music at Sedbergh.

Thornely Studio is named after Michael Thornely, Headmaster of Sedbergh between 1954-75.

Thornely Studio 6
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Joe (Upper Sixth, 2024)

Joe, one of Sedbergh’s only Choral Scholars, has been recognised by the Junior Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) with the prestigious Sylvia Swiffin Award, for outstanding progress. Joe – and other “gifted young musicians aged 8 to 18” – attend the college on Saturdays to develop their talent and train with specialist tutors. During the week, Joe spends a lot of time in Sedbergh’s music block, “I’m constantly doing musical stuff and I absolutely love it. Being in the music block is such a nice place to work as well. It’s very calming and just a nice place to be.” Whilst having no illusions about the challenges ahead, Joe dreams of attending a Conservatoire – either in the UK or abroad – as a prelude to a singing career.

Chris Allinson, Director of Music, is delighted by Joe’s success and the example he sets, “Joe is an incredibly committed and hard-working musician, who is often to be found in the department honing his craft. We have known him since he was much younger, and it has been a privilege to see him grow not just as a very fine singer, but as somebody who leads by example in his manner and interaction with everybody – not least in his warm support of other musicians. He has had a brilliant year at the Junior RNCM and is a magnificent role model.”

Joe gratefully acknowledges the support of Sedbergh School (especially the Music Department), the RNCM, his vocal coach (Dr Caun) – and his parents.

Sedbergh Choirs and Music Ensembles

Information to come.

Musical Performances

The Music Department put on over 70 performances each school year, building from small informal ‘Play & Listen’ concerts, to weekly whole-school assemblies, to large-scale concerts in Powell Hall and the Hirst Centre. In addition to extensive performance opportunities, pupils are exposed to performances by professional musicians either on site, or on trips.

Learn more about music performances here.


Upon arriving at Sedbergh in Year 9, pupils are engaged in a stimulating and varied curriculum, ranging from Ground Bass and Minimalism to Soundtracks and The Blues - building practical and listening skills in the process. All of Year 9 perform together in the first major concert of the year as an early point of focus.

Music is an option at GCSE and A Level, and is well-respected as an academic subject that is not only interesting and engaging in its own right, but also for the wide array of skills that it develops, from analysis to history to mathematics. We currently follow the AQA specification for both GCSE and A Level, focusing on Music for Theatre, Popular Music, Romantic Piano Music and other branches of Western Classical Music. The weighting towards practical performance is 40% at GCSE, and 35% at A Level.


As an academic subject, music is unique in combining (critical) analysis, history, problem solving, creativity, languages and communication skills. Those who study music gain a wide range of transferable skills.

All pupils study music at Y9, following a curriculum that stretches all pupils and explores a wide range of genres through practical and listening work and encourages pupils to collaborate with each other on a range of topics.

Our GCSE and A Level music classes currently follow the AQA specifications, where 60% of the qualification is obtained via coursework (performance & composition), and 40% through an exam in the summer session. All lessons take place in our suite in Guldrey Lodge, where pupils benefit from access to computers and software such as Sibelius.

Sedbergh Senior School - Music Photo
Sedbergh Senior School - Departing Upper VI Musicians' Final Headmaster's Recital
Sedbergh Senior School - Jazz & Swing Night 2014