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Guildhall School of Music and Drama

School Overview

    • Founded:
    • 1880
    • Size:
    • Small (<5000 students)
    • Type:
    • Public
    • Category:
    • Universities, colleges
      Art institutes
    • Specialization:
    • Music School 1
    • Climate:
    • Temperate
    • Location:
    • Silk Street, London, England, United Kingdom
    • Phone:
    • +442076388891
    • Email Address:
    • N/A
    • Setting:
    • Urban

The History of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

The Guildhall School of Music first opened its doors on 27 September 1880, housed in a disused warehouse in the City of London. With 64 part-time students, it was the first municipal music college in Great Britain. The school quickly outgrew its first home, however, and in 1887 it moved to new premises in John Carpenter Street in a complex of educational buildings built by the Corporation of London to house it and the City's two state schools.

The new building was completed by 9 December 1886 and the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Reginald Hanson, attended the opening ceremony. Teaching continued under the first principal of the school, Thomas Henry Weist Hill, who eventually had some ninety teaching staff. 

The new site, designed by the architect Sir Horace Jones, comprised a common room for professors and 45 studios, each surrounded by a one-foot thick layer of concrete to "deaden the sound". Each room contained both a grand piano and an upright piano. Additionally, there was an organ room and a "practice" room, in reality, a small concert hall that was used for orchestral and choir rehearsals. The practice room was also the venue for the fortnightly school concerts

Initially, all tuition was on a part-time basis, but full-time courses were introduced to meet demand in 1920. Departments of speech, voice, and acting were added, and by 1935 the school had added "and Drama" to its title.

Academic Highlights

The Guildhall offers a four-year undergraduate program for musicians along with the Guildhall Artist Masters in performance or composition and the highly advanced Artist Diploma program. Students can specialize in classical or jazz performance (either as an instrumentalist or vocalist), composition, historical performance, and electronic music. A master's level, vocal students are able to specialize in Opera Studies. In addition to this, the school offers postgraduate degrees in opera writing (in association with The Royal Opera) and in music therapy.

Life in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

As a student, you will be entitled to concessions on virtually all entertainment tickets, plus discounts in shops and restaurants and on the underground, train and bus travel. If you are coming from abroad, we provide guided tours and special excursions to help you find your way around. And you will find other major European cities easily accessible by train or plane.

School Ranking

It has one of the most prestigious performing arts programs in the world, having been ranked the number one U.K. conservatoire in the 2019 Guardian league tables for music and as the sixth university in the world for performing arts in the 2020 QS World University Rankings.


Admission to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama is by a highly competitive audition. The School holds auditions for their music programs in London, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo and from 2021 drama auditions will be held in cities across the UK (including London, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, and Nottingham) along with international auditions in New York.

In the year 2018-2019, the school had 2610 applications and awarded offers to only 10% of the applicants, giving it one of the lowest acceptance rates for any U.K. higher education institution. Unlike other UK conservatoires, Guildhall operates a separate application procedure and applications are made directly to the school, as opposed to through UCAS Conservatoires.

Notable Alumni

Sir Bryn Terfel CBE (born 1965), operatic bass-baritone. Sir George Martin CBE (1926-2016), record producer and composer. Sir James Galway OBE (born 1939), flutist

Acceptance Rate

The acceptance rate for the Bachelor of Music program is around 18%.

Other Campuses
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