How to apply

Applications for South West Music School are currently closed.


Applications for the 2018-19 academic year will open in January / February 2018.


We open applications on an annual basis around February time, with a deadline in May. Applicants apply for a place with SWMS for one academic year. Our academic years run from September – August. Once they have been with us for one year, students may stay with South West Music School up to the age of 18 yrs (and up to 20 yrs in some cases). This is dependent on them having met the expectations of the school.

The application process is simple and consists of completing an application form and submitting alongside two recent contrasting recordings of you playing/singing, a musical reference, an equal opportunities form and a passport sized photo of yourself.

Once we have assessed all applications, we select people to attend audition. We host auditions in four areas of the region, usually Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Bristol. If you are invited to audition we will send out plenty of information in advance so you know what to expect and what to prepare. Please don’t panic – SWMS auditions are relaxed and friendly!

We ask that all current students fill out a short “top-up” application to stay with South West Music School each year. Similarly, all current students except for those on the Core and Composer programmes are expected to audition annually.

Composer programme
If you are interested in applying to the Composer programme, an application form must be completed and submitted alongside two contrasting scores you have written with accompanying recordings – either live or on Sibelius. A musical reference, a passport sized photo and an equal opportunities form must also be submitted. Composers must then attend an interview where a composition mentor will chat to you about your scores and your compositional interests, goals and inspirations.

Application Process FAQ

Who can apply?
So long as you are aged 8 – 17 years, live in the South West of England and have a passion and talent for music or composition then you are able to apply. We work with students up to the age of 18 but cannot accept new applications from those who are already 18 unless you are not going to be in higher education for the upcoming year. In this circumstance, we can accept applications from those aged up to 20 years old. We work with students from all walks of life who have a variety of different musical backgrounds. Some students follow the traditional route of working through grades whilst some have never sat a grade in their life and are predominantly self taught. Similarly, some students specialise in classical music, some in rock and pop, some in jazz and some in reggae – whatever your musical interest, we would love to hear from you.

Am I applying for a particular programme?
No. South West Music School will offer each successful applicant a programme place based on the assessors’ collective verdict of which programme the applicant is best suited for. It is worth noting that the Feeder Plus programme is designed to prepare students for the Core programme and applicants are only allocated a Core place directly in exceptional circumstances.

How much does it cost?
Information on our fees can be found on our about page.

I’m part of a band / ensemble – can we apply as a group?
We accept applications from individuals only. We would encourage all band members to apply as individuals if they are interested in doing so.

What kind of musical reference do I have to submit as part of my application?
A musical reference can be from anyone who knows you musically. That may be a regular music tutor, the Head of Music at your school or college or someone you have worked with on a music project. We are looking for a reference from anyone who can vouch for your commitment, enthusiasm, dedication and talent for music. All references need to come from adults that are not related to the applicant.

What do you mean by ‘two contrasting recordings’?
We are looking for the range of talent you can demonstrate from the recordings you submit. Many of our students play more than one instrument, or some play an instrument and also sing. If this is the case for you, we would like to receive a recording for each instrument. We would also like the recordings to differ in style to one another – for example, one jazz piece and one classical piece.

What format should my recordings be sent in?
We would like all recordings to firstly be hosted on a website (e.g YouTube or SoundCloud). Once this has been done, recording links can be copied and pasted into two boxes provided on the application form.

When will I know if I’ve been successful?
The applications closing date is usually some time in mid May. We respond to every application within two weeks, regardless of whether we will be offering an audition/interview or not. Instrumentalists auditions and Composer interviews take place in June. We will send letters to all auditioned applicants by the latest of the first week of July.

When and where are auditions?
Information on where and when the auditions are is available here.

I’m interested in the Composer programme – what happens after I apply?
If you are successful with your application, you will be invited to attend an interview. Interviews differ to the auditions that instrumentalists attend as there is no performance element to the day. Each interview lasts approximately 40 minutes. As the Composer Programme is smaller than our instrumental programmes, we only decide upon venues once we know the geographical spread of the applicants. Further information on venue locations will be given to successful applicants nearer the time.

What happens at the auditions and interviews?
Each audition lasts approximately 40 minutes and comprises of two parts: applicants are asked to perform two pieces (or three shorter pieces for younger applicants) that last up to 10 minutes, followed by a 10 minute musical Q&A. You will be performing to the SWMS CEO and Chair of Trustees. Accompaniment is available for your performance. After this, you will sit down with one of our mentors to have a one-to-one discussion about your musical interests and ambitions. Auditions are friendly and relaxed and are designed to allow you to showcase your talents.

Each Composer interview will also last approximately 40 minutes. Within this time, one of our composition mentors will sit down with you to discuss the scores you submitted as part of your application as well as your compositional influences, your interests and any achievements or goals you possess.

What happens if I’m successful?
Congratulations! The next step involves your official enrollment to South West Music School. After some paperwork has been completed, you will be sent the handbook for the year which gives you all you need to know on what SWMS will be offering you for the year including dates, times and other useful info. If you are a Feeder Plus, Core or Composer student you will be assigned a mentor and given further information on how the mentor/student relationship works. If you have questions at any point, the office team will be on hand to help out. You can find contact details for us here.

Can I apply again if I am unsuccessful?
Yes, we very much welcome students to apply again each year if they are unsuccessful with their application or audition. If you are unsuccessful it may be that we don’t feel as though you are yet ready to be part of SWMS, but we recognise a year can make an awful lot of difference to your musical development – so please do re-apply.