Clare College Cambridge


Nick Mogg

Manchester, Independent School

When it comes to open days and school trips to Cambridge it can seem as if a lot of the colleges are the same. Much depends on the feeling you have as you walk in. Clare is an incredibly sociable place. It’s known as the ‘friendly college’ and when it comes to music there is nowhere with more going on.

I applied to Clare for a number of reasons. Its reputation as the most musical college is well known across the University and the list of famous musicians who read music here gets longer and longer each year. Clare also has a world-famous choir, offering the perfect balance of music making at the highest standard without the intense schedule of seven services a week, which two of the choirs have. As a choral scholar I have been lucky to make CD recordings and go on tour to places such as Israel and the United States, with two more tours planned for the coming year.

The interview process can seem a little daunting. Everyone is required to take a harmony exam, which will be something along the lines of a simple Bach chorale harmonization. The interview itself consists of a short performance on your chosen instrument or voice followed by a discussion and then some aural tests. The best advice I can give is that if you don’t know the answer to a question, then say so. The interviewers will do their best to point you in the right direction. They are interested in your ability to work towards an answer that you may not know at first so that they can better understand how you cope with problem solving.

There is normally an intake of about 5 musicians each year and throughout your time here you will have supervisions with one or two other students from Clare. This allows you to delve deeper into the subjects that interest you with the people to whom you are closest. The first-year course is fairly traditional with an emphasis on harmony and counterpoint, along side a couple of modules of music history. This is particularly useful because it puts everyone on an equal level of understanding for when things get more complicated. In the second and third years you can choose courses from subjects as diverse as Machaut to Miles Davis.

Clare has the most active and ambitious music society in Cambridge with two recitals per week and a large-scale concert in the Concert Hall each term. It is a place where you meet people every day who say, ‘Oh yeah, I used to play an instrument but I’m not that great….I only did my grade 8!’ The standard of music from both those who study music and those who don’t is the highest in the University. There are practice rooms in Memorial Court, as well as a rehearsal room above the library with a Bösendorfer grand piano, which can be used by anyone in College and are put to very good use!

Music is definitely one of the best subjects to study at Clare because you are surrounded by so many other musical people. Opportunities to form a band, a jazz quintet or a close harmony group result in some great open-mic and band nights in the bar. In short, if you have a passion for music and are serious about studying it at one of the finest institutions in the world then I would recommend Clare whole-heartedly.