The benefits of a cathedral chorister education

Does anyone know of any survey or academic research that has been done, or is being done (in the UK or elsewhere), to investigate the lifelong benefits of a cathedral chorister education and training? This covers not just the benefits felt by the former choristers themselves, but the value of the contribution they make to society.

I am one of the musical advisors to the newly-formed Hamish Ogston Foundation, which, as one of its objectives, wants to support cathedral and collegiate choirs, and choral singing among young people in the UK generally. It would be very helpful to the Foundation, before they commission a survey of their own, to know what research there has already been (or is currently in progress) in this field. Most of us who are active in the world of choral singing tend to believe in it as being beneficial, not just musically but in terms of fostering qualities such as well-being, confidence, self-esteem, leadership, teamwork, social responsibility, and a capacity for working hard and to a high professional standard. It also seems that choristers are likely to attain above-average results in their general education.

However, these beliefs need exploring so that firm evidence can be produced – even if the results reveal a different or more complex picture. If you can let me know of any relevant surveys or research, this would be much appreciated by the Foundation. It need not relate just to cathedral and collegiate choristers: there are other types of children’s choirs that aim to train their young members to a high standard – abbey (and ambitious parish church) choirs, school choirs and non-institutional children’s choirs are also of interest.

You can leave any comments on the Hamish Ogston Foundation website. Many thanks for any help you are able to give.


3 Responses to “The benefits of a cathedral chorister education”

  1. Mrs Aprella Fitch

    As a girl I was not eligible to even audition for a Cathedral choir but always sang in the church choir as did both of my daughters. We all went on to enjoy a great appreciation of music in all forms and my elder daughter became a professional cellist with a wonderful voice as well. She is now an academic and seeking a professorship in her chosen field which is in fact a million mile away from her early musical training. My younger daughter is a financial high flyer which might also link the academic success often linked by musical trainingI would suggest that any choral singing is of great benefit in many spheres of life and for a very long time in a practical sense and for ever in terms of culture.
    The aspect of the planned research is by definition fairly narrow but should have a confirmatory effect of enforcing some important cerebral connections between music, nurture and culture.

  2. Clarice Varga

    I am a huge fan of your music! I have been a choral singer in the United States for over 50 years! Here is a study that I became aware of in 2018…

    “Chorus America’s Chorus Impact Study provides data on the scope of choral singing in the U.S. and the impact of singing in a chorus that simply can’t be found anywhere else.”

    “Our most recent Chorus Impact Study found that 42.6 million Americans sing regularly in a chorus, and that children and adults who sing are more likely to demonstrate academic success and important life skills.”

     “The new Chorus Impact Study, Singing for a Lifetime, will update these important findings and add new data on the value of group singing for older adults (age 62+).”

    I have not seen results of the last survey conducted by this group. I hope this can be helpful although it addresses U.S. specifically.

    Thank you for your music!

  3. Fran Etemesi

    Dear John,

    We are approximately contemporaries and I have followed your music and performances with great interest for many, many years not only because I love your music but also because of a small personal connection with you which I will explain at the end of this.

    In February 1968 I submitted an Education Special Study special study entitled ‘The Value of a Choir School Education’ as a requirement for my Teachers’ Certificate at the City of Birmingham College of Education’. It got me an A- and a Credit on my course! I have just looked this document out from my memorabilia suitcase. It is 97 pages of quarto paper with illustrations and graphs. It is not at a high academic level at all but may have information of interest on the history of choir school education and their state 52 years ago.

    I will have it photocopied in the next few days and, if I can be sent a mailing address, I will send the copy to you in the next week or so by DHL. (It was of course pre-computer so done on a manual typewriter.) I live in Kenya so sending by post is not a reliable option.

    To the small personal link to you: my younger brother, Andrew Weir, was at Highgate the same time as you—Howard Shelley was in his class and one of his friends I remember. I still remember Mr Chapman being talked about often and of course the performance of Britain’s War Requiem. Andrew did medicine and is now a retired consultant neuro-physiologist. I taught in a primary school in Solihull for 6 years and I taught Margaret Faultless aged 8! Her mother gifted me with an interest in recorders which I still have—listening only now. I came to East Africa in 1975 and have been here ever since.