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Our approach to lessons is based on helping students find their own individual voice as a composer. We don’t attempt to channel individuals into a particular style or school of composition. However, students should expect to have their musical horizons stretched and assumptions tested as part of a rigorous approach aimed at improving their technique.

Paul Whitmarsh leads an exciting and diverse programme for the composition students in classical and contemporary styles. At school age, composition is not always a first study but many students take lessons and later decide that composing really is their passion. Composition of a popular nature is focused on within the rock and popular music department.

Lessons are available for any student, at any level, though it is recommended that very young students should wait until they are in the Senior School, aiming to start in Year 7, in order to get the best out of the lessons.

If you would like composition to be a main aspect of your music studies and wish to pursue it after Wells at a conservatoire or university, you should audition as a composition specialist.

Many previous students have entered and been successful in a number of national competitions, some of which have involved performances by professional ensembles.

What We Offer

  • Up to two hours of one-to-one tuition per week
  • The opportunity for compositions to be performed by fellow students at specific composition department concerts, which are held three times a year
  • The New Music Ensemble, which is specifically created on an annual basis to provide a stable instrumentation that enables composition students to produce more ambitious works
  • Weekly rehearsals to assist with the understanding of composing for a configuration of instruments
  • The chance to write for special occasions, from the Advent Service to Speech Day, fanfares to choral works
  • Sophisticated software for writing and presenting scores
  • Collaboration with the Cathedral’s New Music Wells Week. Student works for both Cathedral Choir and Organ have been welcomed and are now an annual feature performed alongside commissioned pieces from well-established composers at services throughout the week. New Music Week also provides an opportunity for school composers to have their works discussed in a masterclass by a distinguished composer in residence who have included Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, James MacMillan, Judith Bingham and Howard Skempton.

Meet our Staff

Masterclasses and Visiting Artists

Latest News

Some of our Alumni

Summer School

International Composition Summer School

Sunday 1st August – Saturday 7th August 2021

Join us for an inspiring and fun week!

This course is recommended for young composers aged between 12 and 18 who have some experience of composing music and wish to develop their skills and experience further, and compose a new piece in a week!

£945 Boarding £745 Day

For more information, please visit

Join our Composition Department