Music at York has been re-inventing ways of studying music since its earliest days. The original department was founded in 1964 by Professor Wilfrid Mellers, whose vision was unique and ahead of its time.

Unlike other higher education music courses, the York undergraduate course integrated practical music making, composition, and musicological studies within a highly flexible, project-based course. This proved attractive to students, and in 1969 the department moved from its town location into purpose-built facilities on Campus West, which included a bespoke concert hall and one of the first electronic studios in a UK university.

Professor John Paynter spearheaded a focus on educational activities in the 1970s and 80s. His leadership of the Music in the Secondary School Curriculum project was instrumental in the development of the national curriculum. Music education remains a particular focus of our work today and supports our valuable connections to both local and international communities.

Student numbers, courses, musical opportunities and international connections have expanded significantly. This was helped by developments such as the arrival of the first set of Javanese gamelan instruments in a UK teaching institution (1981), and the building of the Rymer Auditorium and specialist studio spaces (2004).

Subsequent heads of department have built on the founding principles of the department, integrating creativity and scholarship, and fostering a vibrant, outward-facing environment.

Our highly skilled graduates work in positions of responsibility across the globe. They include:

  • Gillian Moore, until recently Director of Music and Performing Arts at the Southbank Centre
  • Joe Walker, Oscar-winning film editor
  • Tom Service, music journalist
  • Sam Jackson, Controller of BBC Radio 3
  • Anna Meredith, composer

Looking forward

Now part of the School of Arts and Creative Technologies, Music At York will continue its fundamental commitment to the integration of music-related scholarship and creative practice.

We'll also develop new areas of activity in response to exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary research and teaching within the School.