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Music's Role in cultural life

The University makes a major contribution to the cultural life of Cardiff and Wales, and in a nation known as the "land of song," it is appropriate that music plays a central role.

The Cardiff School of Music main building

The Cardiff School of Music, Main Building

Music has been studied at Cardiff since the University was founded in 1883, and today, the School of Music is one of the largest in the UK with a growing international reputation for the high quality of its research, including composition and performance.

The School prides itself on its level of practical music-making and actively promotes music-making and music appreciation within the University and in the community.

Its former Heads have included internationally-renowned composer Professor Alun Hoddinott, who led the School for 20 years from 1967, and under whose guidance the School’s building in Corbett Road was constructed. At the time the building was admired for its "austerely handsome" exterior notable for its design which helps sound insulation.

Current head of the school, Professor Robin Stowell

Head of the School of Music, Professor Robin Stowell

Today, the School is led by internationally-respected musician and scholar Professor Robin Stowell, whose numerous publications include, as editor, three books in the acclaimed Cambridge Companion series.

Its impressive portfolio of courses includes four undergraduate and four taught postgraduate programmes, as well as a programme of research degrees. The School’s international reputation for the quality of its research and performance continues to grow.

The School stages an annual season of concerts from October to May, featuring resident ensemble the Schubert Ensemble, as well as visiting ensembles and solo recitals. It also hosts the John Bird Lecture series, featuring talks on current research given by students and staff and by visiting guest speakers.


The Students' Union is a major venue for the top international pop and rock music acts, as well as the base for numerous music-related societies.

A live concert at Students' Union

A live concert in the Students' Union

The Union is a regular port of call for the leading performers on national tours. Among those who have visited are: the NME Tour with the Kaiser Chiefs, the Thrills, Supergrass, Starsailor, Electric Six, the Zutons, Razorlight, Fatboy Slim, and Goldie Lookin' Chain.

There is a flourishing Music Society run by the students of the School of Music and affiliated to the Students' Union. The Society runs weekly lunchtime concerts and occasional trips to concerts. There is also an annual Charity Concert as well as a Ball and other social events.

There are many other societies with a musical theme. The A Cappella Music Society is based around the University’s A Cappella Group, a small choir of singers dedicated to performing unaccompanied music "from madrigals to Motown." Their repertoire covers music from 11th Century gothic part-songs to improvised versions of pop and soul classics and everything in between, including jazz, renaissance music, hymns, folk songs and spirituals.

A live jazz gig

A live jazz gig

The Cardiff Student Jazz Society has two main aims — firstly, to bring jazz to students and take students to jazz; secondly, to provide the opportunity and the means for student musicians to play jazz together. Activities include live gigs, listening sessions, gig excursions and workshops, as well as a weekly social event.

The Live Music Society is devoted to promoting live music in and around Cardiff - mainly with student bands. With a membership of over 300, the society arranges regular events at several locations around Cardiff, including the Students Union.

The Wind Band Society

The Wind Band Society

The Wind Band Society is based around a large symphonic wind band; The City of Cardiff Concert Band, which plays to a very high level and performs regular concerts throughout the year.

Another important group is the Contemporary Music Ensemble which is directed by students and staff from the School of Music, principally Professor Anthony Powers — whose First Symphony was premiered at the BBC's Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. In addition to concerts, which usually include student works, the Ensemble invites visiting composers to the School. These have included Oliver Knussen, Jonathan Harvey, George Benjamin, Anthony Payne, Simon Bainbridge, Robert Saxton, David Matthews and the TV composer Christopher Gunning. 

The Contemporary Music Ensemble

The Contemporary Music Ensemble


The Cardiff School of Music's University Choir and Orchestra

The Cardiff School of Music's University Choir and Orchestra

The School of Music’s principal groups are the 240-strong Choral Society and Symphony Orchestra which perform together under the title University Choir and Orchestra, Cardiff. Membership is drawn both from music students and across the University. A large number of students and staff from other disciplines belong to the Choral Society in particular.

There are a number of smaller groups such as the University Chamber Choir and University Chamber Orchestra which have specialised programmes. The choir has about 40 members; while the orchestra draws on a smaller circle of players depending on the chosen repertoire. The University Church, in nearby Woodville Road, also has a thriving choir, the University Church Choir.

In addition, students are encouraged to form small ensembles, and such groups include a String Sinfonia, Rehearsal Orchestra, Wind Band and a Big Band.