Organ Studies

Over the last decade, under the leadership of our principal organ teacher, Philip Swanton, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Organ Studies Unit has developed into Australia’s leading centre of organ teaching and performance research. Its reputation for excellence in teaching and student achievement is acknowledged nationally and internationally. Since 2000, some 27 young organists have completed a degree in Organ Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium, with distinguished alumni now working as recitalists, teachers and church musicians locally and overseas (Switzerland, France, Austria, Germany, England and North America).

Our students gain a thorough grounding in performance techniques while expanding their awareness of historical context through systematic exposure to repertoire from all the major schools of organ composition from the baroque to the present day. From the outset, we encourage our students’ capacity to make sound, independent judgments (for example, in matters of registration practise). As a result of our long-standing collaboration with a number of major city churches – St James’ Church and Christ Church St Laurence in particular –students (usually as official “Organ Scholars”) gain important hands-on experience. This ensures that they complete their studies well equipped for the demands of life as both professional organists and church musicians.

Since the restoration of the 3-manual and pedal Verbrugghen Hall organ in 2001, the Unit has at its disposal a first-class teaching instrument in one of Australia’s most beautiful performance spaces. A large 4-manual electronic practise organ is also available to students. Whenever possible, our students also visit other local and interstate instruments.

Study Options

Organ Studies Faculty

Audition Requirements

Undergraduate

You should come prepared to discuss your musical background, your reasons for wishing to continue your organ studies and your particular interests relating to the organ in church or concert hall.

Music Skills Test
Since prior music skills development is essential for successful study at the Sydney Conservatorium, you will be required to complete the Music Skills Test. The test is held at the Conservatorium during the audition/interview period and is designed to assess whether you have a sufficient level of music literacy in harmony and aural perception to cope with the demands of the course. As a guide, the minimum level of skills possessed should be at the level of the New South Wales Music 2 syllabus (formerly 2 Unit Music) or AMEB Level 6 Musicianship or equivalent. Results of the Music Skills Test supplement the information provided by other aspects of the audition process. If you are successful, the results also help to determine streaming in aural and harmony subjects.

Audition DVD Recording
Where possible, you should attend a live audition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. If you are an interstate or international applicant and cannot attend in person, you may submit a video recorded audition through the application process. The recordings must be no older than six weeks at the time of dispatch.  Audio-only recordings will not be accepted.

Bachelor of Music (Performance) and Diploma of Music

  1. Prepared program: a substantial work from the Baroque (excluding Bach); a major work by J.S. Bach (e.g. Prelude and Fugue, Trio Sonata); and a 19th or 20th century work of up to 10 minutes duration
  2. Sight reading
  3. Music Skills Test

Bachelor of Music (Music Education), Bachelor of Music Studies and combined degrees

  1. Prepared program: performance of three contrasting works. At least two of these pieces should demonstrate a reasonable facility in pedal playing
  2. Sight reading
  3. Music Skills Test

Postgraduate

You should prepare a well-contrasted 50 minute recital program, which includes a major work of J.S.Bach as well as a major Romantic composition. It is expected that candidates will perform the chosen works to a high level of excellence and will also display well-advanced console-management skills.

Your proposed program should be submitted to the Coordinator of Organ Studies, Philip Swanton for approval at least three months prior to the start of the semester in which you hope to commence postgraduate studies.