Two students appointed as Oxbridge organ scholars

Two Tonbridge boys will be taking up the hugely prestigious role of Oxbridge organ scholar next year.

Alex Trigg has been appointed at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he will study Music, while current Upper Sixth student Ben Gardner (pictured right) has been offered the role at Balliol College, Oxford, where he will be reading for a degree in Maths.

Organ scholarships are awarded to talented students who are chosen to direct or assist with the music in a college chapel, offering them unlimited opportunities to engage in music-making at the highest level. 

The scope of the responsibilities varies from college to college at Oxford and Cambridge, and can typically include playing at chapel services, directing choirs and organising musical tours and recordings. In some colleges they are effectively the directors of chapel music; in others, they act as assistants to a professional director of music.

Alex left Tonbridge in 2020, after completing his A-levels, and is currently performing the role of organ scholar at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, during his gap year. He says his role at St John’s College will involve various duties including playing at regular services, conducting and helping to train boy choristers.

“I've known since the age of about 8 that I'd want to study music at university, and to get to Cambridge to read Music with an organ scholarship is something I truly set my heart on about five years ago,” he said. “Cambridge is the centre of so much wonderful music making – I'd love to spend three years of my life in the middle of all that.

“Following a career in cathedral music is very appealing and being Director of Music in a large cathedral one day would be amazing,” Alex added.

Ben said he was delighted with the opportunity not only to be the organ scholar at Balliol, Oxford, but also to be studying Maths “at a world-leading university”. Ben has already achieved some notable successes at Tonbridge in this area, including the award of a distinction in the British Maths Olympiad for being ranked in the top 25 per cent of all competitors.

He added: “I have really enjoyed all parts of my school career, especially having such exceptional and inspiring teachers. One of the highlights of my time at Tonbridge has, of course, been the opportunity to play the outstanding Marcussen Organ: it is such a versatile instrument and extremely fun to play. 

“Overall, Tonbridge has taught me to make the most of every opportunity that I have.”

Both students were members of Cowdrey House during their time at Tonbridge.

Mark Forkgen, the school’s Director of Music, said: “We are delighted for both Alex and Ben. They have both shown incredible dedication in meeting the standard required of an Oxbridge organ scholar. This involves not only playing organ pieces, but improvising, transposing, harmonising melodies, sight-reading, score-reading and directing. 

“Both have also demonstrated that they are capable of being leaders and carrying out these considerable duties in addition to reading for a degree.”    

Pictured below: Alex conducting at Tonbridge. Pictured above: Ben in the School Chapel's organ loft.   


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