The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is an independent music and dramatic arts school which was founded in 1880 in London, England. Students can pursue courses in music, opera, drama and technical theatre arts. [24]

The modern Guildhall School is a major European conservatoire which is both a music school and a drama school, and one which is involved in technical theatre, professional development and music therapy. [4]

The school currently numbers almost 900 students, approximately 700 of whom are undergraduate and postgraduate music students and 175 on the acting and technical theatre programmes. In any given year, about 40% of the students are from outside the UK, typically representing over 50 nationalities. [4]

The chairman of Guildhall is David Andrew Graves (Alderman), elected a governor in 2009 he became deputy of the board and then chairman in 2012. Guildhall’s principal is Lynne Williams. A previous principal, Barry Ife, made the Guildhall School the UK's largest provider of music education to under 18s by incorporating the Centre for Young Musicians (CYM) and creating new music "hubs" in Norfolk and Somerset ; he has achieved recognition for Guildhall's music outreach and opera programmes through two Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (2005 and 2007); [25] and he has realised the school's long-held ambition to build additional facilities at Milton Court (opened September 2013), including performance venues, rehearsal and teaching spaces designed by Aedas. [5] Ife led the Guildhall School’s application for taught-degree awarding powers, which were granted by the Privy Council in April 2014. [5]



The Guildhall School of Music first opened its doors on 27 September 1880, housed in a disused warehouse in the City of London. With 62 part-time students, it was the first municipal music college in Great Britain. The school quickly outgrew its first home, however, and in 1887 it moved to new premises in John Carpenter Street in a complex of educational buildings built by the Corporation of London to house it and the City's two state schools.

The new building was completed by 9 December 1886 and the then Lord Mayor of London, Sir Reginald Hanson, attended the opening ceremony. Teaching continued under the first principal of the school, Thomas Henry Weist Hill, and his team of 90 professors.

The new site, designed by architect Sir Horace Jones, comprised a common room for professors and 45 studios, each surrounded by a one-foot thick layer of concrete to "deaden the sound". Each room contained both a grand piano and an upright piano. Additionally, there was an organ room and a "practice" room, in reality a small concert hall which was used for orchestral and choir rehearsals. The practice room was also the venue for the fortnightly school concerts

Initially, all tuition was on a part-time basis, but full-time courses were introduced by public request in 1920. Departments of speech, voice and acting were added and by 1935 the school had added "and Drama" to its title.


The school moved to its present premises in the heart of the City of London's Barbican Centre in 1977 and continues to be owned, funded and administered by the City of London.

In 1993 the Corporation of London leased a nearby courtyard of buildings that in the 18th century had been the centre of Samuel Whitbread's first brewery, and renovated and converted this to provide the school with its hall of residence, Sundial Court. [26] About three minutes' walk from the school, Sundial Court offers self-catering single-room accommodation for 178 students.

In 2001 the Secretary of State, Baroness Blackstone, announced that the Barbican Centre, including the Guildhall School, was to be Grade II listed.

The school currently numbers over 800 students on its roll call, approximately 700 of whom are undergraduate and postgraduate music students. As of 2017, about 135 are studying in the acting and technical theatre programmes. In any given year, about 40% of the students are from outside the UK typically represent over 40 nationalities.

The school is a member of Conservatoires UK and of the European Association of Conservatoires. It also formed a creative alliance with its neighbours, the Barbican Centre and the London Symphony Orchestra, to create a centre for performance, training and education in the performing and visual arts.


In 2005 the school was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for its development and outreach programme, Guildhall Connect, and in 2007 it won a further Queen's Anniversary Prize in recognition of the work of the opera programme over the last two decades. The school was rated No. 1 specialist institution in the UK in the Guardian University Guide 2013 and 2014. [27]

Barbican Entrance

The most significant investment in the Guildhall School's future came to fruition via the £90 million redevelopment of the neighbouring Milton Court site. The new building, which opened in 2013, houses three new performance spaces: a concert hall (608 seats), a theatre (223 seats) and a studio theatre (up to 128 seats) in addition to drama teaching and administration spaces. [21]

The school offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs [21] as well as the Junior Guildhall, a Saturday school serving students from 4 to 18 years of age. [21] The school's outreach activities won the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2005. The school was awarded a further Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2007 in recognition of the outstanding achievements and work of the Opera Programme. [21]

The school's performance facilities include a 308-seat drama and opera theatre, concert hall, lecture/recital hall and a small studio theatre. In addition, students of the school regularly perform in other London venues, including the Barbican Centre, the Bridewell Theatre (off Fleet Street), the Soho Theatre, the Royal Court and the Swan (Stratford).

In August 2014, the Guildhall had a logo change to a more minimalist modern style. It was changed due to the school thinking that it needed something to reflect its types of teachings.


The Guildhall offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in music, drama and theatre technology as well as summer and holiday courses and a junior programme for students from the age of four. [29]


Students perform regularly each year, as well as graduate performances at The Barbican Centre. [21]



Alumni of the Guildhall School of Music include:


Some notable alumni of the School of Drama include: