Over the past few years, musicians have been hit hard by the twin effects of the cost-of-living crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. For young musicians who wish to become professional, it is frequently impossible to do so without a reserve of familial wealth to fall back on.

LSO Fellows rehearse at St Luke’s
© Kevin Leighton

The London Symphony Orchestra has launched a welcome initiative to aid musicians to pursue postgraduate study – often the most expensive, and most decisive, part of young musicians’ training.

The Conservatoire Scholarships programme will provide ten applicants with £15,000 per year to support postgraduate study at conservatoires. 30 applicants will be taken on over the next three years.

The money will support living and maintenance costs, and applicants will need to have already secured a scholarship at one the world’s “leading 10 conservatoires” to be eligible. Applicants also need to have studied at an undergraduate level in the UK.

The scheme is intended for instrumentalists (conductors, singers and composers are not eligible), but applicants can be of any age or nationality. To be eligible they will need to cite a family income of less than £45,000 per annum.

The ten eligible conservatoires, based on QS rankings, are London’s RCM, RAM and Guildhall, Vienna’s MDW, Juilliard, the Paris Conservatoire, Glasgow’s RCS, the Norwegian Academy, the Curtis Institute, and the Hong Kong Academy.

The scheme is in addition to several the LSO already runs – String Experience, Orchestral Artistry, and Pathways – which assist orchestral instrumentalists at various stages of their training. But the new scheme differs in both its scope and depth of support offered.

Kathryn McDowell, managing director of the LSO, said: “This new scheme will be a terrific opportunity for ten talented musicians in the final period of their formal music education. We are hugely grateful to Alex and Elena Gerko for their generosity and helping us make this happen.”

The scheme is possible because of a £1.5m donation from Alex and Elena Gerko. XTX Markets, Gerko’s quantitative trading firm, is one of the largest foreign exchange trading companies.

LSO first violinist Maxine Kwok said: “The LSO has always placed a great deal of importance in helping and encouraging young people hoping to pursue a music career. I was fortunate enough to benefit from the LSO String Experience Scheme over twenty years ago which was a great stepping stone into my professional career. At a time where funding for music education is at an all time low, how wonderful to have the generous support from Alex and Elena Gerko for this LSO Conservatoire Scholarship. Let’s hope that a new generation of musicians will benefit from a helping hand at the start of their musical journey.”

The Conservatoire Scholarships programme is open for 2023/24, and applications need to be submitted by 31st March 2023.

This news article was sponsored by the LSO.