Applying to the English Schools' Orchestra

  • What age must I be to apply?

    Minimum age: 13
    Maximum age: 18 (19 if still in secondary education)

  • What is the deadline for applications for the 2021 Course?

    Once the application process opens, applications can be made at any time. All applications must be completed online via the English Schools’ Orchestra (ESO) website. No audition is required; however, students must be of at least Grade 8 standard (Grade 7 Strings) and we reserve the right to request a teacher recommendation.

    Applications will be reviewed on an individual basis and placement offers made based on the needs of the Orchestra.

  • Do I have to be Grade 8 before I apply?

    No. You need to be of Grade 8 standard or equivalent (Grade 7 for Strings), but you do not have to have taken any exams. If you don't have an exam marksheet to show us, please ask your music teacher to provide written confirmation that you are of the required standard. The orchestra aims to play challenging music to a very high standard, so it's important that you have experience in playing in ensembles and other orchestras.

  • How much are the fees for the 2021 Course?

    Course fees for 2021 are yet to be confirmed. The residential course fees are inclusive of all tuition, full board, accommodation, local transport and the use of social and sporting facilities at the residential centre, as per the schedule for the course.

    Non-residential course fees are inclusive of all tuition, full cooked lunch and high tea.

    Fees are payable on acceptance to the course.

    The balance of all fees (less any bursary award) is due by 01 Sept 2021. If the balance remains unpaid after that date, we reserve the right to offer your placement to another student, unless a prior agreement has been made with the ESO accounts team regarding your final payment.

    Once paid, all fees are non-refundable save at the absolute discretion of the ESO. It is advisable to take out your own personal insurance to cover this eventuality. All cancellations must be via email to

    The ESO reserves the right to cancel the course in the event of unforeseen circumstances, in which case all money will be refunded.

  • Are bursaries available?

    The Potential Trust may be able to offer financial assistance to enable students to participate in the ESO Course and Concert if this would otherwise be difficult. Please contact Anna Comino–James on 01844 351666 to discuss making an application for a bursary. If you are unable to get contact her by telephone please email Bursaries are awarded at the discretion of the ESO and The Potential Trust.

  • I was accepted for a place on the ESO Course in 2020. Do I need to re-apply for 2021?

    Due to the cancellation of the Orchestra Course in 2020, all students who previously applied, and were accepted, will automatically be offered a place on the 2021 course.

    If you are new to the Orchestra or were not offered a place on the 2020 course, please apply using the online application process.

  • When do I find out if I have a placement on the course?

    Official offers of a placement will be emailed to students from early Spring 2021. If you don’t receive this, please check your junk mail before getting in touch so that we can check your details and resend your offer. Remember to confirm your acceptance of any position offered, otherwise your place may be given to a reserve member in the second round of offers.

  • What are the commitment requirements?

    Students are expected to attend all rehearsals during the course in order to ensure continuity and to maintain the high standards of the Orchestra. Absence from rehearsals will not be permitted unless requested upon acceptance of your placement on the course. Any absence on the course will be granted at the absolute discretion of the ESO.

  • Prior to the Course

  • What do I need to prepare before the course begins?

    A link to the sheet music is sent to all students prior to the start of the course. All players are expected to have familiarised themselves with the music before rehearsals, however specific parts will not be given to students until the course begins.

  • Will I know which part I am playing prior to the course?

    For String players, you will be informed before the course which part you are playing.

    For Woodwind and Brass players, specific parts will be given to students during the course at the discretion of the individual Sectional Tutors. There may be the opportunity to play a range of parts during the course.

  • During the Course

  • Are the courses residential?

    We offer students the opportunity for both residential and non-residential placements depending on your location and individual preference.

    Accommodation for our residential students is in a purpose-built residential centre, generally in multi-bedded dormitories. Evening meals are taken together, and food is provided by our resitsential centre catering team, who are well used to catering for special dietary requirements.

  • What are the residential arrangements?

    Accommodation for our residential students is in a purpose-built residential centre, generally in multi-bedded dormitories. Wherever possible we try to meet requests for room sharing. Pastoral staff live onsite during the course and all have DBS clearance.

    Evening meals are taken together, and food is provided by our residential centre catering team, who are well used to catering for special dietary requirements. We can only cater for dietary requirements if we know about them so please ensure details are completed on the Personal Information Form for each child.

  • Do I need to bring my own instrument?

    With the exception of piano, students are expected to provide their own instrument. Percussion equipment required will be supplied, however applicants should bring their own sticks and mallets.

  • What is the concert day dress code?

    Please make sure you dress carefully and appropriately for concerts, taking care to look neat, tidy and professional. Concert day dress code is all black with the following guidelines;


    Black blouse or dress (no bare shoulders)
    Ankle length black skirt or loose black trousers
    Black shoes and black tights or black socks (no bare feet)


    Black long-sleeved shirt
    Black trousers
    Black shoes and black socks (no bare feet)

  • Will the programme change?

    Whilst the programme details are published in good faith, the ESO reserves the right to make any necessary changes to repertoire and artists if circumstances require. Such changes shall not be deemed as sufficient reason for any player to withdraw from the course. Refunds of fees are only made if the course does not run.

  • Do I need insurance?

    The insurance of personal possessions, including musical instruments, is a parental responsibility. The ESO and members of staff cannot be held responsible for any loss or damage and parents are advised to ensure that their insurance cover is adequate.

    All personal items should be clearly marked with the owner’s name.

    Personal accident insurance is recommended as extracurricular activities, however well supervised, inevitably carry a small risk of accidental injury.

  • Is transport provided to/from the course and concert?

    Transport to Dame Alice Owen’s School in time for the start of the course is a parental responsibility, as is the collection of participants at the end of the concert on Sunday 31st October 2021.

    For residential students, local travel between the residential centre and Dame Alice Owen’s School, is included in the course fee.

    Travel for all students (residential and non-residential) from Dame Alice Owen’s School to St John's Smith Square, London on Sunday 31 October 2021 is included in the course fee.

    Seatbelts, where fitted in any vehicle, must be worn as a condition of travel.

  • What happens if I feel ill?

    There is first aid trained staff on site and available at all times during the course.

    It is essential that we are fully informed in advance of the course, on the Personal Information Form, of any medical requirements, medication etc and of any other issues in general which might affect the well-being of the student. Failure to do so, and which in the opinion of the pastoral staff is prejudicial to the welfare of the child or of other course members, may result in the child being asked to leave the course. In such cases no refund of fees will be made.

    Our pastoral staff are able to look after and dispense medication if required and parents will also be asked in advance of the course for permission to dispense common household medication e.g. painkillers.

  • What are the expectations of students on the course?

    There will be a small number of house rules which must be observed to ensure the smooth running of the course and the well-being of all participants.

    It is important that all students enjoy the course and are able to give of their best.

    Possession or use of any form of alcohol, tobacco or illegal substances is not permitted and infringement will inevitably lead to exclusion from the course, without any refund of fees.

    The ESO reserves the right to exclude any student whose behaviour is unacceptable or disruptive or who is unable to comply with instructions given by staff. In such circumstances, no refund will be available and any associated costs, such as transport home, will be a parental responsibility.

    Deliberate or reckless damage of ESO/Dame Alice Owen’s School property will be charged to parents.

    In order to ensure continuity and to maintain the high standards of the Orchestra, students are expected to attend the entire course. Absence from rehearsals will not be permitted unless requested upon acceptance of your placement on the course. Any absence on the course will be granted at the absolute discretion of the ESO.

  • What do I do if I need to make contact with my son/daughter during the course?

    Contact telephone numbers for pastoral staff will be issued at the start of the course.

    Mobile phones are permitted but they must be switched off during rehearsals and between 10:00pm and 7:00am. Misuse will result in confiscation.

  • Are photos/videos taken during the course or concert?

    Photographs are taken and video/audio recordings made during the course.

    These are used only for archive and publicity purposes. Individual players are never identified. However, we recognise that, for a variety of reasons, it may not be appropriate for some children to feature in such photos or recordings and there is an opportunity to opt out on the Personal Information Form.

    Please contact us if you have any concerns.

  • Can parents attend during the course?

    Parents are very welcome to attend the course venue to drop off and collect students, but we will kindly ask you to remain outside in the waiting area during rehearsals so as not to distract the students.

    Parents are unable to remain at the course during the day.

  • Where can I buy tickets?

    Tickets are available from the St John's Smith Square box office.

If we haven’t answered your question, please contact us using the link below and we will be happy to help.