The Queen’s College is delighted to mark the start of 2024 with the announcement of a £6.3 million gift to endow permanently its Fellowship in Music and to create a future Director of Choral Music post.

The College celebrates this inspiring gift at a time when music education and the performing arts are particularly under threat. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a decline that was already in motion; funding has been cut at every level: from school pupils learning about music for the first time, to entire music departments at higher education institutions. 

Professor Owen Rees now becomes the first Waverley Fellow in Music at Queen’s and, upon his retirement, the College will split the academic teaching of music and the directorship of the choir into two distinct roles and appoint the first Waverley Director of Choral Music.

Speaking to the long-term and transformational impact the Waverley Music and Choir endowments will have, Professor Rees commented:

This extraordinarily generous gift will ensure that both academic music and musical performance will continue to flourish at Queen’s.

For the College choir, it greatly expands the freedom to undertake ambitious and exciting musical projects, developing the ensemble’s work with some of the world’s finest orchestras, and taking performances across the globe, opening up to our students new opportunities for musical and cultural exchange.

The endowing of the Music Fellowship safeguards the academic provision in this field at Queen’s, delivered through the unparalleled strengths of the tutorial system. The endowment acknowledges the continuing importance of music against a backdrop of funding cuts across the arts.

Alongside the endowment of these two posts, a further endowment has been created to ensure the choir has the necessary funds to tour on a regular basis and to provide it with the equipment and technology necessary to share its music with audiences here in Oxford and around the world.

The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, said that in making their gift to Queen’s they were focused on securing the College’s rich and vibrant musical tradition for audiences both now and in the future: 

Music has helped shape our lives, and we are pleased that we have been given an opportunity to contribute to a major activity within the College.

The College has a long and distinguished history of musical scholarship and choral performance. The Waverley Fellowship and the Directorship of Choral Music will ensure that this tradition will continue and thrive.

Recognising the historical significance of this gift, and the effect it will have on both music at Queen’s and the wider College community, the Provost and Governing Body passed their own message of thanks to the donors:

Our gratitude for this gift, and the long-term vision for the teaching and performance of music it makes possible, is profound. We are honoured by the continued vote of confidence the donors have shown in the College. Their gift to Queen’s will have a tremendous impact on our ability to deliver a world-class education and experience.

The Waverley endowments join seven centuries of gifts given to the College by its Old Members and friends, as the College works with each generation of donors to ensure Queen’s remains one of the top colleges at the world’s top-ranked university.

Choir pictured in Back Quad dressed in purple robes with white cassocks