Cardiff University has one of the longest traditions in the UK (after Oxford and Cambridge) of offering opportunities to study music. Initially, this consisted of a two-year 'elementary course in theory' (1883). In 1910, the discipline was recognised by the establishment of the Chair in Music. Under the leadership of several composers, the curriculum expanded greatly. In 1946 Professor Joseph Morgan (1939-67) persuaded Cardiff to become the first British university to appoint a resident ensemble as part of its academic staff.
For almost 90 years, music was taught in the Main University buildings. Professor Alun Hoddinott (1967-87) was even more persuasive than Joseph Morgan and, thanks to his efforts, students and staff moved into the first purpose-built music facilities in a UK university. The opening ceremony was performed by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on 21 May 1971.
The School of Music has since greatly expanded its student intake and complement of staff. Its recently refurbished Music Library is one of the best UK university resources for music books, journals, scores, recordings and archival materials.
Past members of staff distinguished by their publications or compositions include Malcolm Boyd, Professor Alun Hoddinott, Professor H.C. Robbins Landon, Professor Michael Robinson, Professor Arnold Whittall and Professor Peter Williams.
Honorary Fellows of the University include Sir Charles Mackerras, Denis O'Neill, Ingrid Surgenor and Karl Jenkins.
Graduates from the School have developed careers in many areas of music:
- Oliver Condy (MA 1999) is Editor of BBC Music Magazine
- John Evans (BMus 1974, MA 1975) is Head of Music, BBC Radio 3
- Claire Foreman (nee Martin, BMus 1999) is completing her doctorate on Indian music at the University of California in Los Angeles
- Michael Francis (BMus 1997) is a member of the double-bass section of the London Symphony Orchestra
- James Garratt (PhD 1999) is a Lecturer in Music, Manchester University; his book, Palestrina and the German Romantic Imagination (2002), draws on his doctoral thesis.
- Suzanne Hay (BMus 1998) is Education and Community Manager, BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales
- Sarah Hill (PhD 2002) is a Lecturer in Music, Southampton University
- Karl Jenkins (BMus 1966) is a former member of Soft Machine and composer of The Armed Man and Adiemus albums
- Ruth Jones (BMus 2001, MA 2002) is the Manager of the Welsh Music Information Centre at the Welsh Millennium Centre in Cardiff
- Natasha Kraemer (BMus 2002) is studying Baroque cello at the Royal Academy of Music in London
- Claire Lewis (BMus 2002) is a MAX Projects Assistant at Welsh National Opera
- Nicholas Reyland (PhD 2005) is a Lecturer at Keele University
- Jim Samson (MMus 1970, PhD 1972) is Professor of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London.