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School History

The school was established in 1880 to educate the choristers of the newly built St Mary’s Cathedral, and was known as the Song School of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, located within the Cathedral precincts at Old Coates House and the aptly named Song School Building (still used by the choristers for daily practice).

Early in the 1970s two figures became determined to safeguard not just the existence of the Choir School but to expand it into something new and exciting. Dennis Townhill, Organist at St Mary’s Cathedral, and the Provost, Philip Crosfield, became the founding fathers of the new specialist music school that is very much alive today. Their dreams of a school for gifted musical children, modelled on the Yehudi Menuhin School in England, became a reality in 1972, when the first young instrumentalists arrived. Lord Menuhin himself very much approved, and even referred to St Mary’s Music School as “my younger sister-school in Scotland”.

Girls joined the Cathedral Choir in 1976, the first Cathedral Choir in the UK to admit girls alongside boy trebles, and today, as a centre of musical excellence, children from all over Scotland and beyond join the choir and the school.

In 1995 the opportunity arose to consolidate the school estate at a single location at Coates Hall on Grosvenor Crescent. The building was formerly a Theological College and includes a fine wing designed by Robert Lorimer.

In 2016 the school put forward a proposal to move its location to the former Royal High School in Edinburgh in competition with another proposal to convert the site to a hotel. If successful, this will allow the school to increase the number of its pupils to around 120 with improved facilities, including a concert hall.