St John’s Cambridge Head to Lead Choir Schools

Neil Chippington, Headmaster of St John’s College School, Cambridge succeeded Paul Smith, Headmaster of Hereford Cathedral School as Chairman of the Choir Schools’ Association on 1 September in its Centenary Year.

Neil brings a wealth of educational, leadership and musical skills to the role. He was a chorister at Winchester Cathedral and a pupil at The Pilgrims’ School, a Music Scholar at Cranleigh School and then Organ Scholar at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge where he read Music.  After a year in the USA as organ scholar at the First United Methodist Church, Lubbock, Texas he returned to Cranleigh briefly before joining the music department at Winchester College.  Whilst at Winchester he taught Music as well as a number of other subjects, was Head of Academic Music and, for eight years, a Housemaster. He conducted a local choral society as well as the school’s choral society during his time there.

Photo: Ash Mills

After 17 years at Winchester he became Headmaster of St Paul’s Cathedral School, London in 2009. He moved to his current post as Headmaster of St John’s College School in 2016.

Neil’s many outside interests include cycling and running and he has done a number of half marathons and triathlons, usually for charity. He loves to travel and over the years has led school trips to a wide range of countries including Jordan, Iran and Turkey. He is married to Leisle, also a teacher, and they have two sons.

He says: “It is a privilege and a huge responsibility to educate children but it is a particular honour to lead a group of schools with a musical and cultural heritage that dates back 1400 years. Choir schools, whether they be private or state, are very special places and have an extensive breadth to their provision. The musical excellence achieved day in and day out is something choristers never forget and the skills acquired can transfer to any walk of life they pursue.

As everyday life becomes busier and more frenetic, the place of a church, chapel or cathedral and the music that is heard within their walls can seem irrelevant. The challenge for choir schools and all involved in church music is to help people seek out quiet spaces where they can find peace and time for reflection,  helped by music that has inspired so many people for generations. Music is a fundamental part of being human and choristers help provide the finest on a daily basis.

Many choir schools are able to give their pupils a wonderful musical education. This is not the case for the vast majority of schools in the UK today and we hope that through the many outreach projects our schools support, we can help encourage even more young people to find the many benefits and the joy in performing and listening to all types of music.”