National Choral School


NATIONAL CHORAL SCHOOL is the premier choral experience in Australia, bringing together singers, composers and conductors from across Australia. When all these talented young people come together in January for an inspirational and intensive two week season, the results are extraordinary.

National Choral School is held at the University of NSW in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. The excellent rehearsal spaces, performing venues and standard of accommodation in Kensington Colleges make the UNSW campus the ideal venue for the intensive two weeks of NCS.

The two week summer intensive culminates in the four-day Festival of Summer Voices, that include four public performances that runs concurrently with the NCS Symposium – three days of professional development activities for music educators and workshops that gives the public a taste of NCS.

“For almost as long as we have held National Choral School, there has been an appetite from lovers of choral music to be part of this incredible season of music-making. So it’s a great pleasure to open our doors in a meaningful way, enabling people to immerse themselves in the choral art form,” says Gondwana Choirs Founder and Artistic Director Lyn Williams AM.

NATIONAL CHORAL SCHOOL is the pre-eminent intensive choral experience for young singers in Australia.

For two weeks, over 300 singers come together to form treble and SATB choirs which include Gondwana Voices (treble singers, aged 10-17), Gondwana Chorale (mixed choir, aged 17-25) and Latitude 34 (SATB).

The choirs are led by the nation’s leading choral artists and in 2019, internationally-acclaimed conductor Simon Halsey (London Symphony Orchestra Chorus) will be Guest Artist. The combined choirs will present the premiere of a new commissioned work by Paul Jarman.

Artistic Staf include  Lyn Williams, Mark O’Leary, Carl Crossin, Paul Holley, Elizabeth Scott, Rowan Johnston, Kate Albury, Kim Sutherland, Amandine Petit, Paul Jarman

Choristers also choose from a  range of special electives of musical interest, led by an expert in the field. 2019 Electives include Taiko drumming, gamelan ensemble, music theatre, small a cappella groups, music therapy and music media.


Gondwana Composer School is a truly unique opportunity for emerging composers to develop their craft during two intensive weeks in January. Under the expert guidance of leading composer Paul Stanhope, participants are mentored throughout the entire creative process, including composition, revision, rehearsal, workshopping, performance and recording.

In the first week, composers will be challenged to write a piece in 5 days for one of the resident choirs at National Choral School. Each composer is mentored through this process, leading to an in-house concert will see each composer’s piece performed by their choir. The second week develops composers’ skills writing for voices in different ways. Previous second week projects have included writing for film, writing for vocal consort and working with music of diverse cultural origins.


Gondwana Conducting Academy is a program for emerging and established choral conductors looking for the opportunity to develop and refine their conducting technique. Program Director Graeme Morton is known for the quality and accessibility of his conducting instruction, providing both plenary sessions and individual lessons to focus on building and extending specific skills.

Students enjoy daily access to a dozen of the country’s best conductors, watching them take singers from the beginning of a journey right through to the end, over the two-week period of National Choral School.  They have the opportunity to engage with those dozen leading conductors in conductor forums, and informally as well as with some of the nation’s finest young choral singers, including members of Gondwana Chorale and Gondwana Voices.

What is National Choral School?

NCS2019 will be based for the at the University of New South Wales, with participants in residence at The Kensington Colleges. NCS takes place for two weeks each January each year and in 2019 the dates are 7-20 January inclusive.

When and where is NCS held?

NCS2019 will be based for the at the University of New South Wales, with participants in residence at The Kensington Colleges. NCS takes place for two weeks each January each year and in 2019 the dates are 9-20 January inclusive.

My child is not yet 10. Can they still apply?

All choristers must be at least 10 years old on 1 January 2019. Children may be 9 years old when auditioning as long as they are at least 10 years old after 1 January 2018.

What does the daily schedule looks like?

The daily schedule at National Choral School is broken into five sessions, which are separated by meal times. Choirs generally rehearse in three of these sessions, and the other sessions are allocated for music memorisation, free time, rest time, a whole choir activity, or an activity with all NCS participants.

  • 7am: Wake Up
  • 7:30 – 8:30am: Breakfast
  • 9:00 – 10:30am: Session 1
  • 10:30 – 11:00am: Morning Tea
  • 11:00 – 12:30pm: Session 2
  • 12:30 – 2:00pm: Lunch Break
  • 2:00 – 3:30pm: Session 3
  • 3:30 – 4:00pm: Afternoon Tea
  • 4:00 – 5:30pm: Session 4
  • 5:30 – 7:00pm: Dinner Break
  • 7:00 – 8:30pm: Session 5
  • 8:30 – 9:00pm: Pre-Curfew
  • 9:00pm: Lights Out
What is the accommodation like?

National Choral School is being held at the UNSW campus for the first time in 2017, thanks to our new partnership with the university. Participants will be accommodated in the recently rebuilt Kensington Colleges, in modern single rooms with excellent recreational and catering facilities. Choristers will be allocated to a wing according to gender, age and preferences where possible.

Can I stay at home instead of at UNSW?

Staying on campus for the duration of National Choral School is compulsory for all participants.

I am flying. What happens when I arrive at the Airport?

In the weeks before National Choral School commences, Gondwana Choirs will send all choristers information regarding the designated terminal meet up points at Sydney Domestic Airport. When you arrive at Sydney Domestic Airport, you will be met by members of the Gondwana Choirs supervisor team, who will tick your name off the list of arriving choristers and look after you.

We have several coaches to transfer choristers from the airport to National Choral School. You will be allocated to a departing bus, and transferred to our accommodation at University of New South Wales. Upon arrival at The Kensington Colleges, choristers will be signed in, given their music folder and room key, and directed to their room to unpack and settle in. Please remember to provide your chorister with a packed lunch and snacks, as lunch will not be provided on arrival day.

I am dropping off my child at UNSW. What do I do?

If your child is being dropped directly at The Kensington Colleges, you will need to enter the college at 4 High Street, Kensington. There is no parking on site however there is plenty of street parking surrounding the university.

There will be plenty of signage directing towards the entrance of the college for registration. You will then be directed by our staff on how to get to your chorister’s room. You are then welcome to take your chorister into their room where you can meet our staff/supervisors and help your chorister get settled.

Please remember to provide your choristers with a packed lunch and snacks, as lunch will not be provided on arrival day.

Who look after my child while they are at NCS?

Gondwana Choirs is committed to the duty of care of our choristers. All choristers under the age of 18 are cared for by an experienced team of adult staff and supervisors (many of whom are parents of choristers) for every Gondwana season.
All choristers should understand that they will be staying away from their families and homes whilst at National Choral School. Parents are welcome to attend the public concerts and Open Day at National Choral School, but choristers must be independent of their parents during the season. Our supervisors are experienced in dealing with homesickness and all choristers are made to feel welcome at National Choral School. Choristers are encouraged to call home during the dinner break each evening and participants are kept very busy with rehearsals, activities and new friends – there is hardly time to feel homesick!

Can I visit my child?

We don’t allow parents to ‘drop in’ to National Choral School to visit with their child.

We do encourage parents to attend Open Day, and the National Choral School Concerts, and choristers can phone home during their dinner break.

Please note: it is compulsory for all participants to return to UNSW following the concerts and be collected the following morning. Participants are not allowed to leave the concerts with their parents.

Special dietary and allergies requirements

The kitchen at National Choral School is very experienced at catering for a range of dietary requirements and allergies. Before NCS begins, the kitchen staff, camp doctor and the relevant supervisors are given your child’s special diet information, and any chorister with a special diet is asked to make themselves known to kitchen staff before their first meal at NCS.

Please note NCS is a nut and fish free environment.

What do I wear?

At NCS, all participants wear casual clothes on rehearsal days. It can get very hot and humid in Sydney in January, so it’s important that all participants pack cool clothing. Participants must wear either shoes or thongs when moving around the buildings and outside and MUST wear footwear into the dining hall.

What do I pack?

A packing list will be sent to participants in the weeks before National Choral School commences.

Please note: as choristers are required to carry and lift their suitcases up and down stairs by themselves, the suitcase should be a trolley suitcase. We strongly suggest the suitcase weighs no more than 15 kg.


Applications for NCS 2020 will open in July 2019 and auditions are held nationally late August to early September .

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