Instrument Purchase

It is a startling fact that many music students often have no choice but to embark on their professional training without an adequate instrument of their own. The RPS can help.

Every year, we are pleased to provide funding to young musicians who do not own an instrument suitable for their professional training. Unlike many schemes, this is not a loan: it is a grant that we do not expect to be repaid, as we recognise the many financial challenges that young musicians face. For many years, this fund has been principally supported by the Sir John Barbirolli Memorial Foundation, established in tribute to the renowned conductor and Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal recipient, but increasingly we are grateful to a range of supporters whose kindness helps us to help more young musicians in this way.

“So many young players are hampered by poor quality instruments… it can be very demoralising. Being able to buy my own horn while still a student enabled me to fulfil my own potential. Thank you RPS for giving me really practical support when it mattered.” Angela Barnes, Second Horn, London Symphony Orchestra

Who is it open to?

Students of UK music colleges. Due to limited funding and the volume of applications we receive, grants are prioritised for first year undergraduates, due to enter their second year.

It is very rare for grants to be given to students at later stages of study and we can only consider such applications in truly exceptional cases fully explained by the college. Equally we can only consider applications for those due to enter their first undergraduate year where need for a new instrument is urgent and the quality of the candidate’s current instrument is already well known to the college, possibly by prior acquaintance through the college’s junior department.

What can I apply for?

Please note, priority is given to students needing to purchase a principal study instrument (for string instruments, this includes bows). Given the demand for these, it is only in exceptional cases that we can consider supporting the purchase of an auxiliary or second study instrument.

Though it differs year-on-year, we aim annually to give a total of around £20,000 in grants. Individual grants are usually between £750 and £1,500 and very rarely exceed £3,000. As such, students should submit applications for instruments that are central to their course of study and also suitable to their needs at this stage in their development.

We regret applications for keyboard instruments cannot be considered.

How can I apply?

Rather than apply directly, all candidates must be nominated by their music college. Application forms are sent directly to UK music colleges annually in March, which they will then invite students to complete. If you are an eligible candidate, we recommend you talk to your Head of Faculty or the designated member of staff collating the applications. Grants for 2020 have now been decided and applications will reopen in 2021.

If you teach or work at a music college and would like to know who the representative at your organisation is who generally coordinates applications on behalf of your music college, we can let you know if you get in touch with us.

In brief, each application should include a form (completed by the student) and two references from the student’s instrumental teacher and Head of Department. The college must take the lead in collating and submitting applications. Due to limited funding, each college should put forward no more than five students for consideration. It is entirely at the discretion of each college how they invite or select applications from students to submit.

For information about the process, you are welcome to take a look at the guidelines and terms for the last round of applications, linked below.

How else might I find funds?

While we can only offer a very limited number of grants each year, we pleased to offer some further ideas and signposts for any musicians who may be seeking funds to buy themselves an instrument.


Every year, the Instrument Purchase Scheme remains our most over-subscribed fund. We would dearly like to help more young people acquire the instrument they really need to progress. If you would like to help us to help more young musicians, please contact us or find out more about supporting the RPS here.

See who we helped this year