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Bob and Beryl Harding Bursary for Young Conductors

The Bursary was created in 1987 by Havant and District Orchestral Society as an annual award to a student conductor.  It is a unique chance for a student to consolidate and develop conducting skills and rehearsal techniques while extending knowledge of orchestral repertoire and gaining insight into the organisation of a concert season.  See our complete list of bursary holders for more information about those who made use of this opportunity, including many who have become established professional conductors. 

Each year, selected music colleges which offer advanced conducting courses are each invited to nominate a candidate student who must be on an advanced conducting course and resident in the UK during the following season.  The college may also nominate one or two additional students as backup in case the primary nominated student has to drop out for some reason, or there is a shortage of candidates from other colleges for that year. 

Originally, the list of colleges consisted only of the four main London music conservatoires, currently known as the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.  However, if there is a shortage of candidates in a particular year, applicants may be invited from other conducting courses.  In recent years we have had two successful applicants from the bandmaster course at the Royal Marines School of Music (based locally in Portsmouth), one from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and one from the University of Southampton.

The nominated candidates are supplied with application forms and additional information about the audition process.  Completed application forms must be returned to the bursary award coordinator by the specified date, which is normally in June, about four weeks before the audition date. 

Selection is by audition on a date in July, where the candidates are expected to spend 30 to 40 minutes rehearsing material with the orchestra from two different works specified in advance, which are normally selected from those to be performed early in the following season. 

The award is intended to benefit both the student and the orchestra, which means the award may not necessarily go to the ‘best conductor’ but rather to the candidate who is most likely to be able to make effective use of the opportunity to work with the orchestra.  If no suitable candidate is identified, the bursary may not be awarded for that season.  In the past, when the results of the audition have been particularly close, the award has occasionally been shared between two excellent candidates. 

The Bursary offers…

  • Observation of and assistance at up to 15 rehearsals of Havant Symphony Orchestra for the coming season with guidance from the current Resident Conductor.
  • Observation at, and possibly conducting at, concerts during the season.
  • Provision of study/miniature scores of works to be performed.
  • Opportunity to meet and talk with the concert soloists and to discuss orchestral matters with the players (professional, semi-professional and amateur), leader and conductor (currently Jonathan Butcher).
  • Reasonable travelling expenses and overnight hospitality when needed.
  • Inclusion in discussions on planning and promotion of the large amateur-based orchestral society.

Candidate’s qualifications…

The candidate

  • Must be a graduate with a recognised musical qualification and be making a specialised study of conducting. 
  • Must be resident in Great Britain from 1st September following the audition date to 30th September of the following year.
  • Must be available to attend selected rehearsals (usually up to 5 per term) on Friday evenings from 7.00pm until 9.30pm in Havant, Hampshire, and the Havant Symphony Orchestra concerts for the coming season (usually in December, March and July).  Future concert and rehearsal dates are shown on the website in the public part of the Members section. 
  • Must be able to attend the audition in Havant in July.
The normal audition date is the next Friday rehearsal date the week after the July concert.  However, this sometimes has to be changed to avoid clashes with other events. 

For more information and application forms, contact the Bursary Award administrator on  Note that any application must be supported by the relevant college, with preference being given to colleges on our regular list.  If more than one applicant is nominated by the same college, the first one will normally be accepted for audition but any others will only be accepted if the first one drops out or there is a shortage of candidates from other colleges.

How the award works in practice

The student is usually invited to conduct one or two works in each of the three main concerts, attending up to five Friday evening rehearsals before the concert day, at which they will be expected to spend part of the time conducting their own work or works for the concert and the rest of the time observing the rehearsal of the other works.  These rehearsal dates should include the night before the concert, and should preferably also include the first rehearsal, which is normally a run-through of all of the works.  Other rehearsal dates are arranged by discussion with the regular conductor. 

The regular conductor is occasionally unavailable for a rehearsal date, in which case the student may be invited (well in advance) to take a whole rehearsal, although this is neither guaranteed nor a required part of the award. 

The student is normally also invited to plan and conduct Havant Symphony Orchestra’s pre-season “Popular Classics” concert at Hayling Island Community Centre in the September following their completed season.  This concert is intended to raise funds for the society, so there is a very limited budget, primarily to cover expenses, and the concerto soloist will typically be a student friend of the conductor or a popular local musician.  The selected works must not be too challenging as there are usually only two full Friday rehearsals for this concert, plus a partial rehearsal on the first Friday of term (which also includes the society AGM).  The bursary auditions in July for the following season normally use extracts from these works as well, so the orchestra usually gets a first look at these works before the summer break. 

Bob and Beryl Harding

The bursary was originally called the Bob Harding Bursary, as it was originally set up 1987 in memory of Bob Harding by his widow Beryl and Havant Orchestras founder Peter Craddock.  Beryl continued to be very actively involved in running (and funding) the scheme, and after Beryl passed away in July 2019, the bursary was renamed to the Bob and Beryl Harding Bursary to honour her memory. 

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