Our History


Our success is rooted in the very high quality and reputation of our tutors and accompanists. Young professionals, students and gifted amateurs are attracted to the course, and there are several classes and workshops suited to the inexperienced. Everyone who loves singing is welcome to apply and many choose to return year after year.

First Steps

Following a successful trial of Masterclasses with Laura Sarti at Edinburgh’s Queens Hall in 1980, ‘Music at Oxenfoord’ was launched in 1981 as a week’s course held at Oxenfoord Castle School near Edinburgh. We attracted 28 students in our first year with a staff of six teachers – Laura Sarti (vocal studies & opera), Paul Hamburger (repertoire for singers & accompanists), David Roblou (early vocal music, solo harpsichord repertoire & accompaniment), Mary Carmichael, the then headmistress of Oxenfoord Castle School, (Choral course) and Joan Busby & Jane Gregson running a singing workshop. The staff accompanists included Hester Dickson & Malcolm Martineau and founding patrons included Roderick Brydon, Neil Butterworth, Joan Dickson and Robin Orr. In 1992 Mary Hammond introduced a Musical Theatre course until her retirement in 2001.

Changing Places

When Oxenfoord Castle School closed in September 1993, we became associated with Napier University and moved to St Leonard’s School in St Andrews. Because around 20% of students were coming from Europe and further afield (America, Australia and Japan) we changed our name to Oxenfoord International and continue to attract international applicants to this day.

In 2002, and as part of our 21st year celebrations, the Public Masterclass was launched with Sir Thomas Allen and has since included the following notable teachers and performers:

  • 2003 – Della Jones
  • 2004 – Yvonne Kenny
  • 2005 – Marie McLaughlin
  • 2006 – Ryland Davies
  • 2007 – Ann Murray DBE
  • 2008 – Ryland Davies
  • 2009 – Isobel Buchanan
  • 2010 – Janis Kelly
  • 2011 – Ann Murray DBE
  • 2012 – Ryland Davies
  • 2013 – Ann Murray DBE
  • 2014 – Joan Rodgers CBE
  • 2015 – John Mark Ainsley
  • 2016 – Susan Bullock CBE
  • 2017 – Ann Murray DBE
  • 2018 – Ann Murray DBE
  • 2019 – Karen Cargill
  • 2020 – Malcolm Martineau OBE (Course cancelled due to pandemic)
  • 2021 – Dame Sarah Connolly (Course cancelled due to pandemic)
  • 2022 – Malcolm Martineau OBE

Joan Busby retired as Artistic Director in 2005 and was succeeded by Malcolm Martineau who continues to lead the course. We stayed at St. Leonards until 2008 (with a gap of only one year due to Millennium refurbishments) and in 2009 moved to our current location of Loretto School, Musselburgh, conveniently sited on the outskirts of Scotland’s historic capital.

Inspiring excellence

Today singers and pianists from all over the world come to share the wealth of musical experience at Oxenfoord International. It continues to retain its intimate and supportive ethos, which has become a feature for so many over the years.

In 2023 we’re looking to increase our family of supporters who provide the valuable funds to maintain our excellent standard of staff and to offer bursaries for those most in need. As we are now a registered charity, if you think you may be able to help please get in contact.