Chetham’s School of Music, the UK’s largest specialist music school, has appointed baritone Marcus Farnsworth as head of a new vocal and choral department where singers as young as 13 will now be welcome.

Farnsworth himself attended Chetham and his award-winning professional career has included recitals, recordings and operatic performances across the world. He won first prize in the 2009 Wigmore Hall International Song Competition and the Song Prize at the 2011 Kathleen Ferrier competition, and is committed to educational and community singing alongside his performance career.

The role will encompass both leadership of the school’s choirs and development of the programme for first study singers, alongside a team of vocal teachers as part of the school’s outstanding music department led by Tom Redmond (also joining in September as director of music). Every student at Chetham’s sings regularly as part of an ensemble, whilst the flagship Chamber Choir and Chorus has performed alongside artists including Paul McCreesh, John Rutter and the Hallé.

Previously, students were only admitted as singers into the sixth form, but the expanded department will welcome young performers from year 9 upwards, allowing more time for young singers to build their skills.

Principal Alun Jones said: ‘I am delighted that Marcus is joining us at such an exciting time in the school’s development. As we celebrate Chetham’s 50th anniversary as a specialist music school, we look forward to the future and to influencing the musical landscape of the nation for many more years as an international centre of instrumental, vocal and choral excellence.’