Skip to main content
Leicester Special Collections

Dr Sargent appointed Head of Music

Malcolm Sargent

Malcolm Sargent, courtesy National Portrait Gallery (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College managed to secure the services of the 26-year-old Dr Malcolm Sargent as the first head of its fledgling music department. Sargent, who was already well known locally as an organist and choirmaster from Melton Mowbray, went on to conduct the BBC Promenade Concerts in the 1960s. His sense of theatre, elegant dress and sheer panache won him an army of devoted followers in Britain and throughout the world. 

In March 1921, he became a household name in Leicester with his breakthrough performance at De Montfort Hall, conducting his own specially composed piece, An Impression on a Windy Day, under the critical gaze of Sir Henry Wood, the father of British conducting and founder of the Proms. 

By the time of his appointment to the university in September 1921, he had taken charge of the operatic societies in Melton Mowbray and Stamford, transforming the drab post war atmosphere of those towns with colour, light, and, most importantly, fun. In De Montfort Hall, he enthralled capacity audiences conducting his own Leicester Symphony Orchestra.  

Sargent’s academic credentials were second to none. By the age of 24 he had gained his doctorate after less than a year’s study on a course that would normally take five years. As a teacher, he was known to have something very special to offer. Students of music in Leicester could indeed count themselves very fortunate. 

Researched and written by Sam Dobson