We're delighted to announce the launch of our new syllabus: RSL Classical Piano. Read on to hear a statement from our Chairman and Founder: Norton York.

At RSL we aim for music education to be for everyone. Up until now our purpose and history has been to make that possible for rock and pop musicians. From 2020 we are applying ourselves to classical music, 30 years after we broke the mould in music education by launching the world’s first rock and pop music grade exams.

Our new Classical Piano exams embrace the global interest in classical music and the diverse backgrounds of the people who make it, love it and want to perform it. With this syllabus our aim is to establish a new and different way to understand classical repertoire, to enjoy and respect its tradition while embracing its diversity and global future.

We know millions of listeners love classical music. That enthusiasm is at the heart of our new series. We have chosen an exceptional selection of pieces, carefully graded to foster and support progression, that are amongst the most cherished and admired pieces from the classical repertoire. We know the best results come from playing music that we love and enjoy, so we are sure pupils and teachers worldwide will welcome the challenge, fun and beauty to be gained from performing these well-known and loved classical pieces.

Music, of course, is not just of the past, and the presentation of music’s history to the young people of the 21st century needs to be broadened if it is to be properly understood. Today there are composers of all genders, nationalities and ethnicities producing music for the concert hall, in the media and online. We welcome the opportunity to present and champion this diversity here in our syllabus with pieces by many historic and living female composers from the UK and around the world.

We also want pupils to see themselves reflected in the diversity of composers we present. To achieve this just under half (48%) of all the syllabus pieces are composed by people who not male or are of Black, Asian, and Mixed Ethnicity heritage. Specifically, just under a quarter (23%) of the syllabus pieces are composed by Black, Asian, and Mixed Ethnicity heritage composers and 30% by women. We are particularly pleased to publish a number of pieces by the long-overlooked British composer Ignatius Sancho for the first time in book form, we believe, since the 18th century.

RSL Awards is committed to encouraging inclusivity in all we do and this first classical piano syllabus sets a new standard for us achieving this. We are also committed to training more ethnically diverse examiners in partnership with the Musicians’ Union as a further aim for 2021. In addition, we are setting ourselves the new task of ensuring that all of our future instrumental syllabi will have a similar gender and ethnicity profile to what we have achieved in our classical piano syllabus within the composers or performers of the pieces we include for examination.

Our Classical Piano series is the first stage in bringing innovation to classical music examinations. In the coming years we will launch other instruments to broaden our offer and serve around 90% of the pupils currently taking classical music exams worldwide. We hope teachers, parents and pupils will welcome this new approach and join us in re-defining what is possible and acceptable in classical music education.

RSL is all about musicians making music that they love – pop musicians have benefitted from that for 3 decades. Now we are doing the same for classical music and I hope you will join us on this exciting journey.

Norton York

Chairman and Founder - RSL Awards


Our Classical Piano repertoire is unparalleled in its diversity, and includes some of the most notable composers of Black, Asian, and Mixed Ethnicity heritage from the world of classical music.

Featured composers include (in alphabetical order):

Valerie Capers; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; Tan Dun; Alexis Ffrench; Scott Joplin; Zenobia Perry; Oscar Peterson; Florence Price; Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges; Ignatius Sancho; Yiruma.

We are also proud to champion the finest female classical composers who have been at the forefront of their artistic field.

Notable female composers include (in alphabetical order):

Kristin Anderson-Lopez; Glenda Austin; Christine Donkin; Anne Gaudet; Agathe Grondahl; Nikki Iles; Helen Madden; Janet Mason; Elvina Pearce; Lola Perrin; Simone Ple; Mona Rejino; Teresa Richert; Clara Schumann


About RSL Awards Ltd

In 1991, under the direction of founder Norton York, Rockschool created a unique set of products for a brand-new marketplace: recognised, graded qualifications for contemporary musicians. The traditional instruments performing in a rock band were included in the original graded examinations, Electric guitar, Bass guitar and Drums. After the initial success with these instruments, the company has developed syllabi in Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Piano and Keyboards, Ukulele, Contemporary Music Theory and the world's first Music Production syllabus.

Over recent years the company, based in West London, has developed a full suite of Vocational Qualifications for the creative industries, which are delivered in over 500 schools and colleges, principally in the UK. These sit alongside a program of contemporary dance qualifications, covering three distinct disciplines: musical theatre, jazz and street dance and a new suite of first to market CQ qualifications in Vlogging and Podcasting.

A head office team of 50, and a team of over 150 highly trained and certified global examiners, assessors and moderators help deliver the qualifications across the globe. Rockschool qualifications are recognised and regulated at the highest level by Ofqual, SFA, CCEA, Qualifications Wales and the Department for Education, with all successful level 3 (Grades 6–8) exams being awarded UCAS points, bolstering university applications.