In 1896 the College had been in existence for only thirteen years, occupying its new building (the present one) since 1894. Student numbers had reached four hundred, nearly three-quarters of whom were women. Everyone had their first and second performing studies, with obligatory lessons in harmony and counterpoint, although these 'theoretical' subjects were studied separately and students had to pass harmony Grade V before they were thought suitably equipped to study counterpoint. The teaching staff was headed by Parratt, Parry and Stanford. Parratt taught a distinguished band of organists, conducted the Choral Class and also presided over the Music Class, where instruction in miscellaneous musical topics was given. Parry, the Director, gave history lectures, while Stanford, the most prestigious composition teacher at the College, conducted the Orchestral Class on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.
Bridge inherited the late-Victorian work-ethos from his father4 and was determined to take as much advantage of his time at College as possible. On most days he practised assiduously, preparing for his violin lessons with Achille Rivarde, whose distrust of any type of affectation or mannerism in either the technical or interpretative aspects of performance became, for Bridge, a firmly-held belief. Preparation was needed, in addition, for lessons on the piano, Bridge's second study, and for the rehearsals for ensemble work (also supervised by Rivarde) and the College orchestra. At first, Bridge was required for the orchestra only when large numbers were involved, as in a special concert at the Queen's Hall on 8 July 1897, which formed a part of the International Congress of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. The Leeds Festival Choir was joined by the augmented College orchestra with Stanford conducting Mackenzie's overture Britannia, Parry's Blest Pair of Sirens, the Academic Festival Overture by Brahms and Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini, a work that became a favourite of Bridge's. Bridge was almost unnoticeable at the back of the second violins. A more prominent position, however, was secured six months later when Bridge was chosen to play in one of the on-stage bands in a performance given by the College of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Lyceum Theatre (27 January 1898). Bridge soon became a regular member of the second violins, gradually moving further forward until, by the summer term of 1899, he was leading the seconds, a position he retained until the end of his College days.