The aim of the Music Department is to provide all members of the school community with an exciting and stimulating music environment that challenges and inspires, enhancing pupils’ and teachers’ overall school experience.
Music plays an important part in the daily school life including hymn-singing in assembly and regular music performances, as well as communal singing at end of term celebrations. It often has a cohesive role to play in the overall school. Whilst most pupils will not go on to pursue a career in music there is no doubt that it plays an essential part in everyone’s life and, if nothing else, the Department resolves to ensure that music is viewed enthusiastically and that pupils leave school with confident and positive musical opinions. Girls in years 7, 8 and 9 have two periods of music per week. Girls opting to take the GCSE and A level music courses study the Edexcel syllabus.
Music Technology enjoys a strong supporting role in enhancing the positive effect of music in the school. From a young age the girls often use technology to create compositions beyond their own performing capabilities, instilling in them valuable ideas about the role of technology in today’s world. All of our concerts and competitions are also recorded using high quality audio equipment, to create lasting memories of the girls performing, and to offer valuable opportunities for reflection and self assessment, as well as giving important practical experience to Music Technology students. The use of Music Technology also enriches the experience of students and parents alike in non-musical events, such as in the recent production of Hamlet.
The Head of Department is Miss Helen Vickery who is assisted in academic teaching by Miss Hannah Davidson and one part-time colleague in the Junior School Mrs Rachel Floyd. Mr Daniel Mathews teaches Music Technology. There are also 16 visiting instrumental and singing teachers who provide individual tuition for most of the pupils in the school (for an extra fee) covering a wide range of instruments: piano, organ, violin and viola, ‘cello, harp, flute, clarinet, oboe, recorder, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, drum-kit and singing.
Classes have a double lesson every week for music and learn basic skills of musical literacy, listening and appraising, composition and performance covering a variety of different musical idioms: the Year 7 curriculum for example includes studies of Vivaldi's Four Seasons violin concertos, and African and Chinese music; Year 8 encompasses Stravinsky Firebird Ballet and Rock and Roll; Year 9 study the Blues at one end of the spectrum and Opera at the other. The emphasis is very much on enjoying the subject and much of the work in class is practical with written homework often involving research on the internet.
Each year group attends one annual outing relevant to the course each year:
A significant minority of girls take music to GCSE which follows on logically from the Key Stage 3 course. Pupils continue to concentrate on the 3 skills of performing, composing and listening and appraising. Note-reading skills are certainly advantageous to all parts of the course and pupils nearly always have individual lessons on their instrument/singing. Performance and composition are undertaken during the 2-year course and a portfolio of the best work in both papers is sent for moderation to the Examination Board. There is one listening paper, based on familiar musical extracts, which is sat during the examination period.
The small classes make for a relaxed atmosphere whilst of course encouraging and expecting a serious and committed approach.
Music at AS and A2 level requires a considerable degree of technical knowledge and performing expertise. It is a particularly highly regarded qualification as it involves a wide range of skills. Pupils demonstrate their performing and presentation skills in coursework undertaken during the year and submitted as a portfolio to the examination board. Composition techniques are studied during the 1st term and a half culminating in a composition which is written under supervised study circumstances. The written paper involves a combination of short answer essays, some listening excerpts to respond to and some harmony exercises.
Music Technology requires students to be open-minded about listening to music in a new way, and to quickly adapt to new software and new practical skills. Music GCSE with Grade 5 Music Theory is recommended, but the ability to play an instrument to grade 4 standard, and a natural intuition with computers are all that's required. Students submit one coursework portfolio – worth the majority of marks – and sit one examination each year. The coursework covers music technology in a popular song remake, a recording, and a composition, whilst the exam covers listening skills and the history of music technology, as well as some practical skills at A2.
The Music Department is well-resourced with two class teaching rooms. In addition there are 9 music practice rooms and a theatre space (with a grand piano) which is used for small performances (shared with the Drama Department). There are upright pianos in each of the music rooms and a very nice Bösendorfer Grand Piano in the School Hall which is used for assemblies, whole school performances, the annual Music Competition and termly evening concerts. Junior School class music lessons take place in the Junior School Hall which has a new Yamaha Grand Piano. The school has a harpsichord on permanent loan and access to the organ at St Mary's Church, Bourne Street (over the road from the school) as well as some orchestral instruments, guitars and electric guitars. There is a full array of classroom percussion instruments including enough glockenspiels/xylophones/metallophones for each member of a Key Stage 3 class to have her own instrument.
One of the teaching rooms is fully equipped with 14 iMacs featuring Sibelius and Logic Pro music software as well as specialist recording equipment.
Music plays an important part in the life of the school and there are musical performances throughout the year, ranging from formal concerts to chamber concerts, lunchtime concerts and the annual Performing Arts Evening. We also have a daily hymn in assembly. There is an annual Carol Service and other services on the School's Birthday and on Church festivals. The annual three-day Fanny Davies Music Competition is keenly contested and attracts entries from across the Junior and Senior Schools.
The Music Department runs a number of musical groups, catering for different musical interests and levels of performance. There are six different choirs in the school. The Junior School Choir, Middle School Choir and Senior School Choir are open to anyone in the relevant part of the school who wishes to take part. All the choirs sing a range of traditional and modern songs and always perform at school concerts and Church services. The Middle School Choir for Years 7 and 8 goes on a Choir Tour in May; recent destinations have included Venice, Prague, Paris and Seville.
There is a Chamber Choir in both the Junior School and Senior School; members of these choirs join by invitation and they have opportunities to sing at outside venues as well as at school events. They often combine with the strong staff choir to perform more difficult pieces.
There are numerous instrumental groups including a Flute Group, Woodwind Group, String Group, Saxophone Ensemble and Jazz Group. These groups are open to all ages and all standards and they offer the chance to perform at school concerts. The school orchestra is for girls at Grade 4 and above and practises during Wednesday lunchtimes.
Individual music lessons are available in a wide variety of instruments, including Flute, Recorder, Oboe, Clarinet, Saxophone, Bassoon, Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn, Percussion, Harp, Violin, Viola, 'Cello and Music Theory. Girls in Year 5 upwards may also take Singing lessons. Many of the visiting music teachers perform professionally and appear with noted orchestras, ensembles and bands. Girls are prepared for ABRSM examinations and LCM examinations in Musical Theatre.
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.