Music plays a prominent role in the life of many pupils at King’s, whether this is taking part in the House and Fourth Form Music Competitions, the many ensembles that rehearse every week, learning a musical instrument in which over five hundred lessons take place every week or simply enjoying a performance of the School Choir in a Cathedral service or listening to friends at an Open Mic Night. The Lower School curriculum has recently been updated to cater for a wide range of interests and abilities and this, in turn, has led to a significant increase in the number of pupils choosing GCSE Music.
The Key Stage 3 curriculum, for Fourth Form and Lower Remove has been designed to develop pupils’ confidence and enjoyment of a wide range of musical styles as well as improve their performing ability through lessons which are often based on practical, rather than theoretical, skills. Fourth Formers have three termly projects while the Lower Remove have two. One project every year is based on using Cubase software. Other topics include an introduction to the Yamaha music keyboard, Graphic Scores and the Four Chord Trick.
GCSE Music is a course that is suitable for the general music enthusiast as well as more experienced pupils who are intending to study music at A Level. Other than performing, the course provides pupils with opportunities to develop skills that are not taught in instrumental lessons. From September 2016 GCSE pupils will study the new Edexcel Specification. There are three components: Performing, Composing and Appraising. In order to achieve a high mark for performing, pupils should be at a minimum of about Grade Four level, though this very much depends on the choice of music that is played. Pupils will be introduced to Sibelius software in addition to Cubase which was used throughout Key Stage 3. A large part of the course will be spent developing pupils’ composing skills. For Appraising, pupils study four topics; Instrumental Music, Vocal Music, Music for Stage and Screen, and Fusions. This is the academic aspect of the course, analysing in detail the musical features of eight set works including music by Bach, Beethoven, Queen, Schwartz (composer of the musical, Wicked) and music from Star Wars composed by John Williams.
A Level Music continues with the three main components of Performing, Composing and Appraising. From September 2016 pupils will study the new Edexcel specification. The performing unit comprises of pupils preparing for a recital towards the end of course which must be a minimum of eight minutes. This could be as a soloist or member of an ensemble. Composition requires the study of harmony which will involve an exam at the end of the course as well as composing to a set brief or choosing your own brief. Appraising is the academic aspect of the course and requires the study of six topics: Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, Music for Film, Popular Music and Jazz, Fusions and New Directions. There are three set works in each unit, details of which can be found in the specification on page eight. If pupils choose to take music at AS Level rather than full A Level the content is similar; the main difference is that they study two set works in each unit with slight differences to the composing and performing components.
Music combines well with other arts subjects as well as the sciences or modern languages. Whilst it is not a facilitating subject, universities look favourably on Music at A Level as it provides a solid academic grounding. A Level music students need to show a high level of skill in an instrument as well as being able to work together in ensembles which provides evidence to universities and employers of a pupil who is self-motivated and can work as part of a team; essential transferable skills in today’s modern climate.