What is A level Music about?
Do you ...
- love playing an instrument and performing?
- like exploring and creating new music?
- enjoy listening to music from a range of styles?
- wonder about how and why music has developed the way it has?
- Have an interest in exploring Music through ICT
If yes, then the A level Music course is for you! Where else can you play music and get coursework credit for it, create and record your own music, listen to music in class, and learn about different styles of music?
What does the course consist of?
Students who choose to study A Level Music follow the Edexcel specification. The course is made up of three components:
Students are encouraged to develop their performance skills by playing a range of styles of music as a soloist and/or an ensemble member. At AS, students present a performance of 5-6 minutes. The requirement extends to 12-15 minutes at A2, allowing for a wider and balanced programme of music. At A level it is very important that all students have an Instrumental teacher and follow a course of guided study on their instruments. D'Overbroecks can supply or suggest a teacher, but all A level instrumental lessons take place in students' free periods and do not impinge on other academic studies. The level required at AS is ABRSM Grade 5, and at A2 it is Grade 7/8.
Students learn how to write for instrument(s) and/or voices, and how to develop musical ideas. At AS, students create a three-minute composition based on a task of their choice, plus CD sleeve notes to accompany the composition. At A2, students compose a second three-minute composition, in addition to learning to compose using styles and techniques of other composers.
Developing Musical Understanding
This unit focuses on listening to music and understanding how it works. At AS, students study pieces of music from the two topics: Instrumental Music and Vocal Music. At A2, students continue to study Instrumental Music, and also study Applied Music. Pieces range from Haydn Symphonies and Mozart Piano Concertos, through Gershwin, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, to the film music of John Williams. At AS students also learn to use a musical score to identify musical features, and then apply these principles for themselves in the completion of a SATB exercise.
Whom does the subject suit?
The A level Music course is a balance of coursework and examinations. Coursework is worth 60% of the course: Performing (30%) and Composing (30%). Students are expected to supplement class lessons with individual instrument tuition, instrument practice, and independent study time on composition tasks. The remaining 40% of the course is assessed in a 2-hour examination at the end of each year of study. Regular homework tasks are set to support learning in this unit.
The course caters for a wide range of musicians. Students are free to choose any instrument(s) and/or voice(s) and perform music in any style. Students can perform from a score, or improvise, as appropriate. The level of performance is expected to correspond to Grade 5 (AS) and Grade 7/8 (A2) of graded examinations of bodies such as the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Trinity Guildhall, Rockschool, and the London College of Music. If students perform at a level that exceeds Grade 5, additional credit will be awarded. If students perform at a lower level, marks are scaled accordingly.
The composition component of the course allows students to explore areas which inspire and interest them. The composition briefs are broad enough to allow a personal approach. Students may choose to notate their musical ideas using traditional notation or a notation software package such as Sibelius, or they may wish to take a more technology-based approach, using sequencing software such as Cubase.
Students are expected to have a good level of music theory knowledge and skills, for instance to understand what scales and chords are, and to know the basic scales up to 4 sharps and flats. An ability to read music is an integral tool in understanding how music works. Music reading skills play an important role in all three units of the course, especially in Developing Musical Understanding. It is recommended the students have GCSE Music, or Grade Five music theory before embarking on the A level Music course. However, students with limited music reading skills will be considered for the A level Music course.
How is Music taught at d'Overbroeck's?
Students studying A level Music at d'Overbroeck's can take advantage of specialised facilities and resources. Two well-equipped music computer suites enable students to use music technology software such as Sibelius and Cubase to compose music. Students use the recording studio at our St Giles building to record performances and compositions. Students perform at venues such as the Jacqueline du Pre Music Room at St Hilda's College, Oxford University. Instruments lessons are available from our team of specialist instrument tutors, who visit the College weekly.
Exrtra Curricular Musical Activities at d'Overbroecks
In addition to the classroom, A level students are encouraged to take part in the range of activities open to them to support and extend their knowledge of Music. On alternative years d'Overbroeck's produces a full scale Musical (2011 - Singing in the Rain; 2013 - Les Miserables), whilst on others it offers drama with music such as the 2011/12 Midsummer Night's Dream with interludes of 60's Rock Music. Sixth form also have the opportunity to take part in vocal and instrumental ensembles with opportunities to perform in the Winter Concert and Spring Recital. For those interested in Music Technology, a club operates in sixth form activities periods (Tuesdays and/or Thursdays) to extend students' understanding of Technology using Cubase. If students wish to continue their theoretical studies, a theory workshop is held during the lunch periods to help students on an individual basis reach Grade 5 theory.
What books can I read to get a sense of the subject?
We use many books in the course of study. Of particular interest to prospective Music students are two books published by Pearson publications. These are available on the web, from Pearson or from specialised music shops such as Blackwell's in Oxford:
- A Student's Guide to AS Music for the Edexcel Specification
- A Student's Guide to A2 Music for the Edexcel Specification
What websites are useful to look at?
There are many websites which provide supporting information about A level Music. The most specific website for the course we offer is that of Edexcel, where you will find a student's guide, course specifications, and examiner's reports.
Who will teach me?
The Music department is a lively and enthusiastic team that brings together areas of specialism including popular music and jazz, composition, musicology, choral, orchestral and concert band music, and music recording and production.
Sue McKendrick is Head of Music. She is a graduate in Music (Organ and Voice) and Classics from Lancaster University where she studied with Ian Hare. She extended her Organ studies with Anne Marsden Thomas at the St Giles Conservatoire, with the Royal College of Organists and Trinity College London. She studied for a PGCE in 2000 at Southampton University and has since been Head of Music at Plymouth High School for Girls and King Alfred's Sports College, Wantage. Latterly she has broadened her qualifications in Education studying towards Masters with Oxford Brookes University. Sue has many years experience as a Church Organist and accompanist, and up until 2000 was a peripatetic music teacher in piano, voice and keyboard. She has a broad ranging interest in music from Choral Music to Popular Music and Jazz, has extensive experience of choirs, choral groups and orchestras, both as a participant and conductor and in recent years has been Musical Director and Conductor for shows such as 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat', 'Guys and Dolls', 'Grease', 'The Sound of Music', 'West Side Story', 'Return to the Forbidden Planet', 'Singin' in the Rain', 'Best of Broadway', and 'African Jigsaw'.
Philip Purvis studied for bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees in music at Lancaster University before completing a PGCE at the University of Cumbria. While studying for his doctorate, Philip lectured in history, theory and analysis in the music department at Lancaster University. Additionally, Philip has taught for the Nationwide Able and Gifted Music Programme, the Department of Continuing Education at Lancaster University, Casterton Girls School and Central Lancaster High School. Philip is a pianist and conductor; he has studied with Mark Heron (Nottingham Philharmonic, University of Manchester Symphony, and Liverpool Mozart Orchestras; conducting faculty at the Royal Northern College of Music), Ed Venn (Lancaster University) and Professor Denis McCaldin (Halle, Royal Philharmonic, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestras). In tandem with his teaching and practical music making, which includes conducting musical theatre, Philip researches historical and cultural readings of opera and French music. He has contributed to books (Delatour; Routledge) and journals (Music and Letters; Ars Lyrica - Havard) and he is currently editing a collection of essays on Masculinities in Opera which will be published by Routledge (New York) in 2013.
What might the subject lead onto?
The A level Music course provides an excellent basis for lifelong learning and for Higher Education courses in Music, and many students who take A level Music continue their studies at university. The three units of the course can lead to studies in performance, composition, musicology, ethnomusicology, sound engineering, conducting, popular music and jazz, and music education.