The Music Department is extremely highly regarded within the county and within the school. It has a very high level of achievements in both curricular and extra-curricular activities. There is a Head of Department, one full-time and one part time member of staff plus excellent administrative/technical support.
There are also seven peripatetic music teachers visiting on a weekly basis to provide tuition in woodwind, piano, brass, strings (upper and lower), guitar and drums. Over 100 pupils have opted to receive instrumental lessons which happen throughout the school day. The school subsidises the cost of these lessons by just over one-third, the rest of the cost being met by parents.
The department is sited within its own purpose-built music suite, with two classrooms and three practice rooms. Each classroom is equipped with Casio keyboards, and in one room there are 13 PCs linked to the school network. The school has a network licence to run Sibelius 7 not only in the department but also in other ICT rooms. Both classrooms have a piano and a variety of mixed percussion, ukuleles and acoustic guitars. Each also has a digital projector, screen and laptop connection point. Two of the practice rooms are equipped with pianos; the other is specialist drum room.
Pupils at KS3 receive one hour of music per week and are taught in mixed ability groups within an ‘x’ and ‘y’ half of the year group. Pupils follow a different unit of work in each term/half term covering a variety of practical, composing and listening tasks. Group sizes vary from 20-22. In Year 10 and 11 pupils receive two/three hours of music per week. Music is also offered at A-Level in Year 12 and Year 13. Many of our students go on to study music at university. All KS4 and 5 students are studying the AQA music syllabus. Pupils taking GCSE and A-Level Music are also offered free instrumental lessons to assist them with the performing aspect of the course.
Over the past 5 years pupils have gained places to study at top Music Conservatoires including:
- The Royal College of Music
- The Royal Academy of Music
- The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
- Birmingham Conservatoire
- Trinity Laban
- Leeds College of Music
- Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA)
A wide variety of extra-curricular activities are offered to pupils taking place during lunchtimes and after school. This year we are running:
- Choir (including staff)
- Wind Band
- Folk Band/String Group
- Big Band
- Samba Band
- Flute Ensemble
- Clarinet Group
- Theory Club
There are also over 20 rock bands in the school.
The department, working with the drama department, also puts on one production biannually. Recently we have produced ‘Grease’ (2002), ‘Oliver’ (2003), ‘Bugsy Malone’ (2004), ‘In The Midnight Hour’ (2005), ‘Disco Inferno’ (2007), ‘Our Day Out’ (2009), and ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ (2010), ‘Sweeney Todd’ (2012), and ‘Les Miserables’ (2014), which was met with high acclaim from audiences and ‘Oliver!’ (2016). The next production, Beauty and the Beast, will take place in March 2018.
Pupils are encouraged to take part in performances regularly. Throughout the school year there are a number of formal events such as Prize Day, Founders Day and two traditional Carol Services featuring the choir and orchestra. There are also department concerts, and less formal events such as Christmas, Spring and Summer Music Department concerts, rock nights, theme nights (60’s, 70’s and 80’s nights), ceilidhs, and talent shows. The Samba band and Big band receive regular bookings for local events, Christmas Light Ceremonies, Carnivals and other performance opportunities. This year there will also be House activities which will be run by the Music Department where pupils can earn points for their Houses. Our first House Choir competition took place in April 2017 where each house sang the same song with their own take on the arrangement. The winning house was Kestrel. The competition will continue in 2018.
A number of pupils are involved in music activities in the wider community such as Cumbria Youth Orchestra, Cumbria Youth Choir, Scottish Children’s Orchestra, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Junior School, National Youth Wind Orchestra, The Border Concert Band, Carlisle Cathedral Choir, The City of Carlisle Orchestra, The English Schools Orchestra and various Amateur Musical Societies.