Music is taught throughout the school – in fact, the new Year 7 pupils have a massed singing lesson on their very first day at Coloma – and they never look back. Music forms a huge part of the extra-curricular programme offered at Coloma, and there are choirs and instrumental groups for every year group and every ability – even if the girls only know a few notes at the moment! A wide variety of musical styles is a key part of the musical diet, ranging from western classical music to pop, jazz and gospel.
A large number of girls learn musical instruments at Coloma with highly qualified visiting staff – instruments range from strings, woodwind, brass and percussion to guitars of all kinds and even the harp. Many girls also take up the opportunity to have individual singing lessons from Year 9 upwards.
Coloma choirs and instrumental groups regularly compete in festivals and have often been awarded prizes. In addition, there has been a tradition of biennial choir tours abroad, so that, as well as performing in many of the famous British concert venues (such as the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall), the girls have been able to experience performing in such places as St Mark’s, Venice, the Duomo in Florence and the United Nations in New York.
Many Coloma girls go on to have successful careers in music, as performers or teachers, for example.
Overview of each year
In Year 7 the girls have a weekly music lesson and also a weekly singing lesson, where all sorts of skills are learnt and all sorts of songs are sung. Every girl in Year 7 is also a member of the Junior Choir, and will participate in the Christmas Concert and a summer production.
By the end of Year 7, all girls will be able to read and notate music, have a sound knowledge of the elements of music (such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, texture, etc.), have a basic understanding of the instruments of the orchestra and will notate an orchestral piece onto professional music software. They will begin composing music, with a composition based on a work of art, and another to accompany a scene from a silent film. Other topics covered include keyboard skills and music technology skills, through the use of keyboards and Garageband respectively.
Girls are encouraged to participate in the St. Anthony’s Singers and also in at least one instrumental group, should they be learning an instrument.
These trends are continued in Year 8, building on the skills and knowledge acquired in Year 7. In Year 8 one weekly Music lesson is taught to all pupils, and all students are encouraged to continue singing in Junior Choir.
Topics covered in Year 8 include World Music, featuring African Drumming, Indonesian Gamelan and Samba, with a focus on playing these instruments and learning first-hand the skills required. Other topics learnt include Bass (including the study of the bass clef), the study and performance of the Blues (including the beginnings of chords and harmony), Variations and Minimalism.
In Year 9 one weekly Music lesson is taught to all pupils, and, although we do not officially start the Music GCSE syllabus, it is a good opportunity to cover one or two aspects (in particular, set works from musicals and from Queen) of the specification, to build interest and skills for the GCSE.
During Year 9, a comprehensive recap of all the musical skills learnt to date is done, in order to learn new skills of analysing music from listening and from the score. Topics include Musicals, Pop Songs, Film Music and Song Writing, culminating in a fun Covers session.
GCSE Music (Edexcel) is taught as an option in Years 10 and 11. All pupils will be having lessons on at least one instrument or voice, and the school is currently able to provide these lessons at half the normal cost, when undertaken with our own teachers. More than half of the syllabus is covered in Year 10, including the study of set works ranging from Bach to John Williams and Afro-Celt fusion. This means that plenty of time is available in Year 11 for revision and refining of our knowledge and skills, and also for the completion of coursework.
Having covered the greater part of the syllabus in Year 10, in Year 11 we are able to complete the study of our set works and revisit the ones already studied. Skills such as listening, aural dictation, essay writing and comparing pieces of music studied with others as yet unfamiliar are focussed on and honed. Girls are prepared, with the aid of their individual teachers, for the recording of their performances, both solo and as part of an ensemble. Two compositions are also worked on, one to a choice of briefs, and one free composition, totalling 3 minutes. Coursework is submitted to the examination board in May, and the pupils have one Listening and Appraising examination in the official examination period.
Although we do not sit the AS Level examination as such, we broadly follow the AS specification (in order to prepare for A Level Music), which comprises three components, as follows:
Performing – 30% of the marks for the course. Performance and practice techniques are studied in class, as well as in individual lessons; we are currently able to offer individual lessons at half the cost to parents, when undertaken with our own teachers. The school provides many performance opportunities for the 6th Form, including designated 6th Form Soirees (three per year), performing at Open Evenings and assemblies, and a host of other concerts, both instrumental and vocal or choral. Students prepare a short recital of 6 minutes’ duration. The recital is internally marked.
Composing – 30% of the marks for the course. Composition techniques are studied together, to prepare the students for their submission of composition coursework – 2 compositions, one a free composition and one to a brief which has a connection to one of the set works studied. Total length of the two compositions is 4 minutes 30 seconds. The compositions are internally marked.
Appraising – 40% of the total marks for the course. Set works from the following areas of study are studied, performed and analysed in class: Vocal music, Instrumental music, Film music, popular music and Jazz, Fusions, New Directions. An examination of 90 minutes is taken at the end of the year, and internally marked.
Edexcel A Level Music specification is followed:
The format of the course is very similar to Year 12, and the A Level examination is taken at the end of the year.
Performing – 9MU0/01. As for Year 12, but culminating in a recital of 8 minutes’ duration. The performance is recorded in school then sent off to the board for marking.
Composing – 9MU0/02. Again, as for Year 12, but although two compositions are prepared and submitted, one is either a free composition or to a brief set by the board, and should last at least 4 minutes, and the other is a techniques-based piece, set by the board at the start of April and submitted in a 6 week time frame.
Appraising – 9MU0 /03. The remainder of the set works is studied and revised, and other listening and aural work continued. Students sit a 2 hour paper, which comprises 3 questions on the set works, 1 short dictation/listening question and 2 essay questions.
Link to Edexcel specification: http://qualifications.pearson.com/en/qualifications/edexcel-a-levels/music-2016.html
Our 6th Formers play a key role in the musical life of the school, through performing in the various choirs and instrumental ensembles, and taking on specific responsibilities within the department, helping to run groups for the more junior girls, etc., providing them with opportunities to show initiative and work alongside the Music team.