Headteacher’s Newsletter – Friday 1st December 2023
Music A Level is the perfect course for students who enjoy playing a musical instrument or singing and now wish to develop their understanding and appreciation of the music they perform. A level musicians perform, compose and analyse: a combination of activities which makes this subject especially engaging and varied, setting it apart from others. This course rewards students who have devoted their time and talent to music outside the classroom by recognising their achievements in the form of an A level.
Students perform on their chosen instrument or voice throughout the course. They have the opportunity to work with their instrumental or vocal teacher, the school’s accompanists and fellow students to present recorded performances to their class, to the school community and to the public in lunchtime and evening recitals. A level music students develop their skills as performers through participation in the school’s extensive co-curricular music programme, which includes the school’s instrumental ensembles and choirs, among them Tiffin Boys’ Choir.
Through their study of the set works, students develop their understanding of a wide range of compositional techniques. Additionally, they study in detail the techniques of J.S. Bach who established conventions, many of which continue to be followed by composers today. Using the music of their favourite writers as models, students compose their own music, developing their ideas through draft compositions. Students complete exercises in which they apply the techniques they have learned to simple melodies.
Students listen to, analyse and write about a wide variety of music, including set works from the Edexcel Anthology of Music. These range from Vivaldi’s Concerto in D minor to Bernard Herrmann’s film music for Psycho; from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love. Students write about features of the music and its social and historical context. They compare this music to other music they have heard, performed, or studied.
Students record practice recitals throughout the course and, at the end, submit an 8 minute recorded recital of approximately Grade 8 standard (a 6 minute, Grade 7 standard recital is required at AS Level).
Students develop their ideas through draft compositions, one of which is extended into a final composition of 5 minutes in length. In this unit, pupils also use the compositional techniques of J.S. Bach to harmonise melodic material, completing and submitting a harmonised chorale melody in April/May of the examination year.
In a final exam, students listen to, analyse and write about a wide variety of music, focussed on set works from the Edexcel Anthology of Music. Students respond to both shortanswer and long-answer (essay) questions, commenting on features of the music, on its social and historical context and its relationship to other music they have heard, performed, or studied.
At Tiffin, all A level musicians benefit from participating in the school’s extensive cocurricular programme. Tiffin musicians regularly perform in major venues (Royal Albert Hall, Barbican, Festival Hall, Royal Opera House) with the UK’s top orchestras (LSO, LPO, Philharmonia), on radio and television (BBC, ITV, Classic FM), and on film (The Hobbit, Philomena). They have toured Europe, China and Australia. Among the ensembles which rehearse and perform regularly at school are the Tiffin Boys’ Choir, Chamber Choir, Oratorio Choir, Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Swing Band, Wind Band and various chamber groups. Many advanced musicians also join the Thames Youth Orchestra and Thames Youth Jazz Orchestra based at the Tiffin schools. In recent years, members of Tiffin’s choirs and instrumental ensembles have been awarded music scholarships to study a wide variety of subjects at Russell Group universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, and at music conservatoires.
The best reason to study Music A level is that you enjoy and have a talent for the subject, leading you to work hard and achieve an excellent result. Recognised by all universities as a rigorous, academic course, involving analysis, application of formulae, and essay writing, the A level music qualification will prepare you to study a wide range of degree subjects, including sciences, humanities, languages and arts. Similarly, those who go on to study music at university follow a wide variety of careers, not limited to music. Common music graduate destinations (as identified by the Russell Group) include law, finance, government, consultancy, media, publishing and IT. For those who wish to pursue a career in music, Music A level is also the perfect course. Music graduates become not only performers and composers but also presenters, producers, recording engineers, arts managers and administrators.
For further information on Sixth Form Music scholarships, please click the links below.