Music Curriculum

Music is a part of the curriculum for all pupils in the First and Second Year. During this time, pupils are introduced to the basic elements of music, learning to identify and understand them in different musical genres.

Pupils then incorporate these principles into their own compositions, which are then performed, recorded and evaluated. There is also opportunity to use the Sibelius score-writing software to notate compositions; to familiarise pupils with this impressive computer program used all the way to A Level (and beyond for some!). Aural skills are developed through listening, singing and ensemble work, giving pupils of all abilities the chance to appreciate and understand their own work and that of others.

Music in the Third Year covers a wide range of genres including Blues, Film music and Samba, as well as program music of the 19th Century. Pupils study these styles in detail which then act as a stimulus for their own compositions; they are encouraged to perform regularly in class and continue to develop aural and listening skills.

At GCSE, we follow the Edexcel syllabus - which in itself is a natural progression from the studies undertaken in previous years. The syllabus focuses on set works from the 18th Century to the present day and incorporates World Music and Jazz, as well as the Western Classical style.

Many musicians choose GCSE as an option, as it allows them to perform on an instrument as part of the course in which they have already invested much time and effort, often over many years. For others, it is the inspiration needed to encourage learning a new instrument in preparation for the performance at the end of the Fifth Year.  Either way, our pupils have an exciting and varied musical experience at Brentwood School and are actively encouraged to take part, develop and excel in order to reach their full musical potential.

Sixth Form
We aim to enthuse all our pupils with a range of musical opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. A Level pupils tackle the traditional skills of harmony writing, so that they are well prepared to develop different styles of composition when they study at university.

IB Music (Higher Level)

Content

Listening Paper (30%): Students study two set works in detail, and a wide range of styles of music for four unprepared listening extracts in the exam, including comparisons.
Music Links Investigation (20%): A media script of up to 2000 words comparing significant musical links between two pieces from distinct musical cultures.
Creating (25%): Three pieces of coursework, selected freely from composition, music technology composition, arrangement, improvisation and stylistic techniques.
Solo Performing (25%): 20 minutes of recordings selected from pieces presented during one or more public performances.

IB Music (Standard Level)

Content

Listening Paper (30%):  Students study two set works in details, and a wide range of styles of music for four unprepared listening extracts.
Music Links Investigation (20%): A media script of up to 2000 words comparing significant musical links between two pieces from distinct musical cultures.
Internal Assessment (50%): Students choose one of three options:

  • Creating: Two pieces of coursework, selected freely from composition, music technology composition, arrangement, improvisation and stylistic techniques.
  • Solo Performing: 15 minutes of recordings selected from pieces presented during one or more public performances.
  • Group Performances: 20-30 minutes of recordings selected from pieces presented during one or more public performances in an ensemble.

How the course is taught
The IB Music Course is challenging and wide-ranging. Much of the Lower Sixth year will consist of historical study of Western and non-Western music periods, together with lessons on creating music, if you elect that option. The Musical Links Investigation is submitted at the end of the Lower Sixth year. In the Upper Sixth there will be detailed study of the set works. If you elect to take either of the performing options, your subject teacher will work with your individual instrumental teachers to help prepare you for the performance aspects of the course, which are assessed continuously throughout the course.

The Extended Essay (Music)
The Extended Essay is an independent, self-directed piece of research, culminating in a 4,000-word paper. As a required component, it provides:

  • Practical preparation for the kinds of undergraduate research required at tertiary level
  • An opportunity for students to engage in an in-depth study of a topic of interest within a chosen subject

Emphasis is placed on the research process:

  • Formulating an appropriate research question
  • Engaging in a personal exploration of the topic
  • Communicating ideas
  • Developing an argument

Participation in this process develops the capacity to:

  • Analyse
  • Synthesise, and
  • Evaluate knowledge

Students are supported throughout the process with advice and guidance from a supervisor (usually a teacher at the school).

Expectations/Homework
Regular homework is set and marked on the work learnt for the listening paper, including comparative essays. In addition, technical exercises in harmony and counterpoint are given. Students are expected to practise diligently in order to prepare for the performance aspect, to attend such rehearsals as are held in the Music Department in order to improve aural skills, sight reading and general musicianship and also to listen to a wide range of music. These activities constitute a permanent homework requirement in this subject.

Preparatory Work
It is essential that students embarking on this course should read music fluently. To this end a pass in the Associated Board Grade Five Theory of Music Examination is desirable, though not essential. Students should also have a measure of practical skill roughly equating to Associated Board Grade 4 or above in order to begin to fulfil the requirements of Units 1 and 4 (in which playing of Grade 7 standard or above is advantageous). Music is a difficult subject and any preparatory listening across a wide range of styles and, above all, enthusiasm and passion for music in all its forms, will help a potential candidate to make a good start to this course.

A Level Music

Content
The two-year course is split into three components as follows:

  • Unit 1 – Performing – Minimum 8 minutes – 30%
  • Unit 2 – Composing – Two compositions – 30%
  • Unit 3 – Written Examination – 40%

How the course is taught
The course is normally delivered by two subject teachers. One teacher gives weekly lessons on the analysis of set works and associated aural skills. The other teacher gives guidance on the composition elements of the course together with lessons on harmony and counterpoint. Students also develop their performance skills in preparation for Unit 1 with their individual instrumental tutors.

Expectations/Homework
Regular homework is set and marked on the work learnt for Units 2 and 3, including comparative essays for the latter. In addition technical exercises in harmony and counterpoint are given. Students are expected to practise assiduously in order to prepare for all Units, to attend such rehearsals as are held in the music department in order to improve aural skills, sight reading and general musicianship and also to listen to a wide range of music. These activities constitute a permanent homework requirement in this subject.

Preparatory Work
It is essential that students embarking on this course should read music fluently. To this end a pass in the Associated Board Grade Five Theory of Music Examination is desirable, though not essential. Students should also have a measure of practical skill roughly equating to Associated Board Grade 4 or above in order to begin to fulfil the requirements of Units 1 and 4 (in which playing of Grade 7 standard or above is advantageous). Music is a difficult subject and any preparatory listening across a wide range of styles and, above all, enthusiasm and passion for music in all its forms, will help a potential candidate to make a good start to this course.