Music is at the heart of Bristol Cathedral Choir School and is the School’s principal specialism. Our aim is to give all our students a rich and varied experience of Music, regardless of their previous background or experience. For those who wish to develop their Music further, there are countless opportunities to learn in great depth and to perform at a very high level. Ten per cent of our Year 7 intake is selected according to music aptitude: prospective pupils wishing to be considered for this are invited to sit our Music Aptitude Test.
As it has done for many centuries, the School educates all Bristol Cathedral’s Choristers. In addition to their academic education, the boy and girl Choristers receive a musical education to the highest professional standards, which some use as a springboard to a career in Music. Choral music is one of the key strands of the School’s musical provision. Our five choirs have a combined membership of over 300 students, with the senior groups achieving national recognition.
Instrumental music is another key strand. All students are offered the opportunity to start learning an instrument in Year 7, with up to half the year group taking up this offer each year. Students graduate through five orchestras, starting with The Noise for complete beginners and reaching a pinnacle with Symphony Orchestra for the most accomplished students. We also are very keen to develop small ensemble playing, offering groups for brass, flutes, acoustic guitars, percussion and recorders. There are three jazz quartets and a Big Band which regular gig in and out of School.
Instrumental and vocal lessons are delivered by 25 visiting teachers, many of whom are leading performers in the country. The school runs 370 individual lessons per week. Such large numbers allow us to employ specialist teachers in classical, pop and jazz. Many of our students go on to study music at conservatoires or universities and also win choral scholarships to Oxbridge.
The Music department is based in a purpose-built centre which includes: an ICT suite; large teaching and performance space; a Sixth Form teaching room; a professional-standard recording studio; a suite of practice rooms and a 250-seat concert hall. All students are able to take advantage of our sequencing software, which includes Cubase and Sibelius.
Classroom teaching at the School is outstanding. The National Curriculum is followed at Key Stage 3, where students receive two music lessons per week. The schemes of work are designed to equip any students to access GCSE music if they so choose. A third of students opt for Music GCSE; results are significantly above national averages. The Music staff have a city-wide impact in mentoring and providing consultancy for Music departments across Bristol. For further details of our Music curriculum at Key Stages 3 and 4, see the Music page in our Subjects menu.
The music highlights of our school year include: Christmas Concert at Colston Hall (selling 1,500 tickets); Pop and Jazz Concerts in the Cresswell Theatre, and the Summer Prom in the Cathedral. The School stages more than 30 performances each year, offering students opportunities to perform wonderful Music across many genres, often in fantastic venues.
Eiron Bailey, Director of Specialism
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