The Music Department at Wycombe caters for the needs of a vast array of musicians, from the girl who has reached Diploma level to the girl who wants to start an instrument from scratch. More than30 teachers deliver over 600 individual lessons per week on the full range of orchestral instruments plus piano, voice, harp, guitar and drum kit. There are more than 50 opportunities per year for pupils to perform publicly, from small lunchtime concerts in School to major performances both in the UK and abroad. Four orchestras, five choirs, jazz band, concert band, flute ensembles, string quartets, piano trios, saxophone quartets, mixed membership quartets/trios/duos, rock bands and more rehearse weekly in our impressive and spacious Music School, which boasts its own 200-seat concert hall.
Music plays an important role in the curriculum in UIII to UIV. Pupils have weekly class lessons in each year. In addition, UIII pupils attend a weekly whole year group singing lesson and prepare songs for a Christmas Entertainment, a Chapel Service and a Summer Entertainment.
Music is an optional subject at IGCSE and A-level.
Academic Music lessons are compulsory in the first three years at Wycombe Abbey. The curriculum is designed to enable each girl, by the end of UIV, to have learned the rudiments of music theory, to have the skills needed to better appreciate the music she hears, to have experienced performance within a group and to have created her own music.
In UIII, girls are encouraged to give demonstrations on instruments of the orchestra - as an understanding of the instruments that girls learn today and which have dominated composition and performance for the past several hundred years is necessary for the study of Music which takes place throughout theKey Stage 3curriculum, and beyond. Girls learn to hone their skills of aural perception and develop the ability to read and analyse musical scores, in preparation for more detailed work in LIV. Elementary music theory is also covered to ensure a base level of musical literacy.
In LIV, girls are introduced to what is considered the canon of Western music – they encounter and study pieces of music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods and learn to identify the significant features of each style. Having done so, they then have the opportunity to put what they have learned into practice by composing using the keyboards in the music computer room.
In UIV, the three elements of listening, performing and composing are further developed in a study of jazz and film music, with a popular music project undertaken in the Summer term. The importance of careful and sensitive listening – to recordings as well as performances and compositions by other members of the class – is emphasised, as in music certainly we learn as much from the work of others as from our own endeavours.
By the end of UIV, all girls have been introduced to the skills that will be required of them should they choose to continue their formal studies of music for IGCSE.
The IGCSE Music course builds upon the three skills of performing, listening/appraising and composing.
Performance accounts for 30% of the IGCSE and students are required to submit one solo and one ensemble performance. Each pupil will make at least one recording per term throughout the two year course so that we are able to submit the strongest combination for final assessment. In order to access the highest marks, the performances need to be of Grade 4 standard or above. The girls are assessed on accuracy (of pitch and rhythm, and technique), interpretation (attention to expressive markings in the score and appropriate stylistic features) as well as ensemble skill in group performance.
Composition accounts for 30% of the IGCSE and students are required to submit two contrasting compositions. Pupils will undertake preliminary compositional exercises, experimenting with compositional techniques and instrumental combinations before embarking on their final compositions.
Listening and Appraising accounts for 40% of the IGCSE and students are required to sit a 75-minute examination in the Summer term of UV. Study encompasses a wide variety of genres from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras and the 20th Century as well as a number of musical traditions from around the world, detailed analysis of a Western Classical set work, and in-depth study of a World Music focus area. In the exam, pupils will be required to identify features and answer a range of question-types based on listening extracts from unfamiliar works drawn from the genres, periods and cultures studied, and the set work.
The A level course builds further upon the three core skills of performing, listening/appraising and composing. It retains some of the breadth of the IGCSE course with set works from the Renaissance period to the present day grouped into the over-arching categories ‘Instrumental Music', ‘Vocal Music' and ‘Applied Music'.
Students are examined at the end of both years and can stop after AS in LVI, though most AS musicians at Wycombe Abbey continue with the subject at A2.
Having followed the IGCSE Music is helpful, but not a pre-requisite, for studying the subject at A level. More important is a passion for music and the open-mindedness to appreciate, through listening and analysis, music in many disparate styles. Those who have not passed Grade 5 theory but would like to opt to take Music at AS level should work hard to achieve this as early as possible in the course. As a general guide, AS performance requires Grade 5 standard on an instrument or voice, and A2 Grade 6 or 7.
Composition accounts for 30% of the AS course and students are required to submit one piece lasting three minutes based on one of four briefs released by Edexcel in September each year. Two of the briefs require instrumental composition, and two of them vocal, reflecting the different categories of set work. Students must also produce a CD sleeve note to accompany the composition. All of the work is undertaken in controlled assessment conditions.
Performance accounts for 30% of the AS course and students are required to perform as soloists and/or as part of an ensemble in a 5-6 minute recorded performance.
Developing Musical Understanding accounts for the remaining 40% of the AS qualification and consists of a two hour listening and writing examination in which students will be questioned on the set works and have their analytical and harmonisation skills assessed.
Composition and Technical Study accounts for 30% of the A2 course and students are required to submit one composition to one of four briefs provided by Edexcel, and sit one exam in which they will be required to complete a 4-part harmonisation in the style of J S Bach. Both sections are completed under controlled assessment conditions.
Extended Performance accounts for 30% of the A2 course and students must present a balanced programme of music in a 12-15 minute recorded recital as soloist and/or as part of an ensemble.
Further Musical Understanding accounts for the remaining 40% of the A2 qualification and consists of a two hour listening and analysis examination which will again focus on set works but which also demands a broader contextual understanding and evidence of wider listening.
We are extremely fortunate to have a team of full-time and visiting Music teachers who are committed to our aim of promoting excellence, providing enrichment and encouraging girls to take responsibility for their creative development within an understanding, stimulating and positive environment. Many of the instrumental and vocal teachers are concert musicians in their own right, many teach at Music Colleges in London, and all bring a wealth of experience to their teaching here which is of great value to their pupils.