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Music IN THE curriculum

All pupils in the First to Third forms have a weekly class music lesson. The approach is very practical and builds pupils’ theoretical knowledge, listening skills and performing confidence using various instruments including djembe drums and other percussion, ukuleles and keyboards. In the department’s dedicated Mac Suite they also learn to use industry standard composition software as they pursue a variety of stimulating composition projects.

From the Fourth form Music becomes an option, leading to the GCSE (Pearson) examination. A level Music (Eduqas) is an option for Sixth Formers.


In the fourth and fifth forms we prepare pupils for the Pearson Music GCSE. There are three components: performing (30%), composing (30%) and listening/appraising (40%). All singers and instrumentalists are welcome, and their performing skills are invariably enhanced through one to one instrumental/singing lessons and by participating in any number of weekly ensembles. For composition, pupils may either use Sibelius or Logic. The appraising paper consists of eight sets works across four areas of study:

Instrumental Music 1700–1820

Vocal Music

Music for Stage and Screen


A Level

The A level (Eduqas) follows on from GCSE level work with three main components: performing, composing and listening/appraising. Candidates opt to major in either performing or composing with a balance of 35% to 25% of the total marks, with the remaining 40% given to appraising. The main areas of study are The Western Classical Tradition, focusing on the development of the symphony from 1750-1900; Into the Twentieth Century, with set works by Debussy and Poulenc; Rock & Pop, 1960-2000. 

Pupils are expected to listen and read widely, and to take every opportunity to develop their performing skills not only via their individual weekly lessons but by playing a full part in the wider musical life of the school. Numerous informal concerts also offer performing opportunities, and singing in one of the choirs is an excellent way to develop aural skills. We regularly organise concert trips to hear choral and orchestral music.   

Music is a demanding A level which draws on a considerable and diverse range of skills. Our A level musicians invariably spend a great deal of time in the music department, as members of choirs, ensembles and tech teams, and in doing so play their part in inspiring the next generation of Downside musicians. 

Music Scholarships

Each year the School awards a number of music and choral scholarships at 11+, 13+ and 16+, as well as the Sill Organ Scholarship which may be awarded to aspiring organists at any entry level. As well as being accomplished performers, our Music Scholars are expected to show exemplary reliability, commitment and leadership in all the School’s music making. In return, our scholars can expect to benefit from the huge array of opportunities on offer at Downside. Further details may be obtained by clicking here

Academic Music

Back to performing arts


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