This week Downside welcomed George Bevan as the School’s new Head of Academic Music.

Previously Director of Music at Monkton Combe Senior School, George brings with him a wealth of skills, experience and enthusiasm. He joins a strong Music Department which includes over 20 permanent and part-time teachers of music working collaboratively to provide pupils of all abilities with the chance to enjoy their chosen style of music. 

From George: ‘I have long admired Downside and it holds many attractions for me, so it was a real delight to discover that you were looking for a Head of Academic Music. Three years ago I was invited by Julian McNamara to adjudicate Downside’s House Singing Competition. I was instantly impressed by the warmth of the pupils – it was wonderful to discover pupils who are happy to engage with confidence and enthusiasm in their singing. Later in the year Julian invited me to step in at very short notice to direct the Schola Cantorum for the St Cecilia Concert in a performance of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, a notoriously demanding piece. This was the first time that I had been inside Downside Abbey Church; it is a truly extraordinary space, and one cannot help but be moved by the sense of spirituality and peace.  

In the course of my teaching career, I have had the great privilege of working in a variety of different independent schools, and each of them has given me the opportunity to develop different skills. At Pangbourne I fell in love with school mastering, and at Rugby I was given responsibility for Chapel music and in my six years there the provision for choral music grew considerably. Wycombe Abbey was a steep learning curve, stepping up to run a department of seven full time and 35 visiting music staff in a high-achieving school, and I thrived on the challenge. My move to Monkton in 2009 was with the intention of building something from the ground up. I was fortunate that this should coincide with Monkton’s decision to build a new music facility, but much more importantly to me, I wanted to change a culture and to see whether I could put music back at the heart of the school. From the outset, I was determined that music should enable every pupil to find their own voice, and this has become central to my entire approach to teaching.  

My ‘Choir who can’t sing’ project at Monkton has been a very real demonstration of the way that singing changes lives, developing confidence and trust in a way that little else can, and this vision has spread throughout the whole school. I am passionate about teaching, and about drawing out young people, but what motivates me more than anything else is to serve. The Downside ethos resonates deeply with my own belief that the individual matters. I am most definitely ready for a new challenge, and indeed being head of any academic department will always be an ongoing challenge, and especially in Music, where the landscape is changing so rapidly.’