Music is an integral part of the Performing Arts at Bishop Walsh School. The Department aims to develop the musical potential of every pupil and create opportunities for those with high ambition and for those who wish to take part simply for enjoyment.
The School also offers individual tuition on a number of instruments: flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, violin, viola, cello, trumpet, cornet, trombone, French horn, tuba, piano, classical/acoustic/electric/bass guitar, drums and vocals.
Every pupil is encouraged to join an ensemble as playing and performing with others is an essential part of any musician’s development. Concerts are held throughout the year providing opportunities for all of our students to get involved in performing.
Music is a unique form of communication that can change the way pupils feel, think and act. Music forms part of an individual’s identity and positive interaction with music can develop pupils’ competence as learners and increase their self-esteem. Music brings together intellect and feeling and enables personal expression, reflection and emotional development. As an integral part of culture, past and present, music helps pupils understand themselves, relate to others and develop their cultural understanding, forging important links between home, school and the wider world.
Music education encourages active involvement in different forms of music-making, both individual and communal, helping to develop a sense of group identity and togetherness. Music can influence pupils’ development in and out of school by fostering personal development and maturity, creating a sense of achievement and self-worth, and increasing pupils’ ability to work with others in a group context.
Music learning develops pupils’ critical skills: their ability to listen, to appreciate a wide variety of music, and to make judgements about musical quality. It also increases self-discipline, creativity, aesthetic sensitivity and fulfilment.
The curriculum is designed to provide opportunities for pupils to:
- develop individual performance skills, both vocal and instrumental, including the use of music technology,
- develop listening and aural perception skills in practical activities, including composing and performing,
- develop creative and compositional skills, including songwriting, arranging and improvising,
- work with a range of musicians and watch and listen to live musical performances where possible, to extend their musical learning,
- work individually, in musical groups of different sizes and as a class,
- build on their own interests and skills, taking on different roles and responsibilities and developing music leadership skills, and make links between music and other subjects and areas of the curriculum.
Studying Music to GCSE allows students to extend and develop their skills and knowledge in the three key areas of Listening, Composing and Performing. Students will find out more about different types of music, investigate how music is put together, write their own pieces and improve their performance skills both as a soloist and within a group.
GCSE Music is suitable for all students with a love of and interest in music. It is a particularly good option for those who already play an instrument as these skills count towards your final grade. In addition to developing music based skills, students also develop many general skills such as independent learning, research, planning and problem solving.
Music qualifications are highly regarded by colleges of further education and employers alike as musicians are trained to work methodically and to be self-disciplined.
Students follow the OCR GCSE Music syllabus which breaks down into 3 assessed areas: Listening, Performing and Composing. Areas of Study include:
Area of study 1: My music (spotlight on my instrument)
Area of study 2: Shared music – musical relationships and their roles
Area of study 3: Dance music and
Area of study 4: Descriptive music.
Assessment is ongoing with performances recorded throughout the course, composition tasks set under controlled assessment and a listening examination in June of Year 11.
A range of music is studied in Areas of study 2-4. These include music from the western tradition such as jazz, baroque and classical, choral music, tango, salsa and music from other cultures including bhangra, Indonesian gamelan and African a capella.
A Level music develops a vast range of creative and analytical skills, from performance and presentation, to essay writing and mathematical skills in music theory. This makes music a subject that is highly regarded by universities and employers. The course is tailored to the individual’s strengths in composition and performance in particular.
Pupils study the OCR specification at Bishop Walsh. Pupils are required to focus on performing, composing and historical and analytical study. The performance unit is completed in front of a live examiner, at AS level pupils perform a varied programme of 8 minutes whilst at A2 level pupils perform a 15 minute focussed recital. The composition unit requires pupils in both years to complete exercises in western tonal harmony and to compose a piece of music of 3 or 4 minutes respectively. In the AS year pupils study a range of historical topics to give a broad understanding of the Western classical tradition and the development of Jazz in the 20th century. At A2 pupils focus on the development of the Pop Song through the study of 3 albums, The Beatles: Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, Queen: A Night At The Opera, and Norah Jones: Not Too Late.
The study and performance of music develops independent thinking, and a range of analytical and communication skills that are highly valued by universities and in the professional world. Careers in music might include teachers, composers, performers, arts administrators, as well as in business, education, film and television, government, librarianship, media, and the armed services.
Performing with a musical ensemble is important not only in developing musical skills but also in fostering a strong sense of community within the department. We therefore offer a wide range of ensembles to cater for differing abilities and skills. There is a group for every member of the school community who wishes to take part if they choose to. These include 3 orchestras, 2 Jazz bands, a percussion ensemble, samba band and variety string and wind ensembles. Each term there are a variety of concerts which gives the groups and individuals the opportunity to gain performance experience.
Ensembles currently running include Wind Band, String Ensemble, Vox (school choir), Broken Voices (boys choir), Polyphonics (6th form close harmony choir), Saviour Soul (school liturgy band), Our House band, various guitar ensembles. Pupils are encouraged to set up their own groups and bands and equipment is always available for rehearsals at lunchtimes and after school.
The department also organises music trips and community music-making. These have included trips to the Opera and to concerts at Symphony Hall. Vox and Saviour Soul regularly join forces and have recently toured Europe performing in Holland, Belgium and Germany. Carol singing events in the local community and performances at our local primary school in music outreach projects are also a feature of the extra-curricular life of the schools music department.
Bishop Walsh’s 2014 musical ‘Our House’ comes third in the Birmingham Schools Best Musical competition with Erin Curran getting the individual best performer award! Well done to those pupils in the cast and back stage and to the staff in the performing arts department. Bishop Walsh has now come in the top three for the last six years! An impressive achievement!