‘Pupils who learn musical instruments out-perform students who do not learn music in areas of intelligence, developmental skills, academic performance, and social skills. Furthermore, they are able to transfer their musical knowledge and skills to other areas of academic excellence.’

British Journal of Music Education (1999), 16:123-138 Cambridge University Press: Copyright 1999 Cambridge University Press

Music plays an important role in the life of Kendrick. Approximately 70% of students learn an instrument privately, at school, or with Berkshire Maestros. Central to the work of everyone in the Music Department is a desire to encourage students to give their very best at whatever level they can achieve.  The result is a large number of students involved in musical activities of one kind or another and of a very high quality, culminating in the almost professional standards of some of the most able students.

What is studied at KS3? 

What to expect in Music at KS3

In Years 7-9, students receive a one-hour lesson per week. They perform, compose, listen and appraise pieces in a variety of styles from throughout musical history in line with the National Curriculum.

Intent for KS3 Music Curriculum

At KS3, our aim is to promote a love of musical learning in which students are able to find the fun and enjoyment in learning an instrument/singing and how it can affect not only their lives, but those around them today and throughout musical history. We wish to give students the opportunity to perform, compose, listen to and appraise music from a broad range of genres and styles from different periods in time, from the 1600s to the present day.

Initially, students will develop their performance skills in singing, keyboard and the ukulele, and will branch out to other instruments, such as the guitar and tuned percussion, in line with the schemes of work below and the interests of the individual. Students will explore the music of famous and notable composers from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th and 21st century eras through performance, composition and listening and appraising activities as a whole class, in small groups and individually. We incorporate elements of music technology, such as the use of Sibelius/Musescore in Theme and Variations (Year 8), and GarageBand in Arranging and Composing Pop Songs (Year 9). Furthermore, we explore world music from a variety of cultures, particularly those that relate to the student community at Kendrick, and how they can be merged with elements of Western music to create pieces of fusion music. In doing all of the above, students are well-prepared for taking GCSE Music should they wish to and/or will have developed a good understanding and appreciation for music in the world around them, thus creating well-rounded, culturally aware students whose enjoyment of music continues throughout their lives.

Curriculum Framework at KS3

Year 7

Elements of Music and Vocal Skills (with preparation for the Christmas Concert):  In the first two terms of Year 7, we aim to provide students with a basic level of musical understanding, from being able to read different types of notation to performing (vocally and with instruments) with musicality. This involves students learning about the musical elements and how they can be applied to existing pieces, as well as students’ original compositions, to make them more interesting. They also explore how to use the voice in creative ways to create group ostinato-based compositions. In the latter part of this topic, students develop their vocal skills through learning a song as a year group which will be performed at the Christmas Concert. For some, this is the first time they will have performed on a big stage to an audience, and in doing so, they will develop their understanding of performance etiquette and what it takes to create a successful performance.

Pachelbel’s Canon:  Next, students build on their knowledge of the musical elements and notation by learning how to read staff notation and various rhythms to create their own arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Here, students have the opportunity to develop their use of the musical elements, such as dynamics and texture, to enhance their compositions and the most able can create their own stylistic parts. As part of this process, students are able to use their own instruments or use classroom percussion instruments and learn from and with each other to create a well-structured piece that can be played accurately and fluently as a group. During this topic, students also learn about the composers Pachelbel, Handel and Bach in research, listening and homework tasks.

Keyboard Skills - When the Saints:  This is the first topic in which students focus on learning an instrument all together. They develop their knowledge of reading staff notation, now introducing the bass clef, and how to play the keyboard using both hands and good finger technique. When students arrive at Kendrick, they may have had little or no instrumental tuition, or they may be accomplished musicians. As such, parts are differentiated to enable all learners to progress, from those that have never played the keyboard before to those that are grade 8+. Alongside this, students learn about effective target setting so as to aid good progress in lessons. These skills can be applied to all aspects of the curriculum and the wider lives of individuals. Students also continue developing their knowledge of music in the Baroque period, now focusing on the development of the keyboard throughout musical historical history.

Instruments of the Orchestra and Programme Music:  Students’ knowledge of orchestral instruments (how they look, what they sound like and how they have developed) is often limited when arriving at secondary school. This two-part project starts with a research-based task in which students must research instrument families of the orchestra, the development of the orchestra and what concertos and symphonies are to create an informative presentation that includes, where possible, live performances and activities that engage the rest of the class.

In the second part of this topic, students learn about programme music from composers, such as Saint-Säens and Mussorgsky, in preparation for creating their own piece of programmatic music.

Ukulele Skills:  Students continue to develop their instrumental and vocal skills in this last project of the year. They use the piece ‘Lean on Me’ as a stimulus to learn three basic chords and sing this song as a whole class. From there, they are shown some slightly more complex chords and strumming patterns, which leads to working on differentiated songs in groups, culminating in group performances to the rest of the class at the end of the year.

Year 8

Improvisation:  Students develop their capacity to take risks and create music in a completely different style to that in Year 7. They explore improvisation through Blues and Latin American music as a whole class, in pairs and small groups. By the end of the topic, students will be able to improvise in a question and answer style using a given set of notes from pentatonic and blues scales. This topic also links with the Drama curriculum in which students also explore improvisation.

Jazz and the Blues:  Students build on their knowledge of improvisation within a context of The Blues, learning about the history of where this style of music came from and how to create a 12-bar blues. They also learn about what instruments are used to create a jazz band and the characteristics of jazz/Blues pieces such as ‘West End Blues’ and ‘Sing, Sang, Sung’. Students then use all of this knowledge from these first two topics, alongside new learning about lyric writing, to create their own 12-bar Blues song in groups, featuring jazz and Blues-style improvisations from each member of the group.

Theme and Variations:  During this topic, students learn about where Theme and Variations came from in musical history and how they can create their own piece in this style, also touching on elements of minimalism. Furthermore, they learn how to use Sibelius and Musescore and how it can aid them in the composition process. This will give students a good grounding of how to use music notation software, thus helping bridge the gap between KS3 and KS4 when students will be required to complete two compositions as part of the Non-Examined Assessments (NEAs) individually.

Operas and Musicals:  In the final topic of Year 8, students learn about the history of operas and musicals and some of the common characteristics found in these types of music. The first half of the project looks at the plot of Tosca and leads towards the creation of an alternative ending of the opera in the style of an opera, mime, musical or radio play.

The second half of this project looks more closely at songs from musicals and how they are composed. Students learn about the differences between verses and choruses and how to create an effective chord sequence. This culminates in a group composition and performance of their own song for a musical. This links to the Drama curriculum in which students create a scene that precedes this song. Furthermore, it links to the GCSE syllabus in which students’ study ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked and may create their own individual song for a musical as part of their Component 2 (Composition).

Year 9

Arranging Pop Songs:  In this first project of Year 9, students analyse the song ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins through a variety of listening and discussion tasks, focusing on how he uses musical elements and lyrics to create an interesting atmosphere. They then use his chord sequence and bass line to create their own arrangement of his song, incorporating a new melody and riff parts.

Composing Pop Songs:  Building on the previous topic and the Operas and Musicals topic from Year 8, students learn how to create lyrics for a pop song on a given topic before creating their own lyrics on a topic of their choice. From here, they learn how to create an interesting melody and chord sequence that relates to the mood/atmosphere they are trying to create in their own song. As part of this topic, students learn how to use GarageBand, developing their knowledge of how to write for different instrument groups, how to make effective use of loops and how to edit and record their own music. Using existing pop songs and previous students work as stimuli, they analyse how musical elements have been utilised to create a song that is well-developed and engaging. This topic also links to the GCSE syllabus as students’ study ‘Killer Queen’ by Queen and may compose a pop song as part of Component 2.

Music from Around the World (including Reggae and Samba music):  Relatively new to the Key Stage 3 schemes of work, Music from Around the World explores music of cultures from around the world, linking to the diverse cultural community of the school. Students create their own interactive presentations based on their own interests/music they study outside of school which, so far, have looked at Carnatic music, Bollywood music, Latin-American music, Mongolian throat singing, Australian and Maori music and much more!

From this, students start to explore Caribbean music and its heritage. Finally, they study samba music, its origins and the piece ‘Samba de Janeiro’. Here, they learn about the different roles within a samba band, how to create several Latin-American grooves and create their own 12-piece samba band, which includes improvisations.

Fusions and Cover Songs (with preparation of popular songs for the Summer Gala Concert):  In this topic, students bring together all of the skills learned in Year 9 to produce a cover song of their choice, fusing two different styles together. It is done in parallel to learning songs for the Year 9 choral item that will be performed in the Gala Concert, thus bringing the musical experiences and learning at KS3 to a satisfying close.

What is studied at KS4?   

What to expect in Music at KS4

In Year 10, students receive five hours of Music lessons per fortnight. In Year 11, students receive four hours of Music lessons per fortnight. They study the Edexcel GCSE Music syllabus at KS4 which is split up into three core components as outlined below:

Component 1: Performing - 30% (one solo and one ensemble performance, totalling a minimum of four minutes)
Component 2: Composing - 30% (composing two compositions, one own choice and one to a set brief, totalling a minimum of three minutes)
Component 3: Listening and Appraising - 40% (a one hour, 45 minute exam paper at the end of Year 11)

As part of Component 3, students’ study eight pieces from four areas of study (AoS):
AoS1 – Instrumental Music from 1700-1820
AoS2 – Vocal Music
AoS3 – Music for Stage and Screen
AoS4 - Fusions

Intent for KS4 Music Curriculum

Our intent for those studying Music at GCSE is to widen their knowledge and understanding of performing in a range of contexts, both solo and ensemble, in chamber and large-scale concerts; to become more independent and creative in composing for voices and instruments; and develop their analytical and listening skills so that students can describe and evaluate pieces they have studied, as well as unfamiliar pieces, incorporating the appropriate use of musical terminology and historical, social and cultural information. Additionally, students will learn about the various roles associated with organising and hosting a music concert and other careers in Music as they take charge in organising the Upper School Chamber Concert.

Our ultimate aims are that we nurture the passion students have for Music and enable them to become musically expressive through performing and composing, whilst increasing their thirst for knowledge about the theoretical and historical aspects that make music what it is today. We also want to ensure that what students learn prepares them for the next stage in their musical education and that if students decide not to carry on with Music, they have a greater appreciation and understanding of how music is created and expressed and how it fits into history and society.

Uptake of Music at GCSE

More than 20% of students decide to take Music at GCSE, with a total of 21/96 in Year 10 for the academic year 2019-20. This is much higher than the national average of 7.3% as seen in the 2017 Cambridge Assessment by Matthew Carroll and Tim Gill.

We also have a multitude of students who continue to enjoy music outside of lessons through a range of enrichment activities, such as House Music and extra-curricular clubs and concerts. Additionally, about 70% of the total Kendrick community receive some form of instrumental or vocal tuition on a weekly basis.

Curriculum Framework at KS4

In Years 10 and 11, students develop their musical knowledge and understanding of a wide range of pieces, including set works and wider listening through performing, composing and listening and appraising tasks in small groups, as a whole class and individually.

Year 10

General Musicianship and Leading a Chamber Concert/Careers in Music:  In Term 1 of Year 10, students develop their understanding and application of musical terminology to a standard commensurate with GCSE. They also learn how to identify and describe musical instruments by sight and sound, how to compose effective melodies and chord sequences individually and how to express themselves musically through performance.

Students are taught how to read scores and how to listen to various pieces of music analytically, using their knowledge of the musical elements and deepened understanding of musical terminology to describe what they hear. This gives them a good foundation in which to start analysing their set works associated with Component 3, Listening and Appraising.

In initial composition lessons, students learn how to write and develop a short but effective melody and compose an appropriate chord sequence to go with it. As part of this process, students share their knowledge of what does and does not work well for their instrument(s) and teachers help them to understand how to write idiomatically for instruments of the orchestra. This culminates in a binary form (AB) composition of two contrasting sections.

Alongside this, students learn about careers within the music industry, focussing on what roles and responsibilities are needed to organise and host a chamber music concert. They complete research tasks on careers and are split into different groups, such as programming, advertising, sound and lighting, stage management, project management and hosting. Then, working together with Year 11 students, they collate an appropriate programme of individual and small group performances of GCSE and A Level Music students and other students from Years 10 and above for this event. The process and event itself are hosted and managed by students with minimal teacher input so as to give them as close an experience to the real thing as possible.

Music for Stage and Screen – John Williams and Stephen Schwartz:  Following on from this, students start to analyse their first two set works, ‘Main Title/Rebel Blockade Runner’ from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope by John Williams and ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked by Stephen Schwartz. Firstly, they work in small groups, learning how to play and sing differentiated parts of an arrangement of the ‘Main Title’ and eventually put these together to create a whole-class performance and recording of the piece. This leads to an analysis of the piece which students complete in small groups. As is normally the case, students work with the teacher to ascertain the structure of the piece and then go into more detail about the piece as a whole. At this early stage, students are guided through the process of how to answer the short-answer questions provided and how to annotate their scores accordingly. The questions asked reflect those that would be asked in examinations but are colour-coded according to the musical element they relate to. ‘Challenge’ questions are also included to stretch the most able, but students can move between the questions freely within their groups. A variety of consolidation activities, including peer feedback, whole-class discussions, low stakes tests and teacher questioning are used to ensure that students have understood the work covered.

In composition, students build on their skills in writing for a group of instruments as they start composing a ternary form piece (ABA) similar that used in the Williams piece. Here, students use what they have learned about binary form and incorporate it into a more complex piece which explores how to vary and decorate a melody and its accompanying harmony.

In performance, students learn about what makes an effective and expressive performance and how this can be communicated to an audience. We explore a range of live student performances and recorded professional performances, as well as examining exemplar performances against the criteria provided by the examination board. This gives students a good indication as to what is expected for a GCSE level performance and how to score the best possible mark for Component 1.

The next set work builds on what has been learned about operas and musicals in Year 8. Students learn about the musical Wicked and its links to The Wizard of Oz by completing research tasks and by going to see the West End production with GCSE Drama students. This helps to put the song they are studying into the context of the musical as a whole and gives them the experience of watching and listening to professional musicians and actors in a live setting.

Building on from the song-writing tasks completed in KS3, students then work towards creating a song for a musical. Here, they learn about effective word-setting and writing idiomatically for voices. We provide students with a fictional plot to a musical called ‘Cheesy Love’ and they are tasked with picking a part of that plot and writing a song about it. They continue to build on their theoretical knowledge, learn how to modulate and how to create a climactic ending for a song. This, along with the instrumental compositional task, provides a good grounding in which to start their free composition for Component 2.

As with each of the set works covered, students are also exposed to a range of wider listening and dictation tasks, as well as historical/cultural research tasks, which link to the composers and areas of study they have learned about whilst putting them into context. This gives students a great foundation for their musical learning and helps them understand whereabouts in musical history each piece fits.

Baroque Music – Purcell and JS Bach:  Next, students go back in history to the Baroque period to analyse these two set works: ‘Music for a While’ by Henry Purcell and ‘Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, movement 3’ by J.S. Bach. Initially, they work in groups to create presentations about the life and works of Purcell, life in England before and at the time Purcell was writing his music, the context in which ‘Music for a While’ was written and about key characteristics of the music in the Baroque period itself. From here, students analyse and perform this piece in small groups, developing their use of musical terminology and quality of their written responses and their vocal and instrumental ensemble skills. A similar thing is then done with the piece by JS Bach after which students compare and contrast these pieces, and others from the Baroque period, commenting on the features that make them typical of the time they were written.

In Term 3, students are asked to start preparing a solo performance piece(s), lasting about two minutes in length of about grade 3+ standard if possible (it needn’t be any higher than grade 5) for their end-of-year examinations.

Also in Term 3, students start work on their first large-scale composition. This can be in any style and for any performance setting. Some decide to continue with their song for a musical, but some decide to either continue with their initial instrumental piece or start afresh. From here on in, composition lessons are tailored to include both general aspects of composing for all, and specific things relating to the sorts of pieces students are composing. As such, students explore a lot of wider listening through class/discussion tasks and homework tasks to aid the compositional process.

Fusion Music – Afro Celt Sound System:  As the Year 10 examinations draw nearer, students explore a new area of study: Fusions. Here, they build on the knowledge gained in the Music from Around the World topic in Year 9 and learn about the characteristics of African and Celtic music, as well as Electronic Dance Music, and how they relate to the ‘Release’ set work. Students build on their knowledge of looping and how electronic and acoustic instruments are used in the pre-recorded loops throughout ‘Release’. Once the analysis of this set work is completed, students look at effective revision methods in preparation for their exam.

During this time, students also perform ‘work-in-progress’ versions of their solo pieces to each other in small, like-instrument groups. This enables students to give each other more specific feedback about how to improve and how to tackle potential problems relating to technique.

Compositional work is continued with a view to a final draft hand-in at the end of the academic year.

Classical and Romantic Music - Beethoven:  Once students return after their exams, and the evaluation and feedback has been given, students learn about the developments in musical history from the Baroque period to the Classical and early Romantic periods. They also learn about the development of the piano from its predecessor, the harpsichord, and about Beethoven and his compositional output. Students are given differentiated versions of the two main themes associated with this set work, ‘Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor’ by Beethoven, ranging from a simple one-handed piece up to the original piece itself. Students learn about what sonata form is and how it is used in this piece, as well as the characteristics that link it to both the Classical and Romantic eras.

In conjunction with this, music of these time periods is analysed and the performance circumstances are explored and compared with that of today. Students also continue to develop their dictation and aural analysis skills.

By the end of Year 10, students will have completed a final draft of their free composition and analysis of several set works. They will also be encouraged to start thinking about what they will perform for their actual solo and ensemble performances in Year 11.

Year 11

Brief Set Compositions / Essay writing (including recapping musical knowledge gained in Year 10):  At the beginning of Year 11, students are introduced to their brief set compositions. Each year, the exam board releases four composition briefs, each one relating to a different area of study. These are explored in detail, noting the specific requirements to meet the brief and how students may go about planning and structuring their compositions. Furthermore, students listen to existing pieces and think about how they could provide inspiration in the initial compositional process. Students work towards completing a draft by Christmas, utilising the skills they have gained in Year 10 alongside their new ideas.

During this first term, students are reminded of the real GCSE solo performance which takes place during the January mock week and are encouraged to perform their piece as part of the Upper School Chamber Concert. In Year 11, students also take on more responsibility in leading the organising of this concert, guiding the Year 10 students through the process. This promotes collaboration between the year groups and effective communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.

As part of the written examination, students must answer an essay-style question which requires them to compare a piece they have studied with an unfamiliar piece. We look in detail at how to write an effective essay using one of the pieces we have already studied with feedback about what examiners are expecting in order for students to achieve full marks.

Fusion Music – Samba Em Preludio (including preparation for mocks):  Continuing the analysis of set works, students learn about the characteristics of jazz music and Latin American and Spanish/Portuguese music and the composer Esperanza Spalding. They use this knowledge to analyse the jazz harmony used in the set work ‘Samba Em Preludio’ by Spalding and the influences Spanish and Portuguese music has in creating this piece. Students also explore music of other cultures as part of their wider listening for this area of study.

In December, students’ complete further revision and consolidation tasks on all aspects of listening and appraising studied so far in preparation for a full examination paper in their January mock examinations. They also complete ‘work-in-progress’ solo performances to each other, giving each other feedback. They are also encouraged to discuss which ensemble performance piece they will be playing with their instrumental or vocal teacher.

Vocal Music of the mid-late 20th Century – Queen / Composition:  After the mock examination period is over and the appropriate feedback/evaluation has taken place, students learn about the socio-political climate in the UK and USA during the 1960s-1980s and how this affected the creation of the song ‘Killer Queen’ by Queen. They also look at the band ‘Queen’ and their influence on the music industry and the compositional output of the time. Students then work together to both perform and analyse this piece in detail and similar pieces to it.

With composition, students receive feedback regarding their brief set composition but begin working on their free compositions again. They work towards completing their free composition by the February half term and their brief set composition by early March.

Students also work towards their ensemble performance which takes place shortly after the February half term. They are allowed to perform with another student in the class, another student in the school, their vocal or instrumental teacher or a class teacher.

Revision:  All performances and compositions are completed by early to mid-March and the analysis of all set works is completed shortly thereafter. This allows for a longer period of time for students to adequately prepare for the GCSE examination, ensuring they have an extensive knowledge and understanding of each piece they have studied, that they are confident in completing dictation and chord identification questions, and understand what is expected in the unfamiliar and essay-style questions.

What is studied at KS5?   

What to expect in Music at KS5

Students study the Edexcel A Level Music syllabus at KS5. It is split up into three core components as outlined below:

Component 1: Performing - 30% (performing an 8-minute varied programme of music)
Component 2: Composing - 30% (composing a 4-minute composition either to a brief or a free composition - 20%; completing two compositional technical exercises – four-part counterpoint in the style of JS Bach - 10%)
Component 3: Listening and Appraising - 40% (one 2-hour exam paper at the end of Year 13)As part of Component 3, students’ study 18 pieces from six areas of study (AoS):
AoS1 – Vocal Music
AoS2 – Instrumental Music
AoS3 – Music for Film
AoS4 – Popular Music and Jazz
AoS5 – Fusions
AoS6 – New Directions

Lesson structure:  In Years 12 and 13, students receive eight hours of teacher-led Music lessons and two Directed Independent Study Periods (DISPs) per fortnight. The breakdown of these lessons is as follows:

4 x 1-hour lessons - listening and appraising: students analyse the given set works as outlined by Edexcel and also learn about how these pieces fit into their historical, social and cultural contexts. During these lessons, students also analyse a variety of pieces by the aforementioned composers, as well as the music of others composing at the same time.

2 x 1-hour lessons - composing: students study composition in a range of different styles, from experimental to classical and everything in between, working towards creating their own piece either in a style of their choosing or set to a brief given by the exam board.

1 x 1-hour lesson - compositional techniques: students learn how to write in four-part harmony in the form of Bach chorales. Here, they learn the ‘rules’ associated with writing in the style of JS Bach and work towards completing two full chorales (one major and one minor) at the end of the course. They also develop their aural skills through dictation and chord identification exercises.

1 x 1-hour lesson - performance: students develop their instrumental and vocal skills in solo and ensemble performance. They learn to build their confidence of performing in front of others and how to practise and enhance their pieces effectively. Furthermore, students learn about the historical factors affecting their choice of pieces and how that can influence how they may be performed today.

2 x 1-hour DISPs - students are set independent and group-work tasks linked to their set works, harmony, composition and/or performance work. These feed into future lessons.

Intent for KS5 Music Curriculum:  Our ultimate aims for Music at KS5 are that we promote a love of learning in and around the subject, that we develop inquisitive and creative thinkers, and that our students enjoy performing and composing in a range of contexts, both individually and with others.  Additionally, we look to build upon, and vastly broaden, the musical knowledge and understanding of students in the areas of performing, composing, compositional techniques, and listening and appraising, all of which will prepare them for the next stages of their musical education. We also endeavour to demonstrate a large range of university and conservatoire opportunities available to students, as well as the diverse careers that studying Music can bring about. Furthermore, students will develop their skills of analysis, research, communication, teamwork, independence, organisation and planning, which will put them in good stead for life after Kendrick.

By the end of the two-year course, students will have a considerable knowledge of composers and their works from the late Renaissance period up until the present day. They will be able to comment on how composers pushed the boundaries for music in their time, as well as how art, literature, society, and politics have affected music throughout the years and how it differs around the world. They will have explored historical performance practice and the differences between how the pieces they are learning today might have been performed differently in the past, as well as compose pieces in a range of styles.

Curriculum Framework at KS5

Year 12

In the initial stages of Year 12, students learn about the requirements of A Level Music and develop their knowledge of music throughout history, completing research tasks about the main musical periods, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th and 21st century music. Here, they research and share information about notable composers and their output, the key characteristics and types of pieces created and performed in different parts of the world, how art, literature, politics and technology affected the development of instruments and music and how performance settings developed over time.

Students also develop their analytical skills in listening to and appraising music up to A Level standard, going into more depth about what is happening in the music, why it is happening/the composer’s intentions behind the music, the effect it has and what might have influenced the composer to write in a particular way. Moreover, they start making links between the music they are studying and that of other composers.

Performance:  In performance lessons, students analyse what makes an excellent performance, not just in terms of the accuracy and fluency of a piece, but also in the expression and interpretation of a piece and how that is communicated to an audience effectively. They start by performing to each other with particular goals in mind, giving each other feedback on how to improve, but then go onto analyse videos of professional performers and exemplar performances (with assessment criteria) from the exam board. In doing so, students are able to connect successfully with their audience during their performances, but they also understand how they will be marked in examination situations.

Furthermore, students carry out research about the pieces they are studying, looking at the original performance circumstances and how that differs with performances of today, why/what influenced the piece to be written and its key characteristics. They also look at how to create an interesting and varied programme. These pieces are then linked to those they study in their listening and appraising lessons.

As many Music students at Kendrick are interesting in continuing with Music after they leave school, they learn about the next steps in their education, the similarities and differences between university and conservatoire courses and the varying requirements needed to gain entry. Students also explore the range of careers open to those that study Music. With these things in mind, they complete a mini research and planning task which asks them to detail the steps they would need to take to achieve their goals and what they need to do as part of that process.

Performances in lessons can be as a soloist, duets, trios or done as a whole class. The music performed is from a range of time periods and allows students to explore the music they enjoy, as well as experimenting with new repertoire. Also, as part of the course, students are expected to take part in the Upper School Chamber Concert in the autumn term and be a part of Senior Choir and an ensemble for their instrument.

By the end of Year 12, students will be able to perform a 6-minute+ varied programme of grade 6+ standard in a recital to a small audience.

Composition:  Where possible, composition tasks are linked to the pieces and areas of study students are exploring in their listening and appraising lessons. In the initial stages, they complete small composition tasks in a range of styles, looking at how to write idiomatically for their own and other’s instruments/voices, how to plan and structure their compositions, and how to write effective melodies and accompanying chords to an A Level standard.

Component 2 requires students to write a four-minute (minimum) composition which may be free choice or written to a brief. As such, students analyse briefs from previous years and exemplar material (with the assessment criteria) and complete a more substantial composition to one of these briefs. They experiment with how they can use the musical elements to create moods/atmospheres relative to their chosen brief and use wider listening tasks as inspiration to help them develop their pieces further. Teacher and peer feedback is given at various points throughout this process.

Once this task is complete, students may begin writing their own composition in any style, using the tasks they have already completed and the pieces they have studied in all parts of the course as inspiration for what they create. This may be carried forward into Year 13 if they wish.

Harmony:  This is a new aspect of the course for students, but one that underpins a lot of the techniques used in composition and the set works students’ study. They learn about how to write for SATB choir and the rules associated with writing chorales in the style of JS Bach.

Initially, students develop their knowledge and understanding of keys and chords, progressing to sequences of chords and cadences in root position through a range of whole-class, pair and individual tasks and listening exercises. As they become more confident, they learn how to use secondary chords, 7th chords and inversions to create more interesting and effective bass lines and inner parts, all in major keys. They also learn how to decorate melodies and how to check for mistakes in their own and others work. Afterwards, they explore writing cadential progressions in minor keys, how to modulate effectively and how to use more complex sequences of chords that will gain them extra stylistic marks in an exam.

In addition to this, students develop their aural analysis skills, learning how to identify chords and chord progressions within a given key, as well as dictating melodies and rhythms based on what they hear. This work helps them to analyse the chords they hear, both in their set works and the pieces they play in performance lessons. This new learning can also be used in their composition work.

By the end of Year 12, students will be be able to complete several cadential progressions in major and minor keys, modulating where necessary, using a range of cadential formulae and melodic decorations in keeping with the style of JS Bach.

Listening and Appraising:  Once students have completed their initial research about music and composers throughout history, we start with an accessible and relatively modern piece of film music, Batman Returns by Danny Elfman. These cues make use of a full symphony orchestra and electronic instruments, and have complex melodic, harmonic and textural features, which make it an excellent piece for analysis. It can also be used as a basis for comparison with other set works throughout the year. We then complete the analysis of the cues from The Duchess by Rachel Portman before going back in history to our Baroque pieces by Vivaldi and JS Bach.

From here, students analyse the set works in chronological order, leaving most of the larger-scale set works for Year 13. Where possible, we encourage students to play through their set works to gain a greater insight into the complexities of them. In their listening and appraising lessons, students consider the social, cultural, political, and historical contexts of these pieces and what influenced the composers to write them. They also explore popular music of the time, other notable composers and their output, and the factors affecting performances, both of their set works and music in general.

In preparation for their end-of-year exam, students learn how to write essays which demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the characteristics of the pieces they are studying, as well as how to write about pieces unfamiliar to them. They must form critical and cohesive arguments which are well-structured and make excellent use of musical terminology and references to their extensive wider listening. As part of the exam, students also complete a range of short-answer questions based on extracts of the pieces they have studied. Preparation for these tasks are completed through a range of whole-class discussion and small-group/individual tasks which grow in complexity as students build their confidence and skills base. Regular feedback is given and students also self- and peer-assess their own and other’s work, as well as exemplar material, with the accompanying assessment criteria to look for what has been done well and what can be improved the next time.

By the end of Year 12, students will be able to complete a full examination paper consisting of short-answer questions, a dictation question, an unfamiliar essay question and a longer essay question about one of their set works.

Year 13

Performance:  In the first term of the year, students prepare a larger-scale piece to perform in the Upper School Chamber Concert. This may be a solo or ensemble piece and can be one of the pieces they are looking to perform for their final recital. However, if they are going for auditions at conservatoires or universities, it is recommended that they trial a piece they are going to play to give them some experience of performing it in public.

In Term 2, students start putting together ideas for their final recital which must last at least eight minutes and have at least two contrasting pieces of about grade 7+ standard. As before, they complete research about their pieces and perform them in front of each other, looking to build up their stamina and accuracy and fluency. We also expand on performance etiquette as, although it isn’t marked specifically, it can make a huge difference in the way a person feels about their own performance and how their music is both interpreted and communicated to an audience.

As part of our Spring Concert, selected members of Year 13 are asked to perform a concerto-style item, such as movement from a concerto with our Symphony Orchestra or a solo vocal piece accompanied by our Chamber Choir. This gives students the opportunity to perform a large-scale work with the accompaniment of an ensemble, which is a great experience should they want to continue as a soloist later in their career.

The final recital for students usually takes place in Term 4 and is performed in front of a small audience.

Composition:  In Year 13, students may choose to either continue with their compositions they started in Year 12 or write a composition to a brief set by the exam board which gets released in September. Listening, compositional and class discussion tasks are tailored to meet the specific needs of the students and the stages they are at in their compositional process. Regular feedback is given, both from the teachers and student’s peers, as well as visiting industry professionals who come to work with students as part of their process. Throughout the year and as the final deadline draws nearer, the class analyse and apply the assessment criteria to their own work, looking for areas of improvement. By receiving all of this feedback and analysing their piece alongside the assessment criteria, students are able to refine it effectively before handing in their final 4+ minute composition towards the end of Term 4.

Harmony:  In Year 13, students consolidate their current knowledge and understanding of how to write in four-part counterpoint. However, there is now more of an emphasis on the mid-phrase sequence of chords and how to write whole chorales stylistically. Additionally, they learn about modulating more effectively, how to include harmonic devices, such as suspensions, and how to incorporate chromatic harmony. This culminates in a 6-hour Non-Examined Assessment (NEA) in which students must complete one major and one minor chorale. The time may be used as the student wishes but is completed under test conditions.

In these lessons, students also continue to develop their aural analysis skills in identifying chords and modulations, as well as dictating longer, more complex melodies and rhythms.

Listening and Appraising:  Students revisit the periods of music throughout history at the beginning of the year with consolidation and wider listening tasks. After this, they look at symphonic and programmatic music in more detail as they analyse ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz. This is also compared to other Romantic music of the time and similar set works.

Music of the early-mid 20th century is then explored as students study Vaughan Williams’ ‘On Wenlock Edge’ and Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’. Although written only a few years apart, there are stark contrasts in what they consist of and how they were received by their audiences. We also look at how conflicts and other world events shape the music of this time. This progresses into studying tracks from ‘Revolver’ by The Beatles before finishing with tracks from Anoushka Shankar’s ‘Breathing Under Water’.

The analysis of all set works normally finishes around late March/early April, which allows the rest of the time for revision and examination preparation. Students continue to refine their essay writing and short-answer skills, throughout the year with, for example, low stakes tests and timed essay-writing homework tasks. They now consolidate all of this information and are given further revision tools and techniques to help them in their exams.

The final exam consists of one 2-hour paper which usually takes place in early June.

Previous Destinations of Kendrick Students who Studied Music

Music at University of York

Music and Maths at Leeds University
Popular Music and Music Technology at University of Winchester
Medicine at University of Southampton

Music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Maths at Bath University

Music at Royal Academy of Music
Pharmacy at Reading University

Music at Oxford University
Music at Leeds College of Music
Music at Cardiff University
Economics and Actuarial Science at Southampton University
Mathematics at UCL

Extra-curricular Opportunities 

The Music Department at Kendrick is very vibrant; our students can often be found practising at break times and after school and our larger rooms are filled with ensemble and choral rehearsals, which cater for all ages and abilities, every day. Students really enjoy working with each other to make music, whether it be the things they are working on in lessons, the music they have for ensembles, or their own arrangements and collaborations. Students are also encouraged to create their own ensembles if there isn’t one currently available for their instrument choice/style.

House Music:  Every year, Kendrick School runs a House Music competition. The choral and instrumental items, arranged and directed or conducted by students, are inspired by a common theme and performed for the school and an invited audience. Competition is intense, and the finished performances are always of a high standard.  Students of all ages and abilities are involved. All performances are marked by an external adjudicator who marks them on aspects such as quality of singing/playing, programme and overall impact.

House Music 2019-20 was built around the theme of ‘Stage and Screen’ and showcased students singing songs from musicals, playing an array of film music and creating their own compositions. It was adjudicated by Matt Butchers, a local Head of Music and the Creative Arts, who has extensive experience of directing choirs and instrumental ensembles, as well as performing on a number of instruments.

Performance Opportunities:  There is a plethora of musical performance opportunities at Kendrick from large-scale concerts to smaller, chamber music concerts and student-led events. Highlights in the 2018-19 calendar included the performance from students in Senior Choir with other schools in Berkshire in ‘Music Leads the Way’ at the Royal Albert Hall and the Special Award achieved by Kendrick School Brass Ensemble at Woodley Festival.

Extra-curricular Ensembles at Kendrick:  Kendrick provides opportunities for students of all ages and abilities to participate in musical ensembles and choirs. These include:


Vox Choir - for all students in Years 7-8
Senior Choir - for all students in Years 9 and above
Chamber Choir - by audition only (students in Years 9 and above)

Orchestras and Bands:  

Wind Orchestra - for all wind and brass instrumentalists (grade 1+)
Sinfonia - a junior orchestra for all orchestral instrumentalists (grades 2-5)
Jazz Band - for all jazz instrumentalists (grade 3+)
Symphony Orchestra - a senior orchestra for all orchestral instrumentalists (grades 6+)

Chamber Ensembles:  

Harp Ensemble - for all harpists
Flute Ensemble - for all flautists
Guitar Ensemble - for all guitarists
Brass Ensemble - for all brass players (grade 1+)
String Ensemble - for all string players (grade 4+)

Live Theatre Trips and Masterclasses:  As part of the GCSE and A Level syllabus, and in partnership with the Drama Department, students are invited to visit a West End theatre and see and hear a professional production. This is often a highlight of the year for all involved.

Now in its third year, Kendrick hosts a Performer Series in which a professional musician is hired to deliver a masterclass for students at Kendrick and in the surrounding areas. Depending on the discipline, there may be a workshop for all to learn something new in an afternoon and a set of masterclasses to hear how senior students develop a piece under expert guidance. This culminates in a concert from the professional musician and those that have taken part in the event itself.


Mrs Catherine Cooper - Subject Leader

Ms Brenda Rohweder 

Practice Rooms in the Music Department 

Last year, the Music Department set out to rename its practice rooms in honour of influential and inspirational women from throughout musical history. We thought it would be fitting to introduce those women to you as part of International Women's Day 2021, celebrating how these women have gone on to be successful in their respective fields and pave the way for future women to do the same.

We had many fantastic entries which made it very difficult to choose just five people! The names below are those that we chose which we feel are representative of diverse backgrounds and fields. 

Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE – b.1956 – double bass player and founder/Artistic/Executive Director of Chineke! Orchestra. She is also a former Kendrick student.




Hildegard von Bingen – 1098-1179 – first named composer and the most prolific of the middle ages




Ella Fitzgerald – 1917-1996 – jazz vocalist and the "First Lady of Song"





Alison Balsom – b.1978 – professional solo trumpeter



Dame Evelyn Glennie – b.1965 – percussionist (who also happens to be deaf) and composer - the first person to create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist

External Opportunities / Competitions 

Choral and Organ Scholarships 

Christ Church, Reading are offering their Choral and Organ Scholarships to new applicants. Those who obtain a scholarship receive payment of up to £1250/year (dependent on experience and availability) with the opportunity to receive a grant for singing and/or organ lessons too. It’s a great way to gain experience of learning a new instrument and developing your choral singing, particularly if you want a new challenge. You don’t need to be a churchgoer or belong to any faith.

To apply, you should be a grade 5+ singer or grade 6+ pianist/organist and in Year 9+ (younger students may be able to join at the discretion of the Choral Director, Mr Jamie Hudson). Please contact Mrs Cooper and/or Mr Jamie Hudson for more information.  A link to the website is here 

Reading Symphony Orchestra - Young Musicians' Competition 19th March 2023 

The orchestra is keen to encourage young performers, and holds an annual Young Musicians’ Competition. This is open to instrumentalists and singers of school age who live or study within a 30-mile radius of Reading and who have reached a standard at least equivalent to Grade 7 of the Associated Board.

The Young Musicians’ Competition 2023 is generously supported Hickies of Reading. It will take place on Sunday 19th March 2023 at Reading Blue Coat School.‚Äč

Entry is open to singers and instrumentalists of school age who live or study in the Reading area and have reached a standard equivalent to at least Grade VII of the Associated Board. An entry fee of £15 will be charged

Prize-winner receives a trophy and cash vouchers for Hickies of Reading; and if a suitable standard is reached, will have the opportunity to perform a concerto with the orchestra.

Click on the Entry Form and Rules documents below to open and download them. The YMC Secretary must receive completed entry forms by 6th March 2023.

Entry Form

YMC Rules

Ora Singers Young Composers' Scheme - Free Opportunity 

The award-winning vocal group, ORA Singers, has opened applications for its fourth national Young Composers' programme – a free scheme aimed at developing the skills of young composers from UK state-schools. The programme sees 10 Young Composers each receive 10 hours of one-to-one mentoring with professional composers, who will help them write a new choral piece which will be performed and recorded in concert by ORA Singers at the Three Choirs Festival in July 2023. During the scheme, Young Composers have their ideas and sketches workshopped by ORA Singers, who offer specialised tips and advice along with a guest composer. 

The 2023 Young Composers scheme will also see up to 40 Apprentices fast-track their skills in composition through a series of online, in-depth workshops, and will gain invaluable insight into the world of professional composition by hearing from industry experts.

The deadline to apply is Monday 6th February 2023

Press Release - 2023 Young Composers' Programme