If you have any further enquiries, please email Mr Nigel Cassidy, Director of Music, at


Why study Music?

According to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, creativity is one of the top three in-demand skills in the workplace, crucial to the survival and growth of businesses in our constantly evolving society. This gives creative subjects more weight and relevance than ever before. Music is a distinctive subject that offers students the tools to develop a deep appreciation of its greatest works, the challenge of recreating them (in performance) and the opportunity to develop the skills required to create new works (composition). Music is a unique form of human expression that has traditionally formed a part of the broadest and deepest educational programmes. It complements and interrelates with every other subject across the curriculum. As Nietzsche said; ”Without music, life would be a mistake”.

What does the study of Music involve?

Music at AS and A Level follow the same pattern of study as the GCSE course (all boards) with an emphasis on engaging actively in the study of music. Attentive and critical listening to a wide range of genres, styles and traditions form the core of this process whilst evolving an understanding of musical contexts and a coherent awareness of musical chronology. The performing element of the courses allow students to capitalise on the many years already invested in instrumental learning. Time is spent focussing on interpretation, expression and developing the strength of character needed for successful public performance. Finally, composition pushes the boundaries reached at GCSE by extending technical skills including the refining and manipulating of musical ideas together with the ability to emulate a variety of genres and styles. This is achieved through an awareness of musical structures and elements from the middle-ages to the present day.

Why at Salesian College?

The College has a modern Music School with a recital hall containing a Steinway Grand Piano and several practice rooms all equipped with keyboards and computers with music software. Class sizes are always small with the benefit of frequent individual tutoring customised for each student’s strengths and weaknesses. The excellent team of visiting Music Teachers are delighted to mentor students who are striving for high standards and enjoy their instruments. The College has a great number of musicians in its community and these afford students an extensive range of performing opportunities either as part of study or just for pleasure. Students are strongly encouraged to join the orchestra, choir, chamber choir, guitar group or one of the many smaller bands or ensembles often formed by the students themselves. Those with a flair for the stage are encouraged to join the Salesian College Theatre Company for the annual musical with the possibility of principal roles or even a place in the band for students at an advanced level.

What does the course involve?

The Edexcel syllabus is followed in this subject and forms a natural progression from the GCSE qualification. The qualification is split between coursework (60%) and the appraising paper (40%). The two coursework components, composition and performance are each 30% of the course.  

The appraising paper involves listening and essay questions based on a series of studied works drawn from the following areas of study:

  • Vocal Music (Bach, Mozart and Vaughan Williams)
  • Instrumental Music (Vivaldi C.Schumann, Berlioz)
  • Music for film (Batman Returns, The Duchess, Psycho)
  • Popular Music and Jazz (Courtney Pine, Kate Bush, The Beatles)
  • Fusions (Debussy, Familia Valera Miranda, Anoushka Shankar)
  • New Directions (Cage, Saariaho, Stravinsky)

Skills required

The board expect a student to be at grade 7 in their voice or instrument to perform at ‘standard’ level in their final recital. Students submitting performances below that level will have their mark ‘adjusted’ down or up if the piece is at a grade 8 standard. Students that have sat a grade 5 theory examination have undoubtedly found the analysis of set works and the writing of composition more easily accessible, but it is not a prerequisite.

What is expected from Music students?

Students considering A Level Music will be no strangers to self-discipline. All musicians have sacrificed other activities or pleasures to spend time practising their instrument and refining their technique. It is also the case that students that reach an advanced level work harder to improve themselves because they find it rewarding. An A Level Music student will need to apply this blueprint to the other disciplines of composition and listening. Composing requires experimentation in order to create new ideas and an investment of time to develop them, much like an artist refines a canvas or sculpture. Similarly, the engaged student should listening to a broad spectrum of music embracing all the areas of study.

What can an A Level in Music lead to?

The archaic notion that music is not an academic subject has been repeatedly quashed in recent years. The list of ‘facilitating subjects’ issued by the Russell Group of universities has been withdrawn with an admittance that it was misleading and misinterpreted. Some Music students naturally continue to study the subject at university or choose to continue their instrumental or vocal studies at a conservatoire. Others follow different pathways connected to their other subjects but will usually keep music as an interest. Indeed, the social scene connected to musical activities and the act of participating in music can be a lifelong inspiration and fulfilment. There are several careers in music open to those who do not wish to perform or compose. These include sound technician, music therapist, teacher or private tutor. Other careers in the music industry include working at a concert hall or music venue. Broader creative careers include working in film, television, radio or arts administration.