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GCSE Music

GCSE Music

Director of Music: Mr Woodhall

Music plays a major role in the life of St Edmund’s College. The Music School has a vibrant musical programme which supports 20 peripatetic music staff, around 300 music lessons a week, numerous ensemble and choir rehearsals, regular recitals in addition to the Department’s academic commitments.



Music is offered as an integral part of the school curriculum to all students in years 7, 8 and 9, and thereafter as an option at GSCE and A Level. Results are good, with a predominance of A grades at all levels. The Music School is equipped with an ICT suite for classroom teaching and a Technology Suite for GCSE and A Level course work.  All PCs run the latest Sibelius software. All music practice rooms are fitted with a piano and the Recital room has a concert grand and a Robert Goble Harpsichord.


Extra-curricular activities for all

Opportunities are available for students to perform both as soloists and in groups. The year’s programme includes half-termly ‘themed’ recitals (wind, piano, voice, string), larger-scale instrumental concerts to include the many ensembles listed, and choral concerts featuring Schola Cantorum.

Each year we run masterclasses or workshops and hold House Music and Drama competitions adjudicated by professionals. There are also opportunities to perform informally within the community, for example we have touring groups with musical/theatre repertoire that visit residential homes.

The Schola Cantorum leads the College Chapel Carol Service at Christmas as well as other College masses throughout the year.

Collaboration between the Music and Drama department is an important feature of the College Arts programme. There are productions each year which we hold at an external theatre to ensure we provide students with a true theatre experience be it on the stage or behind it.  Over the last number of years we have performed Starlight Express, Les Misérables, Hairspray and Singin’ in the Rain.



The 9-1 specification for GCSE Music is up to date and relevant and covers a wide range of musical styles. The course leads on well from previous learning at KS3, but also provides new interest and challenge and will make use of any additional musical experience you may have. The approach to learning is mainly through performing and listening to music; whether you are a bass guitarist or violinist, we teach many of the characteristics of musical styles, improvisation and compositional techniques through playing. We use state of the art Aural training software (Auralia) to develop important aural theory skills and encourage independent learning skills to develop contextual understanding and curiosity. Students can complete areas of the course through Music Production, using Cubase Pro 9 Software. They can also access our recording studio. Students can perform as a producer or Deejay, instead of the more traditional methods of performance. Our comprehensive and vibrant extra-curricular programme means students can complement their learning through playing or singing in an ensemble, attending theory classes or the Music Technology club. The GCSE course now links seamlessly to the A Level course. For an insight into what we teach, do go to the GCSE section of the Music VLE.

To gain an early insight into the types of music covered, go to Spotify and search for Ed Rhinegold AQA Listening where you will find the suggested listening tracks for this course.

The GCSE Music course has 3 components for assessment:

  1. Understanding music
  2. Performing music
  3. Composing music

Component 1: UNDERSTANDING MUSIC        40%

Students are assessed on their listening and contextual understanding. They complete an examination paper with listening exercises using excerpts of music.

For each area of study there is a set ‘study piece’ and musical elements appropriate to that area of study that students need to learn.

There are four areas of study:

Western classical tradition 1550-1910 – This is compulsory
Popular music
Traditional music
Western classical tradition since 1910

Component 2: PERFORMING MUSIC              30%

The student can perform as an instrumentalist and/or vocalist and/or via technology:

Performance 1: Solo performance
Performance 2: Ensemble performance

A minimum of four minutes and a maximum of seven minutes of performance in total is required, of which a minimum of one minute must be the ensemble performance.

Component 3: COMPOSING MUSIC                30%

Students complete two compositions. Students learn how to develop musical ideas and compose music that is musically convincing through two compositions. One must be in response to an externally set brief (Composition 1) and the other is a free composition (Composition 2).

Composition 1: Composition to a brief (36 marks)
Composition 2: Free composition (36 marks)

A minimum of three minutes and a maximum of four and a half minutes of music in total is required.


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