Music (academic)

Find out more about studying Music (academic) at Westminster

Music (academic)

  • About
  • Curriculum
  • Enrichment
  • Staff
  • After Westminster
  • About

    Music plays an integral part in life at Westminster, and the academic courses offer a rigorous and stimulating perspective on the excellent and wide-ranging musical activities across the School. Many internationally renowned musicians have been educated at Westminster including Henry Purcell, Adrian Boult, Roger Norrington, Ian Bostridge, George Benjamin, Julian Anderson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Christian Mason, Mika, Dido and members of the band Clean Bandit.

    Department Contact Mr Michael Heighway
    michael.heighway@westminster.org.uk
  • Curriculum
    Lower School

    The Fifth Form (Year 9) music course explores the widest possible range of music, from Mozart to hip-hop, with the aim of giving pupils the opportunity to engage critically with unfamiliar music and cultures. Pupils have the opportunity to perform and compose, develop their aural skills, and their understanding of music theory.

    The Edexcel GCSE has three modules: performance (30%), composition (30%), and a written listening paper (40%). The set works give pupils the chance to study a really wide range of music, ranging from Bach to Queen, Wicked the musical (we see this at the Victoria Apollo) to Purcell, Brazilian jazz fusion to the Star Wars sound track. You will develop your aural skills, theoretical understanding, musical appreciation, awareness of compositional techniques, and broaden your musicianship immeasurably through this qualification.

    Syllabus & Code
    Edexcel GCSE 1MU0 Music
    Upper School

    The A Level Music course comprises three modules: performance, composition, and listening / analytical skills (30%, 30% and 40% of the examination structure). Through these activities, pupils develop a more informed appreciation of how and why a very wide variety of music has been written and performed; this, in turn, improves pupils’ skills in performing and composing across a range of styles.

    Alongside the teaching of the formal examination syllabus, the course includes an introduction to: Baroque Figured Bass, Harmony and Counterpoint, Composition, Aural Skills, Improvisation, Repertoire, Analysis and History, Musicianship Skills and Instrumental Studies.

    The School’s proximity to several of London’s leading music venues allows for frequent trips to concerts and operas to hear world-class performers. Participation in the School’s orchestras, choirs, chamber music ensembles and jazz bands, if appropriate, is expected. Every year there are masterclasses, workshops, competitions and concerts featuring pupils’ own compositions, often featuring a number of international guest soloists.

    Syllabus & Code
    Edexcel A Level 9MU0 Music
    Sixth Form Entry
    Subject requirements for the course
    It is desirable to have achieved a distinction or merit at Grade VI-VII (or equivalent standard) on a principal instrument before starting the course in the Sixth Form. Some degree of elementary keyboard proficiency, and at least Grade V Music Theory (or equivalent) are prerequisite, and those taking the course should have taken music at (I)GCSE level and be on track to score a grade 8 or 9.

    Entrance Examination

    As part of the online registration process, candidates are asked to submit a video recording of two contrasting pieces of their choice played on their first-study instrument. On the examination day, they are expected to take a written assessment, which tests aural perception, music theory and musical literacy. Successful candidates will be called back for a brief interview, which will include listening tests.

    Overseas Candidates
    There is no (I)GCSE requirement for those who attend schools overseas that do not prepare pupils for (I)GCSE examinations. Candidates will be considered for a place based on the videos they submit, their performance in the School’s entrance examinations and a transcript of results from their current school.
  • Enrichment

    Musicians at Westminster benefit from numerous opportunities to engage with the subject beyond the classroom; our location in the centre of London allows for regular trips to the Southbank Centre, the West End theatres and the Royal Opera House. Pupils enjoy a wide range of masterclasses delivered by world-renowned musicians, and we host composition workshops and academic talks from university lecturers. Our musicians perform in some of London’s leading venues, including St John’s Smith Square and the Barbican. Our instrumentalists are regularly finalists in the national Pro Corda chamber music competition, and each year the winner of the School Concerto Competition performs a full concerto with the Symphony Orchestra in St John’s Smith Square. There are three orchestras, numerous jazz groups, four choirs, and myriad other musical groups of all styles and genres that pupils can join. 

  • Staff

    * denotes Head of Department
    † denotes Housemaster

    Mr Tim Garrard (TDG) — Director of Music  *
    Mr Michael Heighway (MKJH) — Assistant Director of Music; Head of Academic Music  *
    Mr Guy St J Hopkins (GStH) — Registrar
    Mr Giordan Price (GPJP)
  • After Westminster

    The decision to study Music is usually taken by those who need music to be at the centre of their lives. Beyond university, employers consider music graduates to have excellent skills in teamwork, self-management, problem-solving, data analysis, creativity, and communication. As such, Music graduates are highly prized across a very broad range of industries. A wide choice of courses is available, ranging from the almost entirely practical to the mostly academic.

Co-curricular Music
Co-curricular Music

Find out about the opportunities to take part in Music within the co-curriculum.

"I can’t imagine life at Westminster without music!"

— Claire, Year 13 pupil

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