In the RGS Music Department, we strive to build a culture of musical excellence (both academically and co-curricularly) whilst maintaining a true community feel at the heart of our music-making. We are extremely proud of our long-standing musical traditions and we are dedicated to ensuring that all students receive the best musical education that we can offer, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether you enter Year 7 with limited musical experience, or whether you’re working towards Grade 8 in various instruments, we are here to guide you in your musical journey and help you realise your full musical potential.
Years 7 to 9
All students in Years 7-9 study Music as part of their academic timetable and are immediately immersed in developing not only a deep appreciation for a wide range of contrasting styles, but also building a ‘musical toolkit’ of performance and composition skills to become a more well-rounded musician. From Jazz/Blues to traditional Japanese, Reggae to Minimalism, Folk Music to Programme Music, students develop a sense of context behind their music-making. There is a strong focus on singing and building links with our co-curricular programme. We have a well-resourced department, and use a variety of digital software packages on iPads/computers for composing, as well as learning a range of instruments as a class (including keyboards, guitars, samba percussion and a full set of brass instruments). Additionally, RGS has a separate ‘Year 7 music scholarship scheme’ intended at helping fund students wishing to start a ‘shortage’ orchestral instrument.
Students opting to study GCSE Music in Years 10 and 11 follow the Edexcel specification, developing knowledge and skills from KS3 across the three core components of solo/ensemble performing (30%), composing (30%) and appraising (listening exam – 40%). Analysis skills are developed through the study of 8 hugely contrasting set works (including Purcell, Beethoven, Star Wars and Queen). There is also the option of studying the course in a condensed ‘fast-track’ 1-year course in Year 10 for students as an extra option.
At RGS, A-Level Music students follow the Eduqas specification, where student numbers greatly exceed the national average, and reflect the number of students wishing to specialise further across the three core components at GCSE. Many apply to study Music at a third-level institution (including much success at entry to Oxbridge or top Music conservatoires), but equally, many recognise the inter-disciplinary nature of music as a hugely facilitating ‘fourth subject’ for degrees as diverse as Medicine, Law, PPE, and a wide range of broader Arts and Sciences degrees. In the course, students particularly specialise in studying the Development of the Symphony (1750-1900), Jazz (1920-1960) and Early 20th Century Music (1895-1935). Students also relish the opportunity to perform a 10-12 minute recital in front of a live examiner (35%) and complete two contrasting compositions (25%).
With strong musical leadership and so many talented students, we are fortunate to be able to offer a strong and vibrant co-curricular musical programme at RGS. Whether it’s before school, breaktime, lunchtime, or indeed after school, the music department is always buzzing with activity. Our musical community is always thriving, and we aim to hold a major musical event at least once a month throughout the year (including a large-scale House Music Competition, Musical production, Carol Service, Oxford Evensong trip, Jazz evenings, and visiting professional recitals) . Our concerts are always well attended, and ably assisted by our “RGS Friends of Music” – an organisation that helps to support our musical output, both financially and logistically. We are supported by a hugely experienced team of more than twenty professional peripatetic tutors (covering all vocal, orchestral and popular disciplines).
Instrumental Groups at RGS
For those students coming into Year 7, there are various junior wind and brass groups, a string ensemble and a junior guitar ensemble. In middle school, the best wind players will progress to the Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone ensembles and the Swing Band, while the string players will take part in chamber groups. Our senior level students are invited to join the classic Big Band, the Orchestra, our 40-piece symphonic wind band or various Trad Jazz Bands. We also regularly contribute to the national youth music scene and are delighted that many of our instrumental ensembles (Big Band, First Wind Band, Clarinet & Saxophone Ensembles) have appeared multiple times at the National Festival of Music for Youth in Birmingham.
Singing at RGS
Singing at RGS is greatly encouraged, both inside lessons and outside, and our Junior Choir usually has around 50 – 60 members at any one time. Our full choir which consists of 120 students (singing at either soprano, alto, tenor or bass range) regularly participates in the annual carol service and around 80 of those singers will also sing Choral Evensong in either Oxford or Cambridge.
We produce large-scale musicals at RGS, with previous successes including West Side Story, My Fair Lady and Les Mis (that incidentally has amassed nearly two million views online.
Our most senior vocal group, ‘Singers Ltd’, are an acapella group consisting of around 20 sixth formers. Highlights include having taken part in the Schools Prom at the Royal Albert Hall and winning the coveted title of Youth Choir of the Year in the competition televised by the BBC. Singers Ltd have a regular biennial exchange with an international school in Salzburg, and have sung in the cathedral there many times, as well as appearing twice in the opening weekend festivals preceding the Salzburg International Festival.
Chiltern Music Academy
We are also proud to be the home of the Chiltern Music Academy (CMA) which meets at RGS on Friday nights and at Wycombe High on Saturday mornings. Many of our students are involved; performing regularly in their concerts and taking part in their international tours every other year.