‘Music can change the world.’ Beethoven
At Weatherhead, the Music department strongly believes in the importance of a high quality music education for all students, regardless of their background or starting point. Our knowledge rich curriculum at KS3 is sequenced to allow students to master the key musical elements and listening skills, before combining them with practical musicianship skills to create a holistic musical experience.
Our teachers aim to ignite a musical spark in our students through the study of a wide range of musical styles. Each lesson at KS3 begins with our Composer of the Week, enabling students to listen to and appreciate some of our great Western Classical composers and their works. Lessons then go on to develop listening and appraising skills, as well as performance and composition skills. Practical skills are developed on percussion instruments, keyboards and ukuleles, singing and through music technology.
We offer all students the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument or sing through our peripatetic programme, with lessons heavily subsidised. All of these students have the opportunity to gain the ‘Weatherhead Qualification’ in their instrument/voice.
We aim to ensure all students have access to musical styles, instruments, and notation, from all over the world. The purpose of this is to embed a comprehensive skills set that is rooted in the knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of music. The objective of this crucial mastery is to facilitate the further study of Music, providing students with the conviction to advance through their school life. We aim to develop a love and appreciation of music which accompanies our students into adulthood.
Our Year 7 students join Weatherhead with varied musical experiences from primary school, ranging from singing in assemblies and school plays, to whole class lessons on an instrument like cornet or ukulele.
In Year 7, we begin with the Elements of Music, including identifying and demonstrating them. Our subsequent units introduce music notation, initially in it’s rhythmic form, followed by pitch staff notation. These skills enable students to then rehearse and perform this notation. Keyboard skills are combined with the study of melody, and students rehearse a variety of scales and melodies on the keyboards. Once mastered, harmony is introduced through the study of chords. These skills are then combined in the form of composition of melody and harmony. In Year 8, students study how these musical elements are used in a variety of different musical styles from around the world. As well as understanding the music, it is key that students understand the contextual background and what music means to different cultures. Listening and appraising, performance and composition skills are developed throughout these units in Year 8, and tasks are sequenced to challenge students. In year 9, students develop their ensemble skills through a Musical Futures style performance and composition project.
Upon completion of each topic, students undertake a performance or composition assessment. This allows for an evaluation of the unit’s content and the chance to develop or alter any of the information for future classes. Students are always encouraged to reflect on how they could improve upon their practical work.
At KS4 and KS5, students are encouraged to have peripatetic lessons, with the school fully subsidising lessons for A Level and BTEC students. Students use Google Classroom to complete formal assignments and store performances and compositions.
Extra-curricular activities are a huge part of the Music Department, and students are encouraged to participate and develop their confidence and musical skills further. We have Junior Choir for Year 7 and 8, Senior for Year 9 – 13 and Chamber Choir for those in Junior and Senior Choir who wish to audition. We also have an instrumental group and Theory Club which is aimed at GCSE students and those intending to opt in Year 9. Keyboard is an opportunity for KS3 students to rehearse their music from lessons, or to choose their own music to learn. Our choirs have the opportunity to perform in the local community, including care homes and hospital visits to raise money for local charities. Our Music Ambassadors assist with the running of clubs.
At all key stages, students are aware that Music belongs to the Performing Arts faculty. We are always looking for opportunities for cross curricular activities and links between Music, Dance and Drama.
The impact of our curriculum is inspiring students to continue their musical studies beyond their GCSE and 6th form courses, as well as make music outside of the classroom setting.
At Key Stage 4, our GCSE results have been outstanding, with 100% 9 – 4 since 2018. In A Level Music, we have had 100% A* – C since 2017, and 100% Distinction* – Merit in BTEC Level 3. Our students do extremely well in KS4 and 5 Music.
In 2018, our two A Level students Marco Cavaluzzi and Rebecca Barrow both went on to study Music at university in Bangor and London. In 2020, two of our GCSE Music students were accepted to LMA to study Music/Musical Theatre.
One of our Year 11 students was awarded a place at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music, where she currently studies piano as her primary instrument, violin as her secondary instrument, and piano duets, as well as general musicianship.
During lockdown 2021, we ran a Musician of the Week Competition for students to submit performances in response to a given theme, in order to encourage students to continue their music making during lockdown as well as improve their mental health. This was very successful, with a large number of entries each week.
In April, we ran a Composer of the Month Competition, where we selected 3 winners to complete a recording in our recording studio, become published on streaming platforms including YouTube and Spotify, and to be entered into the BBC Young Composer of the Year 2021.
We hope to return to local music festivals such as Wirral Music Festival and Chester Music Festival. In 2018, our Junior and Chamber Choirs were placed top in their respective classes at Chester Music Festival.
Our first event of the year is Weatherhead Unplugged in October. Weatherhead Unplugged has always been an extremely popular and successful event, which showcases our most talented singers and musicians. On average, between 70 – 90 students perform at Weatherhead Unplugged each year. Apart from some choirs and ensembles, the performances are entirely student led, and the repertoire includes a number of original songs written by our students. This event has had a huge impact on our numbers in extra-curricular clubs, as well as uptake at KS4 and KS5.
We also put on the biennial Christmas Concert, in collaboration with the Drama and Dance departments, as well as the Summer Sizzler.
We have a very successful extra-curricular programme, with large numbers participating through the key stages.
Whilst numbers having peripatetic lessons fell last year due to Covid restrictions, we have launched a programme to rebuild the numbers having instrumental and singing lessons. This has already proven to be successful, with approximately 60 students having weekly lessons.
The Music department contains two specialist rooms with a suite of keyboards in each and Music PC’s that run several music based software packages such as ‘Sibelius’, ‘Auralia’ and ‘Musition’.
In addition, there are two practice rooms housed within the department that contain electric pianos, a drum kit and access to recording facilities and the ‘ProTools’ software programme. Other music technology resources include ‘Garage Band’ that is used for students to compose on the iPads.
Individual or small group lessons are available from our team of instrumental and vocal tutors. Students can learn to play: Violin, Viola, Cello, Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn, Euphonium, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Drums, Acoustic, Electric or Bass Guitar, Keyboard and Voice.
Targeted support sessions are available for all GCSE, BTEC, A level students at lunch time and after school – this can include small group or individual support.
A level students receive composition workshops from professional composers.
6th form students undertake additional listening sessions after school with a specialist tutor once a week.