A level

The curriculum area of music is one of the largest in the country and offers a wide range of opportunities for music making to about 200 students each week.  It has a reputation for outstanding results and high standards.  Experienced staff offer you a comprehensive musical education in an atmosphere that is friendly, sociable and yet hard working.

If offered a place on this course, you will have access to the most modern and well-equipped music suite and performance facilities in the county including:

  • Music and rehearsal suite with 3 grand pianos
  • 80 seat recital room with Bösendorfer grand piano
  • 12 purpose-built practice rooms, many equipped with pianos
  • Online music resources, including Oxford Music Online and Naxos Music Library
  • 20 Macbook Pro computers equipped with Sibelius
  • 3 Mac suites equipped with the latest Apple iMacs, running Sibelius, Logic Pro X and Native Instruments’ Komplete
  • A new Schimmel Grand Piano for use in recitals in the theatre
  • Full size xylophone, vibraphone, 5 octave marimba, acoustic and electric drum kits, full set of timpani
  • Instrumental loan including: saxophones (inc. baritone and soprano) violin, viola, cello, double bass and guitars.

A level music students are required to take part in at least one performance ensemble per week as a key part of the course; these will develop skills such as sight-reading, teamwork, continuous improvement and commitment.  Other ensembles are set up in line with students' experience and musical interests such as close harmony groups, stomp bands and other chamber groups.  All students (and staff!) across the College are welcome to join the ensembles.

Numerous and varied activities of a high standard include:

  • Big Band
  • Contemporary Voices
  • Orchestra
  • Advanced Jazz Ensembles (student led)
  • Chamber Choir
  • String Ensemble
  • Grade 5 Theory

In addition to practical work in class and the extra-curricular programme, you will have many opportunities to perform:

  • Concerts throughout the year in College and in external venues such as Guildford Cathedral;
  • Weekly informal performance classes and regular lunchtime concerts;
  • Support to visit festivals and competitions;
  • Masterclasses and workshops with visiting professional musicians and College alumni;
  • Concerts at home and abroad;
  • Community outreach work giving students both performance and teaching experience.

In addition, students are encouraged to lead their own ensembles.  Trips to concerts and other events are also arranged to enhance the course.

Fourteen specialist instrumental tutors visit the College.  The College provides instrumental tuition for students who are studying music (or BTEC music performance).  Please collect an application form and further details from the music department.  Lessons are available for all other students but will be charged to parents/guardians.

If you enjoy performing, listening to music, composing or arranging, this course could be ideally suited to you.  The main areas of study will include:

  • Performing (35 or 25%) - A solo performance lasting 6 to 8 minutes (25%) or 10 to 12 minutes (35%) on your main instrument assessed by an external examiner visiting the music department.
  • Composing (35 or 25%) - Two compositions (25%) based on the Western Classical tradition and a free composition or three compositions (35%) based on the Western Classical tradition, a free composition and related to an additional area of study.
  • Appraising (40%) - Written examination based on three areas of study: (A) The development of the symphony from 1750-1900, one from (B) Rock and Pop, (C) Musical Theatre, (D) Jazz and (E) Into the 20th Century.  You will study two symphonies (one in detail and general knowledge of another) and the development of the genre through history, and three 20th Century styles and two set works, one by Debussy and the other by Poulenc.

You will be involved in many different activities including group work, individual study, tutorials, discussion, practical work and listening.  You will be given individual guidance and support in order to fulfil your potential.  As part of the course, students are encouraged to join the music ensembles available at the College as an extension to what they learn in the classroom; appraising, composing and performing.

This linear A level course is a combination of exam (40% of the overall grade) and coursework (60% of the overall grade).  Coursework is completed over the two years consisting of a solo or ensemble performance and two or three compositions.  At the end of the second year of the course, you will take an external exam that will assess content covered in the first and second year.

Music combines well and contrasts with mathematics and science (particularly physics), modern foreign languages, media studies and other arts subjects.  Music is accepted as an academic subject for entrance to higher education.

We have an enviable reputation for outstanding results.  About half of our students continue their studies further at music conservatoires and universities.  In the last three years destinations have included Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Birmingham, York and Southampton Universities and The Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College of Music, Guildhall School of Music, Royal Welsh College of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire.  Others simply enjoy making music for pleasure.

Please see below for careers and labour market information for music - use the refresh buttons to find out about different courses and careers, and use the left and right arrows to view more detailed information.

You can find the prep work for this course at

Q:  Are the ensembles compulsory?
A:  All music students are required to attend at least one music ensemble for ensemble and note-reading skills.  Other ensembles, including Big Band, Orchestra and Contemporary Voices, are open to all students, not just those who are studying music.  Chamber Choir is by invitation only.

Q:  Can I sign up for instrumental lessons?
  Yes - we have 14 different peripatetic staff who teach a range of instruments.  For music and BTEC music performance, students currently receive one lesson by the College peripatetic staff, paid for by the College.  

Q:  What theory/instrument grade do I need to take music?
A:  Ideally Grade 5 - part of the appraising component requires score reading to identify aspects such as chords, keys and cadences.  There is a lunchtime Grade 5 Theory session available for students as well as resources on our Study Directory pages.  For performance, ideally around a Grade 5 if not higher.  For the recital at the end of Year 2, you access a higher mark bracket if you can perform Grade 6+ standard pieces.

Q:  What do we do in lessons?
A:  There will be a variety of activities including focused listening, score reading, aural training, class discussions, collaborative tasks using Google Apps and composition using iMacs (Sibelius or Logic).

Exam Board

Eduqas Learn More

Entry Requirements

  • You should be able to play an instrument to grade 5 standard as well as theory skills to grade 5 standard.
  • A grade 4 or above in GCSE music would be advantageous, but having studied music at GCSE is not essential.

Employability Skills

  • Creative problem solving
  • IT literacy
  • Develop your ability to interpret musical works
  • Extended writing skills
  • Effective communication skills
  • Time management
  • Team work (group analysis and chamber music performance)
  • Leadership (opportunities for conducting)

Course Resources

Trips to Opera/Evensong/BBC Proms/West End Show - not compulsory to attend but advised.

Eduqas AS and A Level Music Study Guide, Paperback – 9 Jan 2017, ISBN: 978-1785583476, RRP: £20.

Eduqas Digital Resources

Rhinegold notes - available during course.

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