Composition is a key skill that forms part of Music lessons from Key Stage 3 to A-Level. As well as the many opportunities for performance within the department, students are also actively encouraged to compose their own music, whether as part of their exam coursework, or purely for pleasure. As part of our extensive enrichment programme, students can attend drop in sessions at lunchtime and have the opportunity to compose music for performance in school concerts. At all levels students are encouraged to listen to a wide variety of music to enhance their creative ideas, as well as frequent workshops with professional composers, singer-songwriters and other industry professionals.
Whether it is writing a complete pop song or adding a soundtrack to a film, students are encouraged to bring and share their own unique ideas to lessons, thereby developing key skills in creative thinking, and allowing opportunity for individual expression. All students will work on composition using instruments and Music Technology software such as Sequel and Cubase.
At GCSE composition forms 30% of the exam course. Two compositions are required with freedom in the choice of style, so you can write a String Quartet, pop song, or even a Dance remix. Students are taught a wide variety of compositional styles and techniques and the best works will be performed throughout the year. Students have the option to use either Cubase or Sibelius when composing but are also encouraged to use live instruments as well.
The coursework criteria at A-leve allow for great flexibility depending on individual strengths. For those who are developing an individual compositional style there is the option for free composition, whilst for those still developing as composers, there are options to develop skills in harmony and melody writing or arranging.
Although largely an individual activity, students have several opportunities to become involved with composition in the department. Drop-in sessions are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (see What's On for more details) allowing students to work on individual projects and receive informal feedback on their work from the music staff, or from student composition mentors.
Students this year are also writing music for the Drama production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Older students are encouraged to take up a mentoring role within the department, offering feedback to younger students and taking a leading role in composition projects. Any interested students should see Mr Kennedy for further details.
This year sees the Music Department taking part in a national project run by Sound and Music and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group exploring how composition is taught in schools. With a particular focus on technology and performance within composition, some students from Key Stage 3 have been invited to take part in a project with professional composer Duncan Chapman. This is an extremely exciting project which will not only have benefit for those taking part in it, and then for all students in following years, but will also hopefully lead to improvements in the way composition is taught nationally.
Watch this space for further information...
Song Writing Houses