Music at AS/A2 level is challenging yet hugely rewarding, with a programme of study which suits performers as much as composers.
The course requires self-discipline, continuous application and perseverance as there is a high weighting on coursework (60% of both the AS and the A2). Listening and appraising is tested in a 2 hour examination in May or June, and is based on a thorough musical understanding of set works from diverse genres.
The performance paper, which constitutes 30% at each level, allows students to select pieces for any instrument in their preferred musical style, with an expected standard of Grade V at AS and Grade VI at A2. (Marks for pieces at other levels are scaled up or down according to difficulty). The requirement is an uninterrupted recording of 5-6 minutes of music at AS and 12-15 minutes at A2, and whilst this can be recorded at any point during the year, it is typically at the end of term 2. In order to hone performance skills, students are always encouraged to participate in concerts and events.
Composition also constitutes 30% of each level. At AS, candidates have to write a three minute composition according to a brief given by Edexcel in September. This must be supported by a CD sleeve note describing features of the piece and influences on the composition. At A2, they have a choice of two compositions, two technical studies or one of each. Again, the board produces the briefs for the compositions early in September. Each technical study comprises a three hour exam, and students are entitled to use music software to complete it if they choose to.
Traditionally, we have small classes of up to five students at A level, and we have achieved 100% A*-D grades, 50% of these achieving a A*-B. All who have embarked on post A Level music courses have succeeded in getting into colleges of their choice, and gone on to such courses as Music, Music Technology and Degrees or Diplomas in Contemporary Music Performance. Many of our students, however, opt for music for holistic reasons, and enjoy the study of music alongside their other career-oriented subjects, such as Media, Maths and Sciences.
Whilst it is helpful to have taken GCSE Music, it is not a
prerequisite but will be subject to approval by the Head of Music. However,
candidates must be able to play an instrument or sing to a good standard, and
must be able to read music in traditional notation. It is also useful to
have some experience of composing and improvisation, or a minimum of Grade V
theory. Students should continue
to have instrumental lessons, at least until they have completed their
performance exam, and any additional musical involvement, such as being in a
choir or being in a school musical, gives them an advantage.
The AS and A Level Music courses provide students with a
foundation for further study in music or performing arts in higher education
and may lead on to a career in the music industry. Some of our students have gone on to music institutions
which train them as performers of either contemporary or classical music,
whilst others have gone into related fields, such as audio engineering, drama
and performing arts, dance, DJing, music events management, and even circus
arts. Others have branched off
into such unrelated areas as engineering, medicine, teaching and journalism.
Whatever students’ long term plans involve, music complements most other
subjects at A Level and can provide a fulfilling contrast to other courses of