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April 27th 2017

Spotlight on Senior Music

This week, we spoke to Emily Gunton, Director of Music about the subject at BHS.

How is music taught here at Blackheath High?

It is a nice mix between practical, theory and using technology to help the girls learn. There are excellent resources available including percussion instruments, flutes, violins, and keyboards so if a student is not particularly good at one instrument they are able to try another. We approach music in a way so that it is accessible to all students.


Do you think all children have the ability to learn how to play an instrument?

Yes, but it is finding the right instrument. The department runs a taster scheme in Year 7 where students have up to 20 lessons on an instrument of their choice. They are helped in the process with a taster concert to hear what it sounds like and they then take part in a taster workshops so they can have a go. So if they like the idea of playing a trumpet, but can’t get a sound out of it, then they can try another instrument. Students are encouraged to listen and participate in any type of music they like, not just classical, as we are not all the same and it is good to keep it varied.


Is music very popular at GCSE and A level?

Very much so as the girls like the performance element of it. Performance and composition are a major part of the course. We have so many good musicians here so it is becoming increasingly popular as they are really interested in the subject.  It is very varied, it’s not just about classical music. There is a music for media element and a music for theatre element. Some of our Sixth Form students have gone on to study Music at university including Oxford, King’s and Bath.


Are there opportunities for the girls to interact with established musicians and singers?

We have some excellent peripatetic music teachers who come here. Mrs Riley has sung on the Beauty and the Beast film. Mr Luckett and Mr Hignell have done lots of recordings. Miss Wydenbach and Miss McGhee regularly sing at the Royal Opera House.


How does music contribute to positivity within the school and local community?

There is a real buzz amongst the girls who attend the choirs and ensembles. It is a nice way to start the day with rehearsals at 8am each morning, doing something different instead of feeling tired. It is nice to have something really positive to do before you start school.


Do the Juniors and Seniors work on any collaborative musical events?

They work together on the Summer concert, with workshops held at Juniors. I often play with Junior School groups and enjoyed participating in the GDST Choir of the Year and the Cantata. It is important that students are able to participate in events that are outside of the school.


Which musical events does the school attend and encourage girls to participate in?

The girls perform every year at Christmas at the Royal Naval College. There is a bi-annual tour which has previously seen us visiting Amsterdam, we have recently come back from Venice and Verona, whilst in two years’ time we are going to Prague. We also perform a musical at The Greenwich Theatre and go to watch a variety of concerts where we get to hear professional musicians. Most recently, we went to the Queen Mary Evensong at The Royal Naval College with the music of Henry Purcell, which is one of the composers studied at GCSE and A level.


What are the benefits to students studying music in school?

Students are able to perform in lots of concerts. They then experience the buzz of performing. They are able to experience different genres of music including classical and musical theatre.


What are the plans for the future for the music department?

We are hoping to make more recordings of concerts and post them on Firefly. We are developing chamber music with more small groups. We also have some big scale concerts planned for the next year with hopefully performing Handel’s Messiah at the Naval College at Christmas.

Written by Mrs D Glazebrook


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