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Music at Downham Market Academy

Course description

What is ‘A’ Level Music about?

Do you...

  • Love playing an instrument and performing?
  • Like exploring and creating new music?
  • Enjoy listening to music from a range of styles?
  • Wonder about how and why music has developed the way it has?

If yes, then the ‘A’ Level Music course is for you! Where else c an you play music and get coursework credit for it, create and record your own music, listen to music in class, and learn about different styles of music?

Course content

What does the course consist of?

Students who choose ‘A’ Level Music follow the Edexcel specification. The course is make up of three components:


Students are encouraged to develop their performance skills by playing a range of styles of music as a soloist and/or an ensemble member. Students will perform a portfolio of pieces which la st 8 minutes in total and demonstrate a wide and balanced programme of music. Students should be at grade 6/7 on their chosen instrument for their final performing assessment.


Students learn how to write for instrument(s) and/or voices, and how to develop musical ideas. S tudents compose 2 compositions, one is to a brief of their choice and the other in response to a composition technique. Both of which total a minimum of 6 minutes.

Developing Musical Understanding

This unit focuses on li stening to music and understanding how it works. There are 6 areas of study: vocal music, instrumental music, music for film, popular music and jazz, fusions and new directions. Alongside these prescribed works , students will also be encouraged to develop their wider listening and appreciation skills and to develop their aural and dictation abilities.

Whom does the subject suit?

The ‘A’ Level Music course is a balance of course work and examinations. Coursework is worth 60% of the course; Performing (30 %) and Composing (30%). Students are expected to supplement class lessons with individual instrument tuition, instrument practice, and independent time on compositional tasks. You will also be expected to commit fully to the department extra - music activities programme. The remaining 40% of the course is assessed in a 2 hour examination at the end of each year of study. Regular homework tasks are set to support learning in this unit.

The course caters for a wide range of musicians. Students are free to choose any instruments(s) and/or voices(s) and perform music in any style. Students can perform from a score, or improvise, as appropriate. The level of performance is expected to correspond to graded examinations of bodies such as the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Trinity Guildhall, Rock School and the London College of Music. If students perform at a level that exceeds Grade 7 , additional credit will be awarded. If students perform at a lower level, marks are scaled accordingly.

The composition component of the course allows students to explore areas that inspire and interest them. The composition briefs are broad enough to allow a personal approach. Students may choose to notate their musical ideas using traditional notation or a notation software package such as Sibelius. Students are expected to have some music theory knowledge and skills. An ability to read music is an integral tool in understanding how music works. Music reading skills play an important role in all three units of the course, especially in Developing Musical Understanding. It is recommended that students have GCSE Music at a Grade B or above or Grade 5 theory before embarking on the ‘A’ Level Music course. However, students with limited music reading skil ls will be considered for the course.

How is Music taught at Downham Market Academy?

Students studying ‘A’ Level Music at Downham Market Academy can take advantage of specialized facilities and resources. Two well - equipped computer suites enable stude nts to use music technology software to compose music . There are annual Christmas and Recital concerts as well as workshops, productions and community events to participate in.

What books can I read to get a sense of the subject?

We use many books in the course of study. Of particular interest to prospective Music students are two books published by Rhinegold publications. These are available on the web, from Rhinegold or from specialised music shops: 

  • A Student’s Guide to A Music for the Edexcel Spe cification
  • A History of Western Music - Grout Websites

The most specific website for the course we offer is that of Edexcel, where you will find a student’s guide, course specifications, and examiner’s reports.

Who will teach me?

The Music Department is a lively and enthusiastic team that brings together areas of specialism including popular music and jazz, composition, musicology, choral, orchestral and concert band music, and music recording and production. The Head of Music is Lorna Kirk. The course is ably supported by a team of professional music peripatetic teach

Future opportunities

The ‘A’ Level Music course provides an excellent basis for lifelong learning and for Higher Education courses in Music and many students who take ‘A’ Level Music continue their studies at University. The three units of the course can lead to studies in performance, composition, musicology, ethnomusicology, sound engineering, conducting, popular music and jazz, and music education.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Downham Market Academy directly.

Last updated date: 09 October 2017

Key information

  • Start date: Next September