Class music is taught to all children from the Nursery to year 8. Our ethos is that learning, reading, singing, playing, creating and reacting to music is the norm for all children. Most year groups have two lessons a week, one of which is a practical session and the other focuses on the history and theory of music. The curriculum covers all periods of Western classical music and also includes world music, folk, jazz and pop. In the pre-prep there is a strong focus on music and movement to provide a thorough grounding in the concepts of pitch and rhythm.
All pupils receive a term’s tuition on the violin in Year 3, after which some go on to take up the violin, viola, cello or double bass. In Year 4 everyone participates in the Recorder Karate programme and many then begin lessons on orchestral brass or woodwind instruments or the saxophone. All pupils also follow a keyboard course in Year 5 so that those who choose not to learn an instrument can participate fully in the class band lessons, one of which takes place each week for everyone in years 6-8. Pupils can also take lessons in piano, percussion, singing and music theory.
Each of the visiting music teachers holds a concert for all their pupils each year, and we also host two Open Weeks in which parents may attend their child’s lesson and talk to the teacher.
The department runs a variety of ensembles and choirs that allow children to develop the valuable skills of working in a musical group. Most rehearsals take place in ring-fenced time slots that avoid clashes with other activities.
Our youngest string players start their ensemble experience in Year 3 and then go on to join the Junior Strings in Year 4.
String players then progress to the Intermediate Strings and eventually the Senior Strings in Year 7 or 8. The string groups feature in the Sizzling Strings concert each summer and usually participate in the Michaelmas and Founder’s Day concerts too.
For wind players, there is a Jazz Band and separate ensembles for flutes, oboes and bassoons. The wind groups play in the Wonder of Wind concert in the spring.
The senior Orchestra is for players in years 7 and 8. It also presents two concerts a year and tackles ambitious repertoire that provide pupils with a musical challenge.
There are Junior and Senior Guitar ensembles that also provide opportunities for singers and percussionists to perform pop repertoire at the major concerts.
For singers, there are separate year-group choirs for pupils in years 3-5. The Chamber Choir sings mainly secular repertoire and is open to pupils in years 6-8.
All pupils sing twice a week in chapel, and we have congregational practices to learn new music and practice good technique. There is also the annual House Shout in which the houses compete in a programme of hymns and songs before an adjudicator.
Performing is central to music-making at Saint Ronan’s, and all the children gain experience in concerts from the Nursery upwards. The Nursery and Pre-Prep children participate in the Nativity performances, the Easter Bonnet Parade, and in their own Founder’s Day Concert. Children in years 3 and 4 perform as soloists in the internal Afternoon Concerts, while older children perform to the whole school in the termly Soloists’ Soirees.
There are concerts each year devoted specifically to the string ensembles and wind groups, and there are two major concerts each year that feature the Sinfonia, the Orchestra and other ensembles. The whole school attends 10 of these events each year, at which parents are warmly welcomed. There are also many other opportunities to perform in other contexts, such as chapel services, grandparents’ teas, carol singing and ad-hoc events.
From time to time we perform outside of school or embark on projects that allow the children to shine in different ways. For example, we have performed at the Rye Festival, we have won Rock Band competitions, we have sung in local churches, pupils have recorded their own CDs, and we have topped the official children’s record charts with a charity song featuring the whole school.
We enjoy good links with the music departments in local senior schools and often attend concerts, workshops and music days there. We currently have five children who sing with the National Youth Girls’ Choir, and other pupils participate in the National Youth Jazz Academy, the Royal Academy Junior Department, and the various county orchestras and choirs.
The department has two full-time and one part-time class teachers, a full-time administrator, and twenty specialist visiting music teachers, some of whom help to run the ensembles (See video below).