Music is an important and central component of the life of Bolton School Boys' Division. As a curriculum subject, and as a flourishing extra-curricular activity, music involves every pupil in a wealth of enriching, challenging and enjoyable activities.
All pupils in Years 7 to 9 have three 50 minute curriculum lessons per fortnightly cycle. Throughout Key Stage 3 there is a balance of practical music making, listening to music, developing an awareness of music's power as a means of expression and learning the basics of music theory. Lessons always have a great variety of content. All pupils will have the opportunity to take part in major school concerts; singing as part of a medley. They will all gain experience playing instruments – indeed the drum-kit, guitar and keyboard are all studied. In years 8 and 9 there is also an exploration of music technology using a variety of software which gives each pupil an insight into what is available to the modern musician.
There is the possibility from Year 10 to opt for the two-year course to take GCSE music and we currently enter pupils for the AQA Examining Board. Pupils continue to channel their studies into three strands: listening, composing and performing. There are lessons dedicated to listening in which the elements of music are examined and discussed, always relating the academic study of melody, rhythm, tonality, harmony and texture to examples of music from varied genres and styles of pieces. Composition is taught through looking at the ways in which composers have developed their ideas in terms of melody and chord structures. Pupils are encouraged and guided to improvise and experiment on their main instrument and then shown how to take elements from their ideas and build them into a composition which has form and structure. In performance there is a close link and co-operation between the department and pupils individual teachers both those working in school and private teachers offering lessons outside school. This communication enables the pupils to thrive and develop their performance skills and confidence in an encouraging atmosphere which builds up over the two year course to a point where all pupils are able to record a solo and ensemble performance of the required standard for GCSE
A Level music gives pupils the opportunity to widen and extend their musical skills and develop their perception of music in an exciting and demanding course that combines academic rigour with creativity and a deepening understanding of music in its social, historical and cultural context. We enter pupils for the OCR Examining Board and the listening element involves study of both classical and jazz set works at AS Level and a study of early twentieth century music at A2 Level. The subject is taught in small sets with a considerable amount of individual support alongside independent study. Composition now combines creative work on free composition and composing to specific briefs with the formality and discipline of the study of harmony in the western tradition. Throughout the course performance is central to the development of the pupil. There are recitals to prepare for and a viva-voce exam in which the examiner will ask questions relating to the pupil's preparation for the recital and the decision making process which has led the pupil to interpret their programme in a particular way. This, as with many aspects of this course, encourages pupils to look beyond the obvious and research aspects of music and interpretation more deeply.
Music at Bolton School is underpinned by a simple philosophy - music is for all to enjoy, to be involved with and, for many, to achieve excellence. We have over thirty ensembles rehearsing on a weekly basis. These range from the large groups including several choirs, concert bands, guitar groups and orchestras to the smaller ensembles such as chamber choirs, saxophone, flute and clarinet groups along with percussion and string ensembles. In an age when Howard Goodall and the Government sponsored "Sing-Up" campaign are endeavouring to revitalise singing in schools throughout the country we have events that involve over two hundred boys singing, and thoroughly enjoying the experience! Our award winning guitar groups have been described as "world class and of an unprecedented standard of excellence" by Craig Ogden the international guitar soloist and tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music. Our Joint Jazz Band recently won a platinum award at the Royal Academy in London – this is the highest level of achievement possible nationally.
Musicians from the school frequently visit outside venues for concerts. There are the large-scale concerts, often joint with the Girls' Division which have taken place in the stunning Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and the Victoria Hall in Bolton. We have taken choirs and ensembles to Manchester and Chester Cathedrals. As part of our Community Music Programme (led by Mr Jeremy Bleasdale) the Music Department have hosted a number of local junior schools who have sent groups of children to take part in concerts alongside our pupils in very successful vocal medleys. Our own music groups and ensembles are regularly taken out into the local community to perform in schools, care homes, hospices and charity events.
Alongside our annual Young Musician of the Year - which usually attracts up to 500 individual entries, many of our musicians also have the opportunity to go on a foreign tour with their ensembles and choirs. Recent visits have included trips to Prague, Vienna, Paris, Belgium, Northern Spain and the Italian Lakes! Future trips include plans for a Rhineland trip and the possibility of a trip to Canada.
Head of Department
J C Bleasdale, BA
Members of the Department
I K Forgrieve (Head of Instrumental Studies) GMus (Hons), PPRNCM
Mrs A J Hampson, BMus (Hons)
Mrs C Whitmore, BA