Subject Overview

Music in the curriculum is linked closely with co-curricular music, and all pupils who select Music as an option will certainly be expected to participate fully in the wider life of the Department. To get a wider impression of our department, please follow us on Twitter, where we are @stonyhurstmusic.

We have music scholarships available at 13+ and 16+; for more information, see the annual Directory of the Music Teachers’ Association, which is sent to all prep schools and junior conservatoires, or contact the Director of Music directly on



Lower Grammar (year 9)

In Lower Grammar, Music is an option taken by nearly half of the Playroom. We follow a generalist course, listening to and evaluating a variety of different styles, including rock, jazz and classical, as well as some world music genres. Both sets sometimes come together for larger ensemble work, and there are also opportunities throughout the year for smaller group work and solo performance. We introduce the use of industry-standard Sibelius music typesetting software during the year, particularly for those who might like to go on to GCSE and beyond.

A Level

Unit 1 - Performing: 30%
You will perform for at least 8 minutes in a recital situation as a soloist and / or member of an ensemble. This is recorded and marked externally. Grade 6 is a general level to be aiming for.

Unit 2 - Composing: 30%
You will compose two compositions lasting a total of at least 6 minutes.

One composition will be based on a brief set by Edexcel or it will be a free composition, and one composition will be from a brief assessing technique (Bach chorale; two-part counterpoint; arrangement; remix) set by Edexcel.

You will produce a score and a recording of the pieces, which are marked externally.

Unit 3 - Developing Musical Understanding: 40%
You will sit a two hour exam, answering questions on
Set Works, Listening, Investigating Musical Styles and Understanding Chords and Lines. Marked externally.
You will learn about 6 areas of study: Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, Music for Film, Popular Music and Jazz, Fusions and New Directions.

IB (sixth form)

For Standard Level, you select either Performing or Composing. For Higher Level, you must do both.

Performing: 50% for SL option/25% for HL
Your performance, which you work on one-on-one with a teacher, is recorded and assessed throughout the course, and can be on any instrument or voice of your choosing. Expression and interpretation are considered more important than being at a particular grade level.

Composing: 50% for SL option/25% for HL
Higher Level students also undertake composition tasks. These will include free compositions in any style of your choice and short exercises where you will learn to write in a particular style. This is assessed as coursework.

Musical Links Investigation: 20% for SL and HL
All students complete a piece of written coursework comparing two pieces which come from different musical cultures: for example, a samba piece and a Britpop song, or an African choral piece and an English Renaissance motet. In spite of the huge surface differences, you will seek to find common elements shared by the two works.

Listening and Analysing: 30% for SL and HL
There is one exam at the end of the course, for all students. Higher Level students have some extension questions to complete.

The exam covers two set pieces which you will have studied during the course, and will also ask you to describe unknown extracts which are played to you.

During the course, you will learn how to structure your answers and which features you should focus on when describing music as varied as the Beatles, Wagner, Indonesian gamelan and John Cage.

A level in Poetry and Rhetoric (Years 12 and 13)

The Edexcel A level for which pupils are entered here at Stonyhurst is a natural progression from the GCSE: the percentages allocated to each skill are the same (40% exam, 30% performance, 30% composition), and the categories of the set works are the same. Indeed, for pupils who study Music all the way through from Grammar to Rhetoric at Stonyhurst, they are likely to have already completed some A level-standard work during GCSE, and will certainly have critically listened to at least one set work.

IB in Poetry and Rhetoric (Years 12 and 13)

Music is available at both Standard Level and Higher Level for the International Baccalaureate, in both the Diploma Programme and the Career-Related Programme. The final examination percentages depend on which of a number of possible options are chosen, and if you are considering IB Music, it would be a good idea to discuss this with the Music Department before starting.

The emphasis at IB is getting to know a broad range of musical traditions from around the world, including the Western Classical Tradition, and learning about the various links between them. It is a really exciting way of critically listening to a great deal of music!