Specialist status brings additional resources which enable the School to enhance Music provision so that more pupils can be involved in a wider range of high-quality musical experiences.
QE’s specialist status brings substantial benefits both to the Music Department and throughout the School. Recent research confirms the extent to which Music as a discipline enhances pupils’ learning in other subjects. There is little doubt that considerable cultural, academic and material benefit accrues from specialist status to the Music Department and to the School as a whole.
In addition, under the specialist-schools programme, QE uses its Music College funding to work with six partner schools, three adult ensembles and the wider community in and around Barnet. More information about this may be found on the Music Partnerships page.
A level Music Technology has been taught at QE since 2005, when the necessary recording studio and technology suite were put in place. The A level is taught in twilight hours and is open to all pupils in the local area, irrespective of their school. The teaching of this subject is funded from Music College resources. One exciting element of the Music Technology A level is the opportunity it affords students to record and mix a variety of songs. The School hires professional musicians to perform for this coursework. The Sixth-Formers themselves run the recording sessions, which start in the first term of the AS course.
The professional-standard recording studio is cabled to QE’s sound-proofed performing room, which at other times doubles as a percussion teaching room. In 2009-10, both the studio and technology suite were upgraded, with the former benefiting a donation of nearly £10,000-worth of equipment from our sponsor company, Avid. QE is committed to using the best available and most up-to-date software and hardware throughout the Music Technology area. The intention is that all the pupils who work with it would be able to go into a professional recording studio and find familiar equipment there.
Within the Music Department, there is also a commitment to maintain a very high standard of equipment specifically for Key Stage 3 pupils. To this end, the School operates a rolling replacement system for headphones, keyboards and power sources, as well as tuned and un-tuned percussion instruments. One recent innovation for Key Stage 3 was the splitting of the two top sets in Year 8 from 30 pupils into groups of 15. This is facilitated by the Music College funding an additional teacher for these lessons. Since 2004, the School has also had a Music College secretary.
The Shearly Hall, which was officially opened in December 2009, is an excellent Music performance venue for the School. There is no other comparably-sized venue in the area. Incorporated within the hall is an additional Music classroom. The Music College played a part in funding the hall: it fitted out the control room where the lighting and sound engineers are based. The Music College has also funded the electronic link between the hall and the recording studio, which enables recording of large-scale ensembles such as orchestras and choirs to take place.
Music College status has enabled QE’s Music Department to extend further its long-standing reputation for extra-curricular activities. One result has been that the number of musicians coming into the School has grown. In September 2008, for the first time more than 50% of boys played an instrument before they came to the School.
Therefore, to increase opportunities for these additional musicians – and to reflect the School’s ethnic mix – QE started four new ensembles from 2004, again funded by the Music College. A Junior String Orchestra was added to the two existing string ensembles. The Department had always had chamber ensembles for the string and brass players but not for the boys playing woodwind instruments. It therefore started a Wind Ensemble, so that the best woodwind performers could play chamber music. Finally, having recognised that a large number of pupils were playing Indian classical music at Saturday morning classes and festivals outside school, the Department took steps to establish senior and junior Indian Music Ensembles. QE approached Dr Frances Shepherd, a noted authority on Indian music of both North and South, for advice. Five years later, these ensembles continue to thrive, with the teaching at the weekly rehearsals being funded by the Music College.
Various other activities have been supported by the Music College, with perhaps the most remarkable being the Bollywood Orchestra. This began in 2009, when the School decided to enter the Music for Youth national competition but wanted to submit something unusual. The Department organised a Bollywood workshop led by Sam Suriakumar, a noted expert in the field, which resulted in the recording that was submitted for the regional rounds of the competition. The 18 boys involved were duly selected to perform at the national festival of Music for Youth at the Adrian Boult Hall in the Birmingham Conservatoire. For this live performance, the Department worked with four dancers from Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School. They were then chosen to perform at the Schools Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in front of 5,000 people. The funding for the entire project - from the workshop to paying for the coaches - all came from the Music College.
The additional Music College funding has been used to benefit the whole School in a number of areas, particularly technology. In 2005 it was decided that QE needed an additional IT technician to cope with the increasing number of computers and laptops in the School. As IT is QE’s secondary specialism, Music College funding was used to pay for an additional technician. A rolling replacement scheme is also in place to ensure that all classrooms have an interactive whiteboard connected to the School network. A large proportion of this has been paid for out of Music College funds.
The School as a whole is working to increase the amount of distance-learning the boys are able to undertake. Technology is a key element and the specialist-school funding is thus playing a part in achieving this aim, helping the School to conduct trials of various distance-learning solutions including podcasts and video.