Music is at the heart of Gresham’s life. With daily Chapel services, weekly Music and Munch, a full and busy concert programme, rehearsals, music lessons, House Music and much more, you will experience and be involved in music every day of your time at Gresham’s.

All students in Year 9 study Music as an academic subject. After this you can choose to study the subject at GCSE and then on to A Level or IB.

Music as an academic discipline is a challenging, but rewarding experience. The Year 10 to 13 courses generally feature solo performing as a major part of the course, as well as composition and listening and analytical skills which are highly valued by universities, not just for Music courses.

There are many routes involving Music which are available after Gresham’s, such as conservatoire for performance, universities for the more academic and theoretical side, or practical courses in music recording and production.


Year 9

All students in Year 9 study Music for one lesson a week, half a term at a time, in carousel with PSHE. The course aims to equip students with the basic skills required for further study in the subject, building on what they will have covered in Years 7 and 8.

In the Michaelmas Term students study a unit entitled “Performing and Listening” in which they study Western music from the Renaissance to the present day, identifying the major features of each style. There is also practical music-making in the form of unison singing.

In the Lent Term students learn about some of the major styles of music from around the world, learning to recognise the features of African, Chinese and Indian music as well as Indonesian gamelan. As part of this unit students compose a piece of music in African style.

In the Summer Term students learn about Recording and Editing and the processes involved in recording a track, editing it and publishing it to CD, and will create a CD recording of members of their class. This introduces some of the main concepts important to further study of Music Technology.


At GCSE students follow the Edexcel course. This is broken into three Units:

  • Unit 1: Performing (30%)
  • Unit 2: Composition (30%)
  • Unit 3: Listening and Appraising (40%)

For Unit 1 students perform throughout the course, and at the end select a solo and an ensemble performance for the final submission. The required standard is equivalent to about Grade 3 but there are additional marks available for performances at a higher level.

For Unit 2 students study techniques of composition and write several short pieces throughout the course, selecting two for the final submission. Many of these pieces are performed live in concerts such as the Benjamin Britten Concert for St Cecilia’s Day.

For Unit 3 students study 12 pieces of music in detail. They are divided into four areas of study; Western classical music, 20th century music, Pop music and World music. There is an exam at the end of the course which tests this knowledge with listening examples and essay questions.

A Level

At A Level we use the Edexcel course. The course is split into six units:

  • Unit 1: Performing
  • Unit 2: Composition
  • Unit 3: Developing Musical Understanding
  • Unit 4: Extended performance
  • Unit 5: Technical Study
  • Unit 6: Further Musical Understanding

For Unit 1 students perform a programme of 5-6 minutes in duration, at about Grade 6-7 standard. This is performed in public in the Lent Term of the Lower Sixth.

For Unit 2 students compose a piece of music at least 3 minutes long, to a brief chosen from four supplied briefs. This is completed in the Lower Sixth.

For Unit 4 students give an extended performance of 12-15 minutes at about Grade 7-8 standard. This is performed in public in the Lent Term of the Upper Sixth.

For Unit 5 students study the chorales of J S Bach and two-part baroque counterpoint. They then complete an exercise in each of them in controlled conditions in the Summer Term of the Upper Sixth.

For Units 3 and 6 students study a variety of set works in detail, divided in Unit 3 into Instrumental and Vocal music, and in Unit 6 into Instrumental and Applied music. There is then an exam for each unit testing the knowledge of the set works, at the end of the Upper Sixth. In Unit 3 there is also a harmony section and in Unit 6 there is unprepared listening.


Music in the International Baccalaureate is in Group 6 (The Arts). Students can choose to study Music at Standard or Higher level.

Listening (50%)
Students study a wide range of musical styles including Western music from 800AD to the present day and music from around the world. At Standard level they also study a major set work; in 2015 this is either Gershwin An American in Paris or Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle. At Higher level students study both set works. In the exam, students will write essays, one on the set work (two at HL) and three on unprepared pieces which they can listen to in the exam. The exam is worth 30% of the total marks.

There is also a Musical Links Investigation comparing two distinct musical cultures and finding musical links between them. Recent MLIs have compared the music of Ravel with West African music, or Queen Bohemian Rhapsody with early 16th century polyphony. The MLI is worth 20% of the total marks.

Internal Assessment (50%)
At Standard Level students choose either creating (two pieces), solo performing (15 minutes) or group performing (20-30 minutes) for their internal assessment, which is worth 50% of the available marks.

At Higher Level students must take creating (three pieces) and solo performing (20 minutes). Together these are worth 50% of the available marks.

Activities & Challenges

As well as performing in the many school ensembles and taking solo or ensemble roles in school concerts, musicals and shows, many pupils have the opportunity to enter performing competitions. We have had recent successes in the Norfolk Young Musician of the Year and in the Rotary Young Musician competition.

There are also regular national composition competitions which students can enter, such as the Royal Opera House Fanfare competition.
Pupils have also gone on to achieve success in diploma qualifications in traditional performance as well as Musical Theatre.

The Music Department has performance at its heart and the concert programme is extensive. As a music student you will perform in venues across Norfolk and beyond. There are annual trips to perform at Fishmongers’ Hall in London, as well as the overseas Choir Tour.

Closer to home there is the opportunity to see world-class performances in the Auden Theatre with our Subscription Concert series. Tickets are FREE for pupils. Many of these concerts even include performances from pupils!

To read more about the musical opportunities available outside of the classroom – click here.