A long and distinguished tradition of fostering ambitions through the development of supportive friendships between staff and pupils has created happy, challenging and co-operative environments in our music departments.

Elite Musicians of all ages are given, where considered desirable, a bespoke timetable in which they can concentrate on honing their particular skills whilst also taking leading roles in the many instrumental and vocal ensembles which occupy protected space in the co-curriculum.

We offer a provenly successful route into higher musical studies at University or Music College or simply the necessary grounding for a lifetime’s love of playing and singing with friends and colleagues.

Bedales Pre-prep nurtures the initial passion every child has for music. At Bedales Prep, students soon discover that the more they practise, the more exciting ensemble opportunities become readily available to them. Orchestras, choirs, rock bands and chamber ensembles perform regularly in concerts and theatre productions.

Bedales offers every musician even more challenging opportunities in which to study and take part in concerts, both at school and on tours abroad. Every student who is interested in the academic and practical study of music can be assured that these needs will be well looked after by members of staff who are themselves actively engaged in professional musical making.

The appreciation of artistic beauty informs all that we offer. It has been most elegantly summarised by Lady Marjory Allen: “The splendid sense of belonging was at its most intense at evening Assemblies when we heard music that I love.”


  • Block 3 (Year 9)
  • Blocks 4 and 5 (Years 10 and 11)
  • Sixth Form
  • Music ensemble opportunities

Students opt to take music and are given two 35-minute period lessons. The course is open to experienced musicians and also those who are curious and enthusiastic about music.  Music in Block 3 at Bedales places emphasis on the practical. It acknowledges that the acquisition of knowledge is only half the story: students must also develop skills necessary to put it into practice.  We aim to help students become active performers and enthusiastic listeners rather than passive consumers of music.

As well as the usual performing and composing, the course places fluency in industry-standard computer software and music technology at its heart.

Notation has been inextricably linked to Western European music’s development, but it is important to recognise that a significant proportion of the music being written today has no recourse to sheet music in the traditional sense. The course recognises the importance of both approaches, and encourages mutual respect between literate and non-literate musicians.

Tasks are collaborative, encouraging small-group problem-solving and exchange of ideas.

As with all arts subjects where there is almost limitless scope for refinement, differentiation is by outcome. A very simple set of instructions and parameters may lead to a workmanlike outcome, or the identical rubric may lead to an almost professional-level response.

Assessment is through individual project work, with students having a degree of choice over the direction a project should take. Live and recorded performances, traditional or software-based compositions and presentation of research projects would all be acceptable assessment pathways.

As well as promoting the inherent and much-documented benefits of musical education, the Block 3 music course aims to give pupils the knowledge, experience and skills required to access the BAC music course:

- Understanding principles of traditional notation (if not becoming absolutely fluent)
- Formation of chords and short progressions
- Melodic writing over given chords
- Aural discernment of textures and elements
- Understanding how elements combine to create mood in music
- Fluency in Sibelius and Logic X Pro software
- Awareness of structure and form in music
- Playing leading and subsidiary roles in ensembles

Music BAC

From September 2019, we have expanded the scope of the BAC in Classical Music and re-name it simply BAC music. This means that there will be a broader range of music studied to appeal to a wider range of students. However, the same rigour and high expectations will still be at the core of the course to ensure that the BAC Music is distinct from other GCSE or IGCSE courses. 

Students interested in the Music BAC should have an open mind and a willingness to study music and its relationship with historical events from the early ages through the Renaissance, the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern Eras is essential. In addition, topics on Jazz and Popular Music will also be included.

The course includes five topics which introduce music throughout the ages: Music from Early Chant to the Renaissance; Music from the birth of opera in the Early Baroque to the Classical Era; Jazz from 1900 – 1960; Music from the Romantic Era to the 20th Century; and Music as an agent of change from 1950 – 2000.

Music A Level

The OCR A Level in Music provides a creative and integrated approach to the three main elements of music: performing, composing and appraising. Students explore a wide variety of genres, styles and eras to help them develop their knowledge and skills of performance and composition.

Students must complete three components to be awarded the A Level, either:

- Performing A (25%)
Recital minimum six minutes, two contrasting pieces. Externally assessed via audio-visual recording.

- Composing A (35%)
Two pieces and three short technical exercises, minimum combined duration of eight minutes. Externally assessed via audio-visual recording.

- Listening and appraising (40%) 
Written exam including aural extracts.


- Performing B (35%)
Recital minimum ten minutes, three contrasting pieces. Externally assessed via audio-visual recording. Section 1: Free choice; Section 2: Focused study.

- Composing B (25%)
Two pieces, minimum combined duration of four minutes. Externally assessed via audio-visual recording.

- Listening and appraising (40%)
Written exam including aural extracts.

Find out more about the A Level specification here.

Examining board: OCR

Music Technology A Level

Bedales has a rich tradition of students successfully following career paths into the music industry (major label recording artists, instrumentalists, producers, record label boss, musical directors, music managers, A&R, sound engineers). This exciting new A level course teaches you how great music is produced and gives you the skills you need to create compelling music of your own.

The A Level Music Technology course, delivered within the successful and innovative Contemporary Music department, will provide the scope and framework for students to develop key skills and prepare them to work independently through both personal and collaborative projects.

Bedales’ close relationships with its successful alumni and music industry contacts gives current students an incredible and inspirational opportunity to see at first-hand what the skills they are learning can lead to in a professional context, through a series of masterclasses, showcases and gigs.

Bedales’ unique series of live events including the legendary Bedales Rock Show and incredible Drama productions gives students the invaluable experience of working on professionally produced shows in Bedales award winning theatre.

The Music Technology A Level course is divided into four components:

  1. Recording (20%) - Coursework
  2. Technology-based composition (20%) - Coursework
  3. Listening and analysing (25%)
  4. Producing and analysing (35%)

The content is designed to develop a broad range of skills including project management, appraising and analysis, creativity and imagination. Students will also be studying elements of sound design and composing for a wide range of media including film and computer games.

Students will be able to progress to undergraduate study in Music Technology, Sound Production, Sound Engineering and many other courses requiring a similar skill set.

There is a strong record of Bedales Contemporary Music students continuing their studies in Higher Education. In recent years students have been offered places directly onto courses at institutions such as Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Leeds College of Music, Goldsmiths, London College of Contemporary Music and Berklee College of Music (Boston).

Music Technology A Level is a fascinating course, hugely rewarding and also a great deal of fun!

Find out more about the Music Technology A Level specification here.

Examining board: Edexcel

Music ensemble opportunities include:

- Symphony orchestra
- Chamber orchestra
- School choir (non-auditioned)
- Chamber choir
- Barbershop group
- Brass group
- String quartets
- Wind ensemble

Bedales Rock Show
The now legendary Bedales Rock Show has been an annual fixture ever since a light-hearted suggestion from The Who's Pete Townshend led to its inception in 2004, and has become one of the highlights of the school calendar - and a springboard to success.

Head of Department: Doug McIlwraith