Music at Bedales Schools - Ethos

Music, for performers and listeners alike, is central to daily life in all three Bedales Schools. 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.

Dunannie nurtures the initial passion every child has for music. In Dunhurst, 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.

Find out more about the Bedales Rock Show here.
Read the Music department newsletter.

Music, for performers and listeners alike, is central to daily life in all three Bedales Schools


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.”

Year 9 (Block 3)

Members of Block 3 who are keen to develop their knowledge of music may opt to attend a weekly music class throughout their first year at Bedales. Having, initially, secured an understanding of the rudiments of music, students will be taken to more advanced levels of theoretical knowledge. They will also study the development of western notation, tuning systems and score textures. An appreciation of musical forms and historical styles will be encouraged through the analysis of scores and, albeit at an elementary level, the working of technical exercises in harmony and counterpoint. Case-studies will be made of various important composers though the use of both audio and visual media. The course is focused on western classical traditions, but popular music as well as non-western music and experimental music will also be included.

Watch a Block 3 student in rehearsal on Cello:

Years 10 & 11 (Blocks 4 & 5)

Music BAC

From September 2019, we have decided to expand 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 GCSE

GCSE Music approaches the subject in a broad and stimulating way, along the three linked paths of listening, performance and composition. Work is based around four major areas of study – Western Classical Music, Music in the 20th Century, Popular Music in Context and World Music.

Examining Board: Edexcel 1426

Watch a short rehearsal film featuring students from all three schools:

Sixth Form

In order to challenge and satisfy the ambitions of those students who have already achieved a very high level of academic understanding and practical ability, we have decided to offer Cambridge Pre-U as an alternative to the Edexcel A Level. It is a six term course, with no halfway exams at the end of 6i. The increased level of difficulty with Pre-U has been recognised by UCAS and a higher tariff allocated.
There are four areas of assessment:

  • Listening, Analysis and Historical Study (30%)
  • Performing Solo, ensemble and improvisation (22.5%)
  • Composing (22.5%)
  • Dissertation or Advanced Recital or Free Composition (25%)

Examining Board: CIE
View examination requirements for Cambridge Pre-U (practical)

Music ensemble opportunities

  • Symphony orchestra
  • Chamber orchestra
  • Concert Band
  • School choir (non-auditioned)
  • Cecilia Consort (elite choir)
  • Barbershop group
  • Brass group
  • String quartets
  • Wind ensemble

Head of Department: Doug McIlwraith 

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Read the Music department newsletter.