Music at Forest School

Director of Music: Mr L Pares

Head of Academic Music: Mr S Jackson

Imagine a world without any music! As Nietzsche said, “A life without music would be a mistake”.

Music speaks directly to our deepest human instincts, makes us want to dance, to cry, moves us profoundly and illuminates our everyday existence.

Music is a fundamental part of every human culture: to be human is to be musical. And no matter the genre or historical period, there are more connections between contrasting styles than differences.

By studying music, you will nourish and enrich your insight into this most magical of artforms, become a better listener, and be able to express your own creativity as a performer and composer.

Our rich curriculum includes:

  • Regular classroom concerts
  • Engage with a wide range of musical styles
  • Trips to amazing concerts and musicals in London
  • Composition sessions with the visiting Composer (A-Level)
  • The chance to write music for the Ossian Ensemble (A-Level)

GCSE and A-level Overview

GCSE course

  • Develop your understanding of how music works, allowing you to explore in detail a broad variety of styles, analysing how musical elements are used by composers to create musical works.
  • You will hone your musicianship and performance skills and learn how to write your own pieces of music, controlling musical elements to create and develop ideas into fully formed compositions


  • Develops and strengthens the skills of composition, analysis and performance covered in the GCSE.
  • You will go even deeper beneath the surface of the music, analysing in detail several works from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras, in addition to a thorough course in elective topics such as Music for Theatre, and Music for Media.
    • This will develop your ability to critically appraise music, to make evaluative judgements and to draw conclusions, writing about music with clarity and coherence.
  • You will develop compositional skills by studying melodies and how motifs can build phrases; use of inversion, retrograde, diminution and augmentation to build and adapt melodic ideas; 4-part harmony in Chorale style, cadences and modulation, and how chords are built from the scale and can be extended and altered; use of pedals and ostinati; use of sequence; use of texture and orchestration; development of contrapuntal melodies.
  • You be challenged to continue striving to develop your instrumental/vocal skills and perform music to a high level, maturely engaging with style, securing accuracy and communicating your intention to an audience.

Assessment at GCSE and A-level


The course is 60% coursework and 40% exam.

  • Coursework: comprises Performing and Composing, each worth 30% of the marks.
    • Performing: You will record a solo item and an ensemble item. The combined duration must be 4 minutes, and each category, solo and ensemble, must have at least 1 minute of material. You can do multiple attempts – it is not like a music exam where you go in and only have one chance to perform. Also, you can record multiple pieces to reach the 4-minute amount. We timetable regular performance lessons so that all pupils become used to performing to each other and build up a portfolio of pieces. The teacher will mark them and then the best will be submitted to the exam board for moderation.
    • Composing: You will already have developed some good compositional skills from Year 7 to Year 9 and you will build on these in the GCSE course. You will be covering lots of genres of music for the listening exam and as you study these styles you will compose short pieces that will help you better understand them and hone your skills with melody, harmony, rhythm, texture and form. You must compose two pieces to submit. Each is worth 15% of the course. One can be a free composition ie. in any style you wish. The other must be in response to a set of briefs given by Edexcel at the start of Year 11. Each piece must be at least 1 minute long, and the combined total of both must be at least 3 minutes. The teacher will mark your pieces and then the marks will be moderated by the exam board.
  • Final exam/Listening exam: You will study a very broad and rich range of musical genres covering the four following topic areas.
    • Each area contains two set works that you will learn in detail: Instrumental Music 1700-1820
    • You will be tested on your listening skills and ability to write about the music you have studied in one final exam that is of 1 hour 45 minutes duration.


The three main aspects of the course are Performance (35%), Composition (25%) and Listening and Appraising (40%)

  • Performance: You are required to record 10 minutes of material. This can be all solo or all ensemble, or a combination of both – most candidates do all solo.
    • You can record on more than one instrument or voice, and you can do many takes to create your portfolio of submission ie. the whole 10 minutes does not have to be done in one session, or as a one-off live exam.
    • You are only allowed to record your material in a window in Year 13, roughly from March to the beginning of May. The standard required is at least Grade 6, though to access the highest marks should be aiming to have the majority of your material at Grade 8 level. The submission is externally marked by AQA examiners.
  • Composition: You must produce two compositions.
    • One free composition
    • One composition in response to one of a set of briefs issued at the start of Year 13. The briefs are things like Bach Chorale exercises, setting a given text, development of a given harmonic / rhythmic / melodic stimulus, development of a jazz piece from a given harmonic template.

How can Music change the world?

“The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.” – Roy Ayers Music is a global phenomenon, it is big business, entertainment, the most profound art, the latest fashion, ineffable and abstract at times, clear and simple at others.

Music influences people, it changes people, and therefore it has the power to change the world. On a personal level, music creates a flow state as a listener, as a performer, as a composer. It takes us out of ourselves in ways that fundamentally change us. It can soothe and console, horrify, challenge, and excite us. Understanding this medium, being able to immerse oneself in it, perform and create it, and connect with others through it can be the most transformative and edifying of pursuits. Here are a few quotes that help illuminate this… “I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.” – William James “Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening.” – Aretha Franklin “Music is life itself.” – Louis Armstrong