The Music Department nurtures creativity and skill through the outstanding range of meaningful curricular and extra-curricular opportunities on offer. We recognize the value of music beyond the culture of exams and understand its power not only as an art form but as an aid to academic study across all subjects. Many studies have shown that actively studying music improves academic performance by up to a whole grade across the board. It is a subject that has a material impact on everyone and has the potential to transform the good student into an outstanding one.

In the Music Department here, we cater for all abilities and tastes in a supportive and inclusive environment. Music both in and out of the classroom should be engaging and fun as well as developing skills and knowledge.


The Music Department contains four main teaching rooms and eight practice rooms which are also used for instrumental teaching.

MR1 – Recital Room (used for large rehearsals and also smaller informal concerts).

MR2 – Smaller room used for Chamber Music rehearsals and class music for typical listening/theory/history of music and harmony lessons.

MR8 – Keyboard room for class-based keyboard work and also our two piano duets clubs.

MR9 – Music Technology room equipped with a Yamaha C7 Grand Piano and 18 workstations loaded with Sibelius 7 for composition and arranging.

The department owns three Yamaha C5/C7 Grand pianos, 3 Yamaha U4 Uprights, two digital organs and a wide stock of orchestral instruments available for loan from the department. We have a music library with a wide selection of choral and instrumental music which help serve the needs of our various ensembles.

What we do:

In Year 7, students develop a range of musical skills. Practical skills are underpinned by developing a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge. To this end, students sit an internal ABRSM-style theory examination in the summer term. Music is a subject in which there is a wide range of skill levels so we aim to provide a highly differentiated and often individually-tailored curriculum. Children in Year 7 also develop basic keyboard skills and are involved in singing. All students sing in class and, as an extension, are strongly encouraged to join the Junior Choir.

In Year 8, students further develop their knowledge through composition and performance tasks including melodic writing, the use of major and minor chords, and composing accompaniments. They look at a variety of styles including Samba, Film Music, and Blues as well as using Sibelius as a tool for notating music.

At Christmas all students in Year 8 perform at local residential homes, singing carols as a group and presenting individual instrumental and sung items. Pupils learn in a variety of ways including composition using ICT, group composition, performances using diatonic xylophones, keyboards and untuned percussion and students’ own instruments.

Music is optional in Year 9, allowing students with an interest in the subject to enjoy working in the company of like-minded peers. Year 9 musicians undertake a composition project in the Autumn term based on War & Conflict, investigating the ways in which music can convey mood. The second term sees pupils studying popular music. They begin by performing established repertoire in small groups and evaluating their success. In the second half term they compose simple popular songs in their groups.

In the summer term, pupils study variations and instrumental colours, gaining an understanding of how sounds combine to produce different orchestral effects. We aim to give students a solid grounding in the skills they will need to excel at GCSE in terms of listening to and discussing music, as well as techniques for composition and performance.

At GCSE, we follow the Edexcel specification. The course examines three skill areas: listening and appraisal of music, composition and performance. Students should aim to be at least grade 3 standard on their instrument at the beginning of the course and at least grade 5 by the spring term of Year 11. In recent years we have had outstanding results with an average of 90% of students achieving the top awards of A*/A/B grades.

Further information on the Edexcel GCSE Music course can be found here.

At A-level, we follow the AQA specification. The division of skills studied is the same as at GCSE: listening and appraisal, composition and performance. AQA encourages students to listen to and explore a wide repertoire of music and rewards those who are willing to develop their knowledge independently. Students should be at least grade 5 standard on their instrument at the beginning of the course and moving up towards grade 8 by the end.

Further information on the AQA A-level Music course can be found here.


Extra-Curricular Music

Below is our weekly rehearsal schedule. There are over 30 rehearsals a week in addition to our classroom and instrumental lessons. Music is for everyone and extra-curricular music plays a vital part in school life – there are music groups performing at almost every event the school puts on. We aim to cater for as many different musical tastes and aspirations as possible.

All students are encouraged upon entry to the school to join one of our extra-curricular musical activities. We firmly believe that music is something that everyone can enjoy, to which end many of our ensembles provide for pupils at different stages in their musical career. For example, we have choirs for both younger and older students as well as those interested in both small groups and large groups. We have jazz groups, rock groups, classical ensembles, orchestras, choirs, and each year perform a musical.

There are performance opportunities throughout the school year and students are encouraged to take as many of these as possible. There are also a number of performances outside school including a joint concert with the Prep School at the Butterworth Hall, an away day concert at the end of the summer term and numerous smaller-scale performances throughout the year.


The Music Department is especially proud of how many Oxbridge entries and scholarships it has secured in recent years, testimony to the high quality of musical experience we offer here. We look carefully at the individual strengths of each student before advising him or her of the best route to take, a university music course or the conservatoire route. In recent years we have placed students at the following universities and music colleges:

University of Oxford, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Birmingham Conservatoire of Music, Leeds College of Music.

Music Scholarships:

Music Scholarships are available at 11+ and 16+. Holders of Music Scholarships will be expected to involve themselves fully in ensemble activities as well as maintaining high standards of individual performance. In addition to the department concerts, all Music Scholars are required to participate in two Scholars’ concerts when they will be expected to perform one or two solos. An accompanist will be provided for these occasions. It is also envisaged that Music Scholars will study the subject to GCSE level and probably beyond. Enthusiasm for music and potential for development are very important in the selection of Music Scholars, but as a guide it is anticipated that applicants will have reached or be approaching a standard of Grade 4 on their main instrument by the time of their audition.

Prospective applicants are welcome to spend some time visiting the Music Department during a normal school day and the Director of Music is happy to answer any queries that parents may have regarding the procedure for auditions.

Several Music Scholarships are available at Sixth Form level which recognise and reward excellence. Both existing students and external candidates may apply. The value of Music Scholarships will vary between 10% and 50%.

For details of how to apply for a Music Scholarship, please see the Admissions section of the website.


Director of Music:  Mr R. Newton: BA (Mus), MA (Cantab), PGCE
Teaching staff:

Dr R. Coull: BMus (Hons), MMus, PGCE, PhD

Assistant Director of Music and Key Stage 3 Co-Ordinator

Mr A. Kennedy: BMus, BA (Hons)
Head of Instrumental Studies

Music Secretary:  Mrs K Greenway
Performing Arts Technician: Mr D Balcam


In recent years the Music Department undertook an overseas tour to Dublin, Ireland and our Jazz Band and Junior Choir performed in the world famous Guinness Factory to great acclaim. Lots of sight-seeing was crammed alongside historical education as well as the obligatory shopping excursion! More recently we visited Cardiff (performing at the Welsh Parliament and Millennium Centre).

Instrumental Lessons

Pupils can learn a wide range of instruments in a variety of styles. Lessons are given on a rotational basis to ensure that pupils do not miss excessive amounts of academic work. We employ around 30 Visiting Music Teachers to cater for all orchestral instruments who bring a wealth of experience and talent to our department. Many VMTs also run extra-curricular ensembles in addition to instrumental teaching.

Students who wish to begin tuition on an instrument are advised to start with a taster lesson, which can be arranged by submitting the form ‘Learning a Musical Instrument at King Henry VIII School’ to the Music Secretary. This will allow the student to take part in a lesson on their chosen instrument with no obligation to continue and is free of charge.


Students at every Key Stage engage in composition. The department also has a Composer-in-Residence: Stephen Webster. Mr Webster has written music for school ensembles as well as arranging music for the recent Butterworth Hall concert. He also gives masterclasses to KS4 and 5 students and is available to tutor students on an individual basis if they are interested.

More information about Mr Webster can be found on his website:

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