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There is provision for musicians at every level, both academically and practically. Music has been shown to act as a very positive influence on a child’s development – improving and developing academic and certain physical skills, cultivating social interaction, boosting self-esteem, instilling discipline and reward through hard work and introducing numerous cross-curricular references. It is for these reasons that music forms an important and integral part of every child’s education at The Leys, and there is a strong emphasis on encouraging pupils to participate in, or simply enjoy, music in some capacity.

We are privileged to work with so many talented pupils, and with the support of an excellent team of full-time and visiting musicians we look forward to growing the department, raising the high standards we already enjoy, and welcoming new musicians to The Leys to help us achieve these goals.

"Music is held in very high regard at The Leys, and the Music School is a vibrant department at the heart of school life."
Max Kenworthy, Director of Music

Wider Curriculum Music

The Music School runs a lively and extensive wider curricular programme and pupils are actively encouraged to participate. There are many ensembles that pupils can join, including: Chapel Choir, Chamber Choir, Symphony Orchestra, Wind Band, Jazz Band (known as Big Noise), String Ensemble, Brass Group, Flute Choir, Clarinet Group, Saxophone Group, Percussion Ensemble, Rock Bands and various small chamber groups. Pupils in Years 7-8 are encouraged to join Junior Band and Junior Voices, which provide a great musical starting block. Skills learnt here are further developed when joining the more senior ensembles in Year 9.

Concerts of all kinds are held on a regular basis. The largest events are the Moulton Concert and the Autumn Concert held in Great Hall; and the End of Year Concert at Saffron Hall in the Summer Term. Other performing opportunities include a series of ‘Lunchtime Live’ concerts which feature performances by pupils or visiting professional musicians; more formal Scholars’ Concerts as well as informal performances in Balgarnie’s (‘Bally G’s’), an informal café-style setting in the foyer of Great Hall. There are two annual music competitions: the Musical Theatre Competition and the Muriel de Vinny Concerto Competition, the winner of which has the chance to perform a concerto movement with the school orchestra at the End of Year Concert at Saffron Hall. In addition, Symphonia, a ‘music festival’ style event is held every Lent Term and features a day of performance workshops for all pupils who receive music lessons. This culminates in a more formal concert showcasing selected performances from all the different instrument/vocal classes.

The school aims to inspire its musicians through workshops and masterclasses, and in recent years we have welcomed Apollo5, VOCES8 and Oompah Brass! to host a day of workshops culminating an evening concert. Peter Donohoe gave the inaugural concert on the C. Bechstein in Great Hall in 2017, and in 2022 we welcomed Sir Stephen Hough who gave a solo piano recital. Other visiting artists include organist David Briggs who performed an improvised soundtrack to the 1930’s film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and jazz pianist David Newton and vocalist Heather Cairncross.

The annual House Singing Competition involves the whole school community.

Music is also an academic subject at The Leys

Choral Music at The Leys
Trips & Tours

The school’s unique location allows pupils excellent opportunities to access further enrichment in one of the world’s leading cultural and academic cities. Regular trips are arranged to concerts and shows in London, in addition to Chapel Choir visits to cathedrals and colleges including recent evensongs at Selwyn College, Cambridge and St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Overseas tours form part of the musical outreach and in recent years, musicians from The Leys have given concerts in Croatia and Slovenia and the next music tour takes us to Italy in 2023.

Music Facilities

The purpose-built Music School was opened in 2005 by Julian Lloyd Webber and the facilities are excellent and very well resourced, including: an acoustically engineered Recital Hall with Steinway and Yamaha grand pianos, a well-equipped classroom with a new Kemble baby grand piano and state of the art smartboard, ICT suite containing ten Mac computers with a full range of compositional software, comprehensive music library and extensive CD collection, percussion suite, numerous practice rooms, offices and a recording studio. Great Hall is a recently opened Performing Arts Centre (opened September 2013) and provides full concert and musical theatre facilities. It houses a full size C. Bechstein grand piano. In the Chapel, a bespoke 3-manual Viscount organ has recently been installed.

Instrument Tuition

Over 200 instrumental lessons are taught each week at The Leys, and tuition is available in most instruments from a team of around 30 visiting music teachers. Currently around 40% of Leys pupils receive instrumental tuition.

Lessons are arranged on a rotating basis for pupils in Years 7-11 to avoid missing the same academic lesson each week. Sixth Form pupils are taught during study periods or free time. Associated Board Practical and Theory exams can be taken each term at The Leys as appropriate, and in some cases, pupils can also take Trinity, Rockschool and London College of Music exams externally.

Music Scholarships and Exhibitions

Music Scholarships and Exhibitions at The Leys are currently offered at 13+ and 16+. Scholarships equate to a non-means-tested fee concession of 5%, in addition to free instrumental tuition, usually on two instruments. In exceptional circumstances this can be topped up with a means-tested bursary, at the discretion of the Finance Bursar. Exhibitions may also be awarded to candidates who fall just short of scholarship standard, and these entitle the holder to free music lesson tuition. All Music Award Holders are expected to contribute fully to the musical life of the school, taking part in ensembles, concerts and masterclasses.

13+ candidates are normally expected to be at the level of ABRSM grade 5 or equivalent; 16+ at grade 7. Auditions usually consist of a performance of two contrasting pieces on first instrument and one on subsequent instruments, sight-reading, aural tests and a short interview with the music team. Auditions are held in November for 16+ and January for 13+.

Newly created Choral Scholarships are also now available. The Paul Crosfield Choral Scholarships will be awarded to promising young singers applying to study at The Leys School, for entry into Year 9 or Lower Sixth. The Scholars will enjoy free singing lessons and a sheet music allowance. In addition, thanks to a unique choral partnership with The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, Paul Crosfield Choral Scholars will have the opportunity to develop their musical potential and experience singing as part of a world-renowned choir.

Further information can be found here. The Director of Music is always happy to meet young musicians considering an application in advance of a formal audition to hear them play/sing, and to offer advice and encouragement. Please do contact him directly, or via the school office to arrange an appointment.

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