Music is central to the development of the students at Monmouth School for Boys.

Academic music and extra-curricular ensemble music both provide a stimulating and creative environment which nurtures self-expression and promotes the higher intellectual responses of the adolescent. Around half of our pupils take lessons on a musical instrument in school (around 320 individual lessons are taught in each week) and a significant number take lessons out of school. Many boys study to an advanced level – a number of boys achieve grade eight by the time they are 14 years of age. Ensemble music-making in particular brings groups together in joint endeavour, and encourages self-expression through the acquisition and promotion of technical skill and musicianship.



In Year 7, all pupils have two weekly class music lessons. One of these lessons is used as an ‘academic’ lesson in which they prepare for the Associated Board Grade I Theory examination in June (or higher grades as appropriate). The other lesson operates as a carousel, staffed by all members of the music team. Boys who are instrumentalists will play in a string orchestra or wind band fortnightly, receiving expert small-group tuition. When not playing in these groups, boys are divided into Trebles and Altos, and spend the lesson learning to sing the respective parts of that year’s choral work, for performance with the Choral Society and usually with choirs from Monmouth School for Girls too, in March of that year. 2015’s choral work was Mozart’s Great C Minor Mass and 2016’s is Poulenc’s Gloria.

In Year 8, classes are divided into two smaller groups and each group studies a series of topics each term. Every term the groups will cover a composer and his or her music, an element of music literacy (often tackled via work with a keyboard), an instrumental family, composing to a given brief (using Music ICT) and a performance task. Composers on the list include Tchaikovsky, Britten, Vaughan Williams, John Cage, Aaron Copland and Bob Dylan. There is a terminal examination.

In Year 9, boys opt for Music and groups cover four short courses in the year, mostly via a practical approach assessed on a weekly basis. These courses include: World Music, Composition, Arranging and Performance, Keyboard Skills, Guitar Skills and Popular Music.


The GCSE course is divided into Performing, Composing and Listening and Appraising. It provides a wonderful opportunity for self-expression in tandem with an academic life. We use the Edexcel specification which promotes an exploratory and creative approach to the subject, and many find the opportunities for music-making as part of the course to be one of the most enjoyable parts of their GCSE years.

The Performing element of the specification is an opportunity for instrumentalists to prepare their submission in their individual instrumental lessons. Many who are already ABRSM Grade 3 at the start of the course do exceptionally well at this Unit.

Composing is taught in class lessons, with a starter course in harmony, melody and accompanimental idioms. Pupils then respond freely to four given briefs, and submit two of their choice at the end of the course.

Listening and Appraising is the academic element of the course and is an opportunity to get to know a number of composers and their works in a variety of styles; everything from baroque chamber music and contemporary avant-garde to popular song is covered. It is assessed via a terminal examination.

A level

For those with proficiency on an instrument as well as openness to a number of styles, Music A level provides an excellent vehicle for the expansion and development of a musical life. Results in recent years have been outstanding and many pupils have taken the subject as part of an application profile to Russell Group and Oxbridge universities. The A level tests not only one’s skills as a performer, but also provides an opportunity to compose freely as part of the course, as well as demonstrating skills in handling historical techniques of composition, analysis and historical understanding.

Why study Music?

The broad aim of the course is to develop aural, historical and analytical, performing and composition skills to an advanced level.

Music is a highly fulfilling course for suitable candidates.  You might be a suitable candidate if you have taken Music at GCSE level and gained a Grade B or higher, but if you do not have Music GCSE you may still be a suitable candidate if you can demonstrate other levels of achievement, for example success at Grade 5 Music Theory and/or Grade 5 practical examinations.  You should consider taking Music A level if you have an interest in listening to and performing music of all styles.  Those who do best at Music A level tend to be proficient to Grade 5 on an instrument at the start of the course.

Students will need A level Music to enter a university or college to study Music.  It can also be an exceptionally rewarding support subject and is compatible with a wide range of other disciplines.  Candidates will be expected to involve themselves in a range of extra-curricular musical activities in School.  Music A level can be a wonderful opportunity for academic and creative development within the same subject.

Head of Department: Mr D Lawson

Course content

Board: Eduqas   A level Syllabus Code: A660PA or A660PB

Areas of Study will vary between examination boards:

  • AoS1: The Western Classical Tradition; particularly the development of the Symphony from 1750-1900) – set work Symphony No. 104 in D major, ‘London’ (Haydn), Symphony No. 4 (Mendelssohn)
  • AoS2 Musical Theatre
  • AoS3 Into the Twentieth Century including two set works: Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, Movement II (Poulenc) and Three Nocturnes, Number 1, Nuages (Debussy)

Method of assessment

Component 1 – Performing

  • Between 6-12 minutes, in which they showcase their skills as a solo and/or ensemble performer.
  • Assessed by visiting examiner

Component 2 – Composing

  • Two or three compositions
  • Total composition time between 4-10 minutes (depending on chosen weighting towards composition)
  • At least one composition will be required to fit a technique-based brief set by the examination board.
  • Externally marked

Component 3 – Appraising

A 2¼ hour listening/written paper, in which familiar and unfamiliar pieces of music are used to explore the candidate’s understanding of how music works. The paper includes dictation, analysis and extended written response.

Extra-curricular Music

There are currently twenty visiting instrumental teachers, allowing the School to offer tuition in all orchestral instruments as well as Voice, Organ, Pianoforte, Kit Percussion, Classical Guitar, Electric Guitar, Cornet, Tenor Horn and Euphonium. Some of the visiting instrumental teachers are involved in the Ensemble Music Programme. Most of the visiting instrumental teachers maintain active professional performing careers of their own, locally and nationally.

The Music Department is housed in the Glover Music School, where much of its activity takes place. The GMS was opened in 1990 and provides eight teaching studios, three classrooms, offices, ICT suite, lavatories, stores and an Auditorium for small-scale performances.

Equipment in the Music School includes a concert grand piano, ICT Suite (installed 2004), a 1962 Binns two-manual organ, pianos in all studios, two drum kits, generous Hi-Fi provision, portable high-quality digital recording equipment, two full sets of classroom keyboards and a full set of classroom guitars. Software available includes Sibelius 6, SoundForge, Sonar Cake Walk and other simpler programmes. There is an enviable battery of orchestral percussion instruments, including four copper pedal timpani, vibraphone, two xylophones, two sets of orchestral bells, gran casa, tam-tam, orchestral glockenspiel and a full range of percussion effects, much of which has been refurbished recently. We regularly lend our orchestral percussion to professional organisations. There is a full set of Wenger stands and a full set of polished steel collapsible band stands with two sets of matching banners.

There is a large selection of amps and leads available for band use, as well as high-quality microphones. The collection of recordings on CD is fully catalogued and ever-expanding.

There is a large library of sets of scores for oratorios, masses, other concert works, cantatas, anthems and motets. The library of sets of parts for bands is large and well-organised and we also own and use a large library of orchestral sets. There is also a library of music for piano and some other instruments. The New Grove is available in the department, as well as a collection of orchestral scores and other texts.

All Music Tuition in The Grange takes place in its suite of four teaching and practice rooms, as well as the Hall. Many of the school’s visiting instrumental teachers also teach at Monmouth School Boys’ Prep.

The Blake Theatre houses a Steinway model D concert grand piano, fully rebuilt by Steinway in 2005, belonging to the Merlin Music Society and available for use by pupils of the School, and a Makin two-manual digital organ with draw-stop console, purchased in 2004. The Chapel houses a large 1875 Nicholson two manual pipe organ, rebuilt in 1964, and an upright piano. There are pianos in all the boarding houses.

The school owns and maintains a large collection of orchestral and band instruments, including well-over fifty violins, twenty ‘cellos, a full set of woodwinds, saxophones, French horns, cornets, trombones, tubas and Eb basses. Accurate lists of instruments in use are kept by the relevant coordinators and a charge is levied for the use of these instruments. Both the Glover Music School and the Grange provide rooms for the safe storage of musical instruments in use on a daily basis. Instruments are available for hire to boys in Monmouth School if they receive tuition in School. They are also available to boys in the Grange, including some to those who do not have individual tuition but experience practical music through the medium of the classroom.

In a typical year the Music Department will organise and host around fifty public musical events, in addition to ordinary rehearsals, be they workshops, recitals, full-scale concerts, chamber concerts or competitions. Approximately 45% of boys in Monmouth School for Boys and Monmouth School Boys’ Prep receive instrumental tuition in school, and a significant number receive tuition at home. Every pupil in the school is offered the opportunity to perform at an appropriate level.

Full Time Music Staff Members

David Lawson BA (Hons), PGCE, ARCO (Director of Music and Organist)
Sarah Fowler BSc, PGCE (Music Teacher and Woodwind and Brass Co-ordinator)

Part Time Music Staff

Sara Greenwood BMus (Hons), LTCL, PGCE (Strings Teacher) ‘Cello

Visiting Music Staff

Christopher Barton MA (Oxon.), FRCO (Chm.), ADCM, LRAM, ARSCM, AWACM Pianoforte
Denis Burton MMus, FLCM, ARCM Trombone and Tuba
Russell Davis BA, MA (Hons) ‘Cello
Ian Dollins BMus, ARCM, PGCE Voice and Pianoforte
Julie Gibbons LTCL Flute
Robert Gibbons GDMus, LTCL Viola
Alun Hathaway LRWCMD Orchestral and Kit Percussion
Christopher Horner BMus (Hons) Violin
Bernadette Hutchison ARMCM, Cert. Ed (Exon) Pianoforte
Kyle Jones BA (Mus), PGDipRWCMD Oboe
Martin McHale ARCM, DipNCOS Trumpet and Cornet
Alison Milledge BA(Dunelm), PGCE Pianoforte
Emyr Roberts BMus (Hons.), MA, PGCE, LRAM, LTCL, ARCO Pianoforte
Ian Russell Horn, Tenor Horn
Mark Simmons LRAM Clarinet
John Thomas Harp
Ian Thomsett LWCMD Saxophone
Rachel Underwood BA (Hons) Violin
Clare Walker MA (Oxon.), ARCM Bassoon
Phil Wentworth LRSC Electric Guitar
John Whipps ALCM, LLCM (TD), FLCM Acoustic/Classical Guitar