Music Academy

What is the Music Academy?

Saffron Hall is not only one of the best concert venues in the country, boasting a programme to rival any, but it also has a keen interest in supporting and promoting music education. These strengths combine to provide opportunities and facilities for young musicians studying at SWCHS that are unrivalled in Eastern England, meaning that our Post-16 Music Academy now attracts some of the best student musicians from a wide geographical area. Academicians are welcomed to both a regional centre of excellence for music education and a school that sets the highest of academic standards. While most applicants will naturally want to follow the A-Level music route, this is not a prerequisite, as we recognise that at this stage, some talented musicians prefer to further develop their musical skills and experience, while studying for a career in another discipline.


What will the Academy provide?

Saffron Hall already claims a number of resident ensembles such as The Brodsky Quartet and Britten Sinfonia who, along with other professional artists, are fully committed to supporting us. During the past two years, Academy students have taken part in Masterclasses delivered by artists from the Young Classical Artist Trust, as well as more established professional musicians.

Janice Watson, Roger Argente and Gary Ryan would be typical of this latter group. This clearly represents an outstanding opportunity to gain advice and tuition from professional musicians of international repute. The Academy programme is annually tailored to specific needs each year, but normally covers all instruments and voices in both classical and more popular idioms, along with ensemble playing, composition and conducting workshops. In addition, Academy students are able to listen to visiting groups in rehearsal, receive free tickets for events in Saffron Hall, and the best performers may be invited to join an associate ensemble to extend their repertoire experience. Academicians have taken part in exciting outreach projects in other local schools, where they worked alongside professional performers and composers. We also have strong links with NYO and Guildhall School of Music, not least through the Saturday morning Saffron Centre for Young Musicians. We will support students who wish to submit a folio of evidence for the Gold Arts Award qualification as part of the programme.


Academy students have the opportunity to make music regularly in a world-class performance venue, by joining the most senior of our many ensembles and making a sustained commitment to these. Typically, these are the Senior Jazz Band, Senior Concert Band, Chamber Choir, Senior String Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra. A number of these ensembles tour to Europe each summer.


All Academy students are able to promote their own recitals in either the main hall or as part of our lunchtime series in the Foyer. SWCHS has a team of highly qualified instrumental and vocal teachers and, whilst academy students are free to continue arrangements with an existing teacher, we ensure that those wishing to have their lessons at SWCHS receive excellent tuition. All instrumental and vocal staff will prepare students for ABRSM examinations as required; these take place in school every term.

Each Academy student negotiates a Personal Music Development Plan (PMDP) at the start of Year 12 and reviews this on a regular basis with a member of the music staff. This might include measured progression through practical examinations, directing work with a junior ensemble or composing for a specific event or occasion, but will always be tailored to the specific interests and skills of the student.


Admission criteria for SWCHS Post-16 Music Academy

In addition to the standard academic entry requirements for SWCHS, applicants must have achieved at least Grade 6 at merit or above on any instrument or voice, and also have passed Grade 5 theory. Applicants will be required to perform as part of the interview process.


What is expected from Academy students?

All Academy Members must:

• Be a regular member of one or more Senior Ensembles

• Sing in Chamber Choir

• Agree and adhere to a PMDP

• Participate in the Masterclass programme as appropriate

• Take part in concerts, recitals and festivals as appropriate

• Make a sustained contribution to the wider SWCHS musical community

• Generally seek to maximise the opportunities offered by the Saffron Hall programme and the hall itself

Being a part of the Music Academy this year has been a real privilege. I’ve not only been given the opportunity to develop my solo playing through individual Masterclasses with professional musicians, but have also been encouraged to develop myself as a musician more generally. I’ve helped lead a workshop in a local primary school, taken part in a conducting Masterclass and just recently I’ve started work on my Gold Arts Award. Music Academy bridges the gap between playing an instrument and becoming a musician.

Caitriona Quigley