Music is the heart and soul of life at Orley Farm School. Lessons are very much ‘hands-on’ and practical with singing at the core of everything we do. Children are recognised as musicians from the moment they walk in the door, and we recognise our responsibility to nurture and teach them as the budding musicians they are.
Children are taught that their musicianship is multifaceted: they are composers, singers, performers, music theorists, music technologists and if they show signs of leadership, they are given opportunities to lead music in class.
In order to grow as composers, children are taught works written by people from all over the world, those from both the past and present. The works of these men and women (and sometimes children) are taught to the children, so they can understand the mechanics and touch the magic involved in creating music for themselves and for their communities.
Singing is a huge part of school life. Children have hymn practice every week, where they learn new hymns and worship songs, from medieval times to the present. The school has four choirs, and if you walk through the playground at break time you may hear children singing in their own groups as well.
Children also learn what it takes to be performers, both individually and in groups. The music and drama departments work closely together, and there are productions throughout the year. Concerts are a regular feature of school life as well as more ‘informal’ performances which take place during assemblies.
In the same way that children are taught to read words in Pre Prep, we teach children to read music. Our goal is for children to gain competence and confidence as sight-singers and sight-readers.
We are a team of 15 music teachers. We teach a range of instruments that includes woodwind, brass, string, keyboard, guitar, and percussion. Children have the option of taking one-on-one lessons in school from Year 2, and from Year 3 children have the option of joining an orchestral ensemble, of which we have seven.
Director of Music
Children learn through singing fun songs, music games, rhythm games and through movement and dance at this stage. Reception children will be exploring the highs and lows of their own voice, and by Year 1 they begin to realise they have a very special and unique voice. They also begin to learn that music is very much a collaborative activity, and it is important to work together.
Music is taught through storytelling to both Year 1 and Year 2, and the elements of music – particularly rhythmic symbols and solfege syllables (e.g. do, re, mi, etc.) – are gradually taught to children through songs they have already learned in class. The Kodaly Method and Takadimi Syllables are key components of our methodology.
At the end of Year 1, there is a very fun ‘Come and Play’ day where the children try out various orchestral instruments with guidance from our visiting music teachers. Children then have the opportunity from Year 2 to begin taking individual instrumental tuition.
Children at this stage are singing in unison with great confidence, and they know how the main solfege notes function, i.e. sol, mi, la and do. They know the basics about song structure as well.
Songs with harmonies are now introduced, and children begin building their repertoire of rounds. It is an exciting time when they begin to hear what it is like to sing their part whilst someone else is singing a different part in the same room.
Solo performance is encouraged in class, and those who are playing instruments can audition in order to play for their classmates during lesson time. We study folk songs intensively and widely, starting with English folk songs, and moving out to those around the world. Children then begin to write their own songs at this stage. They are advancing in their knowledge of solfege, music theory, and music history.
At this stage all lessons are practical, and pupils are encouraged to bring their own instruments in order to form ensembles for class activities. Garage Band is introduced in Year 7 and these lessons run alongside traditional acoustic music. Pupils learn more about the elements of music, they have aural training, and pupils play their first or second study instruments in small ensembles.