Nurturing talent is something in which independent schools excel. Small class sizes as well as opportunities for one-to-one tuition and the chance to perform, provide a learning environment that is child-centred, building skills and presenting challenges which stretch the individual encouraging them to attain excellence at a level appropriate to their own ability.
Should you feel that you have a child whose strength lies in music, how can you take advantage of this independent school learning environment, perhaps through attaining an exhibition or scholarship?
Firstly it is important to ask what level of capability is seen as scholarship level? If not a candidate for a scholarship, does the school offer music exhibitions, which often cover the cost of extra-curricular music lessons in a chosen instrument?
The standard of competence required for either a scholarship or exhibition will vary from school to school and depend upon the age and personality of the child. Learning more than one instrument will be important or learning an instrument alongside singing to show diversity of musical talent.
Feedback from your child’s music teacher will assist you in making this assessment. It is key in these situations to listen to the advice of the professionals. They have taught a whole range of children of all abilities over many years and consequently they are the best judge as to whether your child is a good musician, or whether they have that special something extra, that makes them a candidate for a music scholarship. Relationships between prep schools and senior schools are, in my opinion, the key to success.
Schools will expect music scholars to also take the usual examinations for entry, as it is key that a talented musician can also cope with academic studies at a level that is appropriate to the school, which they will be attending. Musical children can often take extra lessons in up to 3 instruments, as well as perhaps joining the choir, jazz band and orchestra practice. As a result, they must be able to keep up fairly easily with the academic pace of the school, taking into account that much of their spare time will be taken up with musical activity.
Once the entry exams had been passed and a reference sought from your child’s music teacher to support their application, you will be invited to attend audition with the Director of Music at the senior school. This is likely to involve playing a piece of music that has been practised, as well as one that is new. Interpretation of the piece in addition to understanding of the music and how the composer had intended it to be performed will also be important.
At audition your child will need to display an enthusiasm and enjoyment of music and whether or not they enjoy performing. A commitment to practice, performing and hard work will be what the school is looking for. Music scholars are after all an asset to any school when it comes to concerts, house competitions and school functions, so it is important that they have the sort of out-going character that means they enjoy sharing their talents with others through taking part in these events, representing the school.
My closing remark however would be if at all in doubt, why not have a go and apply. Experiences of both success and failure are both valuable in assisting a child in learning to cope with the challenges of life beyond school.