“Music is not just an ‘add on’... it is a wonderful and essential part of life”

Wednesday 25th January 2023
Ark Music at Conway Hall

Music plays a vibrant role in the life of Ark’s schools. Designed to build confidence, ability and harness a life-long love of a variety of music, the Ark Music Programme offers a wealth of experience for all students at all levels. Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated team of music teachers, we’ve seen creative and talented musical communities develop across our network. The subject has grown in popularity, so much so that approximately eleven percent of Ark students take music at GCSE, compared to just five percent nationally.

Last term, nearly 300 GCSE Music students travelled to London's Conway Hall for the annual Year 10 Music conference. We love bringing students together from across the Ark network. For this event, we had fifteen schools participating in activities, including workshop performances of 'Africa' by Toto. Students played the drums, guitars, wind, brass and strings alongside 200 vocalists. They also learned different vocal parts of Bach's 'Badinerie' and performed arrangements following a vocal-based workshop.

One of the day's highlights was Segun Akinola, director and composer of the music for Doctor Who. He presented examples of his compositions, shared his process and took part in a Q&A. He also led a session for BTEC students exploring his life in the music industry.

Students were treated to a concert from the House Band and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain featuring several Ark students.

One student said: "It was a really valuable day, forming connections with people we don't know and learning how to compose a piece of music from scratch. It was an eventful day with plenty to do and so much to get stuck into!"

To understand why music is so important to us, Alice Johnstone, Head of Music and Extra-Curricular Co-Ordinator at Ark Acton Academy, has shared why more students at the school are now studying Music GCSE.

"Our GCSE Music numbers increased from 8% of students in 2021 to 12% in 2022, more than double the national average of 5%. Our students feel a real sense of pride to be part of the incredible community of musicians Ark Music has built. Music is now seen by them as a viable and exciting career path which can enrich not just their employability but also their lives. They are excited to take part in school events and invite their friends from other schools to attend.

"Music is not just an 'add on' to our curriculum. It is a wonderful and essential part of life, and the study and practice of it is a privilege. I have had parents of pupils cry, hug and thank me, gushing about what the programme has done for their child. We have had pupils who have gone through managed moves completely turn around, and pupils who are shy to speak get up on stage and sing. The decline in teaching music nationally is a great shame for the development of art and artists in the UK and for the mental health, outcomes and development of our young people.

"Having worked in other secondary schools, the real difference with Ark Music is musical excellence within a thriving and diverse community of musicians. Pupils are challenged more than in any other musical programme I have seen, and thanks to the excellent support and drive of the session leaders, they achieve higher. They know their music is taken seriously and valued by those around them, contributing to their self-esteem and a sense of purpose in life. Ark Music is a real asset to our school. Pupils are proud to be a part of it, and students covet places on Ark Music programmes!"

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