Music Junior Departments at Conservatoires(96 Posts)
Does anyone have a DC at a junior department of a music conservatoire?
I'm deliberating hard over whether my DD should join in September or not (she will then be year 11 - so a possibility of 3 years there)
My decision points are around the amount of other stuff she'll necessarily have to give up to fit this in - all of her county music commitments for instance, but also about how much her music will 'crowd out' any other possiblities in her future career.
We are not yet decided on a music career - its between that and science (maybe medicine). We've had some good advice on the hardships of a music career from her teachers, so are up to speed on that, but I'm concerned that once we're on the JD track, there's no getitng off and she'sll just fall into music. And she wont have had the space in her timetable to gain all the work experience/volunteering she'd need to make a convinecing medicine/bio sciences application.
So if anyone has a DC who is at or did go to a JD and then did something different at uni, I'd be very grateful for input.
I can only partially help - I have 3 in the Primary Academy at RAM (ie the pre-12's) and spend all day every Saturday there with them. Primary is run on a similar system to Junior, taking into account the younger maturity.
It's phenomenal, like being part of a special club - friends galore amongst their peers and the teachers - and the musical tuition/orchestral oportunities are excellent, without being at all precious.
I don't know which conservatoire you're thinking of but RAM certainly has an open day coming up (Feb 12th, I think - check web) and in your position I'd definitely spend an afternoon going from rehearsal to lesson to chamber gp to theory etc just to see how the dept is run and whether yr daughter would think it worth it.
We have 3 close friends who've recently finished RCM Junior dept - one's gone on to RCM Senior, one on a choral scholarship to Cambs (English degree) and one to study ... medicine! Because everyone has their own timetable, there are a few breaks in the day, and you see the Juniors studying all sorts of different subjects (as well as jamming and chatting together) - clearly they have many different aspirations. It's an exciting place to be and the Juniors are certainly prepared for a life of music if they want, but there's no compulsion at all.
Ask if there's anything else, and congrats to yr daughter - to be bright enogh to study medicine and talented enough to go to a conservatoire is impressive.
Oh, and there are three eleven week terms so there's plenty of time to get hospital practice around it. There are juniors who play school rugby matches on Sats/have morning Sat school and still make their afternoons at RAM - it may be less commitment than you're expecting.
That is so helpful trl
We will be at RAM on 12th, btw, so will see and compare then. Her music teachers and contacts are almost exclusively RCM so we've looked there first....
I am heartened to hear of examples of going on to do subjects other than music at uni, so thank you for replying....
I'm just bumping up to catch the notice of folks just logging on for the evening shift....
ds has 2 friends at jds (one ram, one rcm), they are both currently in 6th form and plan to study medicine. I think at rcm junior department approx 50% stay on to a career in music and the rest do something else.
My 12 year old has just applied for junior conservatoire. I was not aware RCM had one and I missed the RAM application date. These two colleges are often the only ones mentioned. We applied to Guildhall and Trinity Laban and got into both. Has anyone any views or experience about which junior conservatoire is best and why?! My daughter is having a hard time choosing or could wait to apply to others (god forbid!)
She is 12 and plays clarinet (Grade 7) and loves chamber and orchestral work.
I've heard very good things about Guildhall (very structured, well-supported programme) - my son's school orchestra leader teaches at Junior Guildhall and is certainly inspiring the children at his school. Is Trinity the one at Greenwich? We're SW London so our contacts all tend to be RCM and RAM as they're closer but I imagine all the Junior depts are good? Unless your daughter has a particular teacher she really wants or will get more opportunities to play clarinet in ensembles etc at one, I'd go by distance/ease of travel ... but then mine are all still too young to travel round London on their own whereas yr DD could get there herself!
Junior Guildhall -- only have experience of the lower end of the age range, where the teachers are fab, but the other parents are a bit of a nightmare. I had been warned beforehand that it had a reputation as pushy music-parent central, but didn't quite realise the implications of this. We left after a year and moved dd to another music school, in large part because I couldn't stand spending every Saturday morning in the company of the other parents.
But if you're joining at the older age range, then that's probably less of an issue. All the staff and teachers I met at Guildhall were lovely.
Thanks for the reply. We are up the A1 and Guildhall is easiest. She seems to think Guildhall ensembles are better but Trinity (in the fabulous buildings at Greenwich) is friendlier and much more social seeming. She also very much liked the Trinity clarinet teacher.. hard!
I have met everyone at Trinity but no-one at Guildhall.. At 12 its quite a commitment as it may continue till 18 conceivably. We also visited RNCM in Manchester which was lovely too. We are also applying to Chethams and Purcell but these are very different schools. We are looking at Wells which has a balanced curriculum - if anyone has any further experiences.
My daughter is at a grammar school in lincs, which is excellent (tho hard work) but much to my surprise has not a huge amount of space for music - she actually gets in to a little trouble at times for taking her 20 minutes a week (paid) clarinet lesson. It alarms me how the national curriculum fails children in the arts, which now seem even more irrelevant than ever. The junior conservatoires and local county orchestras seem like an amazing oasis of sense and creativity!
I cannot say what the criteria are - its a mystery. Your child sounds very advanced. I think competition for certain instruments can be harder. Maybe the progress made over a shorter period may be an indicator but I get the impression that grades are not as crucial finally as passion (keenness?) and the relationship with their chosen instrument or subject (eg composition). In that respect it seems much like art college (where I went and taught) where creativity and involvement - rather than technique is important.
Music on a technical level is an unknown to me - but the above is what I gathered a little from auditions etc. Hope that helps. You can get a pre-interview session I have read.
Not a "Conservatoire" but DD1 attends a Saturday music school that is a division of one of the above mentioned. This is her first year, she is a very young yr9 and when she had her audition (aNot a "Conservatoire" but DD1 attends a Saturday music school that is a division of one of the above mentioned. This is her first year, she is a very young yr9 and when she had her audition (age 12), she was just about to take grade 5 on her first instrument which she was auditioning on. She also played 2 other instruments (grade2/3) standard and had just started teaching herself a 4th. No formal lessons
before age 10, so a late starter.
I am ashamed to confess, I never expected her to get an audition let alone a place at those levels. But it seems they are looking as much for ability, potential and enthusiasm as acheivement to date.
The main reasons for sending her - she had expressed an interest in a music career for 2 years( a long time at that age), and we thought this would either reinforce or completely put her off. There was also partly guilt for not letting her start lessons younger. Not many instrumentallists at her school, and her 1st instrument wasn't taught there. Having 2x30 minute lessons at school meant missing same lessons wach week - teachers not very supportive. Felt the need to mix more with like-minded kids that want to learn.
She has really enjoyed her first two terms at the music school. Not been pushed to take any further grades, but lots of time being spent on perfecting techniques and breaking bad habits. Emphasis on performing, both solo and ensemble. Individual timetable for all includes at least. musicianship, ensemble, individual instrument tuition and choir. Can audition to join other groups on instruments being learnt elsewhere - DD has joined one for her 2nd instrument which she has continued at school. She dropped her 3rd instrument in favour of private lessons on the instrument she was teaching herself.
Her day is currently 9 to 3 so it DOES rule out other Saturday activities. She is able to miss days with prior agreement, but that is not ideal. Already finding it a huge commitment, even with little other extra activities. Her other main activity was Karate, but she had to quit fairly recently for health reasons, but there would have been future clashes there. She also did better than expected in a school competition that was entered just for fun, so had to miss 2 Saturdays for district and regional finals in that.
It is likely that she will try and split her two weeks work experience next year between music and something else.
I spend a fair chunk of time there with her as it is an awkward journey. Not come across any pushy parents. Most of the kids seem highly academic, either at grammar or independent schools. Quite a few I have come across are bi-lingual.I get the impression that many are there to get to grade 8 before applying to Uni in medicine or similar.
DD wants to get to grade 8 before applying to Uni, but she WANTs to do a music degree. Whether this is a specialist music college remains to be seen. The more academic the degree, the less the music requirements, so she is still trying to do well academically. That way it will also keep her options open if she decides against music later.
Not been on for a while - so sorry to miss pixies withdrawn message. What was it?
Thank you for your responses and info - really useful. I doubt I will meet the other parents at Guildhall that much. At a mature 12 I hope my daughter can attend alone mostly?
She is very excited - and not at all pushed (by me) - all this is a surprise - but as a visual artist it seems great to have that support so young. However it must inevitably slant everything in a certain direction. Also the love of music in itself may be overtaken by sheer competitiveness I suspect? In which case I fear for the others as my daughter is incredibly competitive! A modern foible I think. We will see.
Hopefully ensembles will instil the lighter side of democratic engagement. But I can't wait to see the pushy parents eyeing me suspiciously! Nothing new in that. lol
I have to add it was hard to NOT go to Trinity Laban. The people there - the staff students - everyone are some of the nicest people I have ever met! The place itself is wonderful too.. but the journey was 30 minutes longer for us..
My daughter is applying to Purcell and Chethams and Wells. Purcell seems like something from The Avengers, but great. I am not sure she can quite reach their standards yet really - or if it is balanced enough. I did suggest they probably emphasised the arts generally on my visit and was told it definitely was not an art college (it is a music college..)! I find that a little disconcerting. But still the place is like music heaven. Chethams is the first interview.
Frankly just the auditions are gruelling (I feel) but I must stress my daughter wants to try.. it just seems a bit much really.
I didnt realise this thread had come up again - this has been really helpful. For the record, DD will be going to RCMJD in September - all sorted now and we'll just keep an eye on how tired she gets and how much everything else has to take a back seat. But she's very excited and I'm excited for her....
I went to the JD of the RCM many years ago ... I started at 15 (y10) and carried on until I went to uni to do English & Philosophy
It was a long day (9-3 every Saturday during term-time) with concerts, rehearsals, individual music lessons and of course practice on top of that, but it was a fabulous musical education
I got there on the tube so my parents didn't have to do any ferrying or hanging around which made things easier for them
The standard of the other kids was scarily high - I'd done grade 8 a couple of years before on my main instrument, but at times felt like a complete beginner - while I was there I took another grade 8 plus grade 8 theory
I don't know about the other instruments, but a lot of the people playing my instrument were highly competitive and everyone knew their exact place in the pecking order so probably not great for very sensitive souls. However, it was a very sociable place and I loved having my RCM friends as well as school friends.
About half of my peers went on to do music and the rest did a whole range of subjects
I hope your dd enjoys it!
Thank you generalhaig that is a helpful perspective.
We do expect it to be very high standard and we already know an internationally recognised contemporary on her main instrument who is a member there so are geared up for the pecking order!
Especially good to hear from you as you then went on to study something else at uni and I still think this is most likely for my DD
I also went to RCM (JD) in the 80s. I went in Y8 and was there until A levels. Loved every minute of it, made wonderful friends and was inspired by the wonderful musicians there. I went on to study music at uni and I teach music now. Going back for a 25th anniversary concert in June. Eek I'm getting old!
Good luck to your daughter. I'm sure she'll love it.
More info? Gossip? Self reflection..
Attended Chethams for a pre-audition - which has to be passed before you can look round! it seems. Passed so can now go back. Very friendly my daughter says and also lots of advice too.
Attended Purcell - pre-audition. Talked to a parent in the waiting room who was disconcerted at so many MALE staff. Later met the guy who had auditioned my daughter. Lots of advice. Not hugely positive. And sadly at one point two of the (young male) school stars playing round were quietened down by being told they were behaving like girls. Disconcerting. Very nice parents. Huge sense of are n't we fantastic - only the few are allowed here. Which is true but really everyone we met mentioned it.
My daughter will receive in one day at junior conservatoire more time with (better) teachers than she has received in a year of her total of two years of 20 minutes in term time at school. Chethams seem very aware of this and seem to audition her accordingly - something far more ready formed seems required by the particular auditioning member of staff and possibly generally at Purcell. Maybe just an unlucky encounter. But again very male. Even the way my daughter answered a question and stood was corrected - more sense of purpose and definiteness was required. My daughter is actually quite gentle - not diminutive - just not in your face.
All this was very helpful and the guy was correct generally and helpful but it was quite macho in effect in style I felt and it made me wonder..
I was reminded of the very best musicians I have seen so far - at Purcell and Trinity Laban. At the first a guy thrusting his (expensive) clarinet provocatively at us (playing wonderfully) and at Trinity a very young girl sitting cross legged playing a small recorder with almost monastic simplicity. The second was better but more so - quite a different style of playing. Also all the staff I have met at Trinity have been women.
I do wonder if this is indeed a far less traditional and more musical??!! attitude to music - more inclusive and feminine? Better thought out at Trinity? My daughter says that Guildhall also seems to have quite a few female staff.
I do find the auditions thought provoking!
My daughter now has a late audition at RCM juniors. Interesting to compare..
Hi deja - your process does seem to be very drawn out - you must be stressing!
Hope you get on well at RCM - there was nothing about it that we could fault, we felt right at home right away. But its a big decision between a JD and a full school....
Son had late audition at RCM a couple of weeks ago and we were given the decision straight away. It was surprisingly down to earth and they were not looking for perfection - in fact mentioned quite a few more bad points than good but still offered him a place. It probably has the most pretigious name but it felt very relaxed and the kids looked happy
Yes a little stressed and maudlin! lol Its become a full time job!
The auditions do throw up a lot of criticism. My daughter was quite taken aback at Chethams when the teacher took her instrument OFF her and showed her how she was holding it quite incorrectly! Still she got through. Its good to be learning even as you progress an application.
Glad your child got in colleger. It seems a shame NOT to have another audition. My daughter can see another alternative - after all it can be till she is 16 or 18 even if she stays. But would be a shame now to switch our attention to a NEW junior college.
And yes full time seems like quite another ball game - one where professional rather than fun objectives will take over.
At least there are only TWO full time schools (in the UK) - phew! (DO NOT enlighten me if I have missed any!!)
She is now busy with a new app on an iPad which allows you to compose a little like Sibelius on the Mac - but more easily. The open day at Guildhall where the composition guy is very inspiring did get to her..
Only just seen this thread and just wanted to say that I have had three children at Wells and they have all loved it. We chose it specifically because it is a specialist music department within a "normal" school rather than just a music school. Interestingly, Wells seems to pick up a fair few ex Purcell kids in the sixth form.
It's a wonderfully friendly, inclusive school and the music staff are hugely supportive yet very down to earth.
My DD did started junior conservatoire (Saturdays) at the beginning of Y11 so she did it throughout GCSEs and A-levels. She's now studying medicine and has a music scholarship.
Best thing we ever did for her!
Not only did her playing improve eye-wateringly - she was taught throughout by a world-renowned teacher - but it affected her in all sorts of ways. There is so much more to it than music lessons.
The confidence and poise she acquired to walk on stage and perform solo in front of her peers stood her in good stead when it came to university interviews. I think she could control her nerves in pretty well any situation now.
She also learned to pick herself up and do it again when things go pear-shaped.
It didn't affect her exam work at all. In fact it made her better organised and focussed. It made her more independent too. It takes some determination for a kid to get up at 6.00 am, lug two intruments - sometimes three - plus related music on and off a train, change trains, trudge through a city centre and arrive on time every week. Mind you, it was a bit like the Hogwarts Express because there would be other kids heading that way on the same train who had set off even earlier.
Yes, she spent her term-time Saturdays immersed in music but it freed up a couple of week-day evenings when she would otherwise have been having lessons so she was better able to handle school work during the week.
Oh, and university interviewers loved it. It showed she had drive, commitment, time-management skills, ability to work alone and in a group ..... all the qualities they are seeking.
I've just realised that the thread started in February so the OP has probably made the decision by now.
Just to add that DD did manage to cover all the medically related work experience she needed as well as holding down a Sunday job in a shop and conducting a full social life. She also managed a couple of rounds of BBC Young Musician 2010 - though was relieved not to get further because by then she knew it was medicine for her (she already had offers from med schools at that point) and taking part in the later rounds really would have affected her A-levels.
Hi unitarian - I'm still reading!
That's exactly what I'd hoped to hear - I do want DD to think about Medicine at Uni so your DD's experience is spot on. We have accepted a place at RCM and are already excited....
How old is DD thekidsmom? See you in the corridor in September!
thekidsmom - when she goes to RCM she'll be among the Imperial College buildings. A very fine place to study medicine
You've made a good decision. What is her first study?
Hi there - DD is 15. See you there colleger
And yes, Imperial next door to aspire to!
Unitarian - that is a salutary tale. My daughter likes gore so maybe medicine is where she is really heading?! Oh and science.
She hopes to try Wells and arranged an audition today. Also at Lincoln Minster which is new but looks good. They are friendly and some weirdly wonderful child musicians seem to go there.
My downer over Purcell has dispersed - she was given a main audition. She seemed horrified when I told her - after the first. As was said tho - performance teaches you the show must go on? Something like that.
So main auditions at Purcell and Chethams. Also checking out Uppingham. Thats about it! However I am applying for bursaries so any experience there would be helpful. The conservatoires seem a little alarming over that..
DD went to Chethams but not until 6th form. Seemed a very happy and supportive school!
I do not rate Wells. Having a Dc at a prep attached to an independent school we felt that the music was not any better at Wells than our local independent school which has an exceptionally strong but not specialist music department, and the academics at Wells are not great either. If I were to move my child out of his school to pursue music further it would be to Purcell, Chets etc but definitely not Wells!
Colleger - thats useful - you have obviously been and looked round Wells.
We have not yet - it is so far away.
We are looking at Uppingham and Lincoln Minster - which my daughter would attend as well as Guildhall.
The interest in those schools is because they do appear to have good music departments and are nearby. However we require a bursary - which is unlikely we have been told by Uppingham but they are still going out of their way to meet us - presumably in case my daughter is a genius!
They do also seem genuinely friendly - unlike Oundle.
My daughter is at a local grammar school which is one of the best ofsted wise and really is very good - but the music is not enough to keep my daughter interested - her instrument lessons actually clash with her timetable quite awkwardly and beyond that she does not fit in very easily (she actually avoids the ensembles despite her love for playing. Although it is a sports academy and she does love sport..)
Also the stress on OTHER subjects constantly distracts her and divides her time. The schools SATS results could very well be at the expense (if there is a choice) of her music. (I imagine some may cope better but thats how it is with her for now.)
Maybe an arts academy would have been better.. for now its looking at other schools but I now do think that Purcell and Chethams are the way to go if the emphasis is very much musical.. rather than loading a conservatoires demands onto a grammar school timetable (though the grammar school actually said they WILL make allowances..)
Daughter did a 2nd audition at Purcell. 5 present. Its serious stuff! Very nice but utterly music centred focussed place. Asked about PE - no time. The boys play football - we are worried about the girls getting less fit - they said. My daughter plays football! I love the non-uniforms tho. Modern bright feel and very individualistic college feel.
Not heard yet - a week later. All very late this.
Went to Chethams for 2nd audition today. Very very well organised - really saw inside the school - had lunch - met lots of people. A 6th former showed us round. Excellent well balanced person. Even a proper biology lab. A traditional school feel.
The 6th former told us that when you first get in - they 'break you down' to get rid of bad musical habits - which allows you to develop a 'perfect technique.' Sounds like art college cept there they avoid 'technique' all together. It may be this that was evident at my daughters first audition at Purcell which was very critical (above). They are so music focussed they dispense with the niceties of getting to know you and start the process of re-education at the audition. This is exactly what old art colleges were like - if they were good.
Anyway - got back to find an offer of a place by email. Quick! Big decision now. My daughter loves the place. Boarding seems like a huge step. Also we require MDS support and how long that will last now - who knows?
Guildhall have also offered an independent bursary - and that seems like such a good college. Purcell actually suggested she should attend both.
Total commitment! Luckily my daughter seems up for it.
And they do fencing too at Chethams!
I think this is a difficult decision because of locations really. Chets seems to be the better, "nicer", school that is more balanced and most people I know who look round prefer it to Purcell. My other concern about Purcell is that nearly everyone goes to JD Conservatoires which means there is virtually no down time. I wonder why they are at JD's as the school should be enough.
But Purcell is close to London and I assume any special events that go on in London the Purcell may be invited to over any other school.
DS teacher went to Chets and then the RCM and she said Chets was amazing and she can spot a Chets pupil because they are down to earth, fairly chilled and always up for a social occasion. She says they almost break the mold of the geeky, monosyllabic, pressured musician.
The lack of sport would really, really worry me.
So do you have an offer from both or just Chets at the moment? If you do I would choose Chets and this info is coming from a mum that sent her DS to the most prestigious choir school in the country (and potentially world) with a feeling that it may have issues. The prestige can make us make bad choices. He's now with a choir who no one has heard of and getting a better musical education. Most importantly he is in an environment which is nurturing, relaxed and balanced.
Thats really useful. She did NOT get into Purcell. She had been warned at the pre-audition to leave it till she had been at junior conservatoire a year.
And yes chets seemed nicer and rounder. But is so far away! It certainly has a reputation! but in fact my daughter will not get the tuition unless she goes there. Most of her lessons to date have been free. Or inexpensive.
Purcell seems very squeaky clean and intense and professional. More about skill than potential? Very nice new buildings..
Boarding is a huge step. She is excited. I know she will be upset at some point. I know she will thrive.
It seemed like a lovely place. I guess one can be a parent who allows a child what they want even if it effectively excludes the family! - and learn to support her in that choice - as a parent. I hope.
It does puzzle me what the difference is between these schools really. And I quite liked the idea of doing Purcell and a junior conservatoire. Chets do not do that it seems.
Still exploring.. a more local choir school + Guildhall - just to see.. but yes chets seemed really lovely and warm inside as well as focussed and its entrance and tour procedures REALLY well organised. I was even interviewd by the headmistress - a wonderful person..
I hope my entries arent blogs as such.. did find comments on other forums very useful but often out of date. This was our experience..
o and because Purcell suggested we applied to RCM we did. And frankly that junior conservatoire is FABULOUS! so friendly and warm.. and great. My daughter really wanted to go there and would have gone to Purcell just to do that!
Some of DD's contemporaries at junior conservatoire were there as an alternative to a full time music school, having already been attending the latter. Some were suffering from Repetitive Strain Injury, had had to take time off from music as a result and were easing back in by joining the Saturday junior conservatoire.
One of the many things that impressed me about the teacher DD had at the Saturday school was that the teacher raised the RSI issue very early on and was always mindful of it.
I'm sorry to have sounded negative just above.
RSI can become a problem for enthusistic and talented youngsters wherever they study because they are the likely to be hard-working and maybe even obsessive.
Also, at a specialist music school or a junior conservatoire they are more likely to encounter teachers who will understand this.
It was only after 8 years of lessons with local teachers that it was even mentioned to DD. It seems odd to have to say to a DC that maybe he/she should practise a bit less!
Congratulations on the successful audition for Chets. There is some rivalry between Chets pupils and the JRNCM ones but they have some teachers in common.
I can't remember how old your daughter is dejaview but if she is not about to go into the sixth form then I would let her trial out the RCM for a year to see how she finds it/progresses and if it is clear that she wants something more you could then consider Chets/Purcell again. If she is going into the sixth form then I would bite the bullet and send her to Chets now. The RCM is phenomenal but it is only a Saturday!
hi colleger - unitarian and all
first is dd - dear daughter? - sorry don't do forums much! Its probably something utterly different but il use it because its easier. (Pardon my stupidity.)
so DD is doing a boarding trial next week at Chets. She has also got into RCM juniors today. She also! looked round Lincoln Minster and auditioned. Its a choir school. That place is truly phenomenal. And the head of music Mr Prentice is great. He accompanied my daughter - (whoops dd) - never had that before but of course how suitable! The headmaster is quite a guy and the staff are so lovely. If DD is not utterly confused then she deserves to be successful. I am (confused that is - not the other..)
I am a single parent and the other parent is simply absent (totally) so I am unsure where that leaves me in respect to any MDS application which quite worries me. There is only divorced/separated (with legal form) and deceased as options!
When I bought my DD's new mouthpiece just before she entered a competition (not really NOT advisable!) I DID ask the guy - at Woodwind and Reed in Cambridge - all about rsi. Having bought a wooden clarinet my daughter was getting pains - so he sold us a neck strap and also recommended a device that balances the instrument. It is something that concerns me. I do think its VERY important myself and will keep asking - thanks for reminding me.
Oh DD is 12. Doing grade 7 and has been playing 2 and a half years. She started piano 4 months ago too.
The MDS scheme is very generous and I'm sure they take relationship circumstances into account.
Have you been to many choir schools? Unless Lincoln is on your doorstep there are far better schools in my opinion. If your place at Chets is basically free then I would grab it with both hands. If you are really unsure then do the RCM for a year.
One thing to consider is that the RCM and Chets will pull DD's technique apart and she may not make any grade progress for a couple of years. Now this could be detrimental if you want to audition at another school. However the choir schools will not dissect any faults and this is not good in the longterm. If you can get the funding then I would say go for Chets. If not then I would suggest the RCM and try for an immediate scholarship at schools known for their musical strength - Uppingham, Dean Close, King's Canterbury, St Edmunds Canterbury etc
It is just the boarding (for me!) that is hard to accept. There is the worry of an over intense competitive/musical life - and lack of sport - which DD also loves. However she responds VERY well to advice and by example from better musicians. She rarely meets them. They get 3 hours! tuition each week on first instrument at Chets.
The choir school was emphasising FUN and being NORMAL today - I did jokingly stop them at that point! My daughter has had so little tuition Chethams would be good.
It is free (for now) but I cannot say I entirely agree with that or indeed with expensive cultivation - its a huge subject. A minefield. In fact - knowing little about music education yet loving avante-garde music I do worry exactly where say aesthetics - another minefield comes into it. I would hate her to go to a school where they played John Rutter for example! Which is obviously a ridiculous thing to say but being trained as an artist (and tutoring at art colleges for some time once upon a time) - the visual art I saw today said to me clearly - this is a no-no; this attitude should not be being taught. Its a clear aesthetic overview. I do not have that with music and wondered even if it existed at the junior stage. Lots of theoretical debates to be had I guess.
Sadly RCM I think have run out of money at this late point - but the idea would have been to attend the choir school and RCM. I did approach Uppingham and got a kind invite for lunch! (and audition) but missed the appointment - and in any case funding was limited. A head of a charitable trust also told me not to consider it because the rich children in such an environment would make my DD's life a misery! The staff seemed extremely friendly.
Every day in this trek has amazed me!
But to recap the aim is to get the musical input my daughter requires while she has a parent who can afford very little. However this journey has led me to the question when is more - too much! That sums it up!
I was hoping she might rush at grade 7 now - because despite the irrelevance of grades - that certificate can be useful! Especially if two years glide by. They do pull technique apart - it started at the audition and the 6th former who showed us round had not taken any grades at Chets. However they praised DD's emboucher (RCM said it needed work!?)
Oh and also tinnitus worries me! - apart from rsi. Sitting under a brass section for hours can be very dangerous. I hope these days that is taken seriously.
Dejaview, the clarinets normally sit in front and to the right of the brass section, not "under" them. . I'd want some serious danger money to be sat on by a smelly-arsed trombone section all day...
Some observations, from a musician and music teacher with some knowledge of the institutions you mention, and a parent likely to be in a similar situation soon with an extremely motivated musical daughter:
1. It's very difficult this whole business of how much pushing or immersion is the right amount. The problem is there are two factors involved that don't necessarily tally up: what's right for the child's development, and what's required by the demands of the profession.
If a child loves music but doesn't show the promise or motivation for considering a career in it to be worthwhile, then it's a lot easier. But if your DD is seriously thinking about being a professional musician, you have to be realistic about the level of competition involved. She needs to get out there and get every possible bit of intensive skill development and experience for the simple reason of being able to compete with all the OTHER kids who are doing so. She could relax and footle along her grades and audition for music college when she's 18, but then she'll be competing against all the kids who did the things that she didn't do. She may well still get in, but then even that doesn't really mean anything, compared to the much bigger issue of getting into an orchestra or somehow making a career.
2. Well impressed that she's doing grade 7 after such a short time. On the face of it that suggest some pretty serious ability and application. OTOH, the clarinet is an instrument that talented kids often pick up very quickly. It's also probably the most widely played of the woodwind, so the competition is even fiercer than for oboe or bassoon (although probably much on a par with the flute).
3. I wouldn't worry too much about the aesthetic/creative side of things. All the places you're talking about will have a variety of things going on and switched on people working in them. The composition departments are more likely to foster avant garde experimentation than anything Rutteresque, since music colleges in the main never noticed that the 1970s ended. And to be honest, the main priority over the next few years will, and should, be her playing technique. She needs to go hell for leather getting that to the point where she has a chance of using it professionally, and then she can think about which ways of doing that engage her musical soul more than others.
4. Wherever the journey takes you, good luck!
Endorsing what confidence said really.
Over the past few years we have come to know some amazing young musicians. I'm full of admiration for them and will follow their careers with interest.
But I am heartily glad my DD chose not to pursue a music career. She was on a high when she did the second round of the BBC competition last year and had the opportunity to meet one of the leading instrument makers and chair of the flute society shortly after. The first thing he said to her was that most of the students currently in music colleges would never play their instruments professionally - though he was careful to find out first what she had actually applied for on her UCAS form. He was not being crushing, just realistic.
DD gets immense enjoyment from her music and we have made a lot of sacrifices to enable her to reach that standard. We don't regret that for a moment and have never felt it was a 'waste' that she chose a different profession. Relief, if anything!
For her the route we took was the best one - normal day school with junior conservatoire tacked on in the last three years, as well as weekly sessions with the local music centre. She knew all along she wanted to study medicine but if she had been as dead set on a career in music we might have chosen a different route and I can appreciate your dilemma.
Also, DD was a bit different from dejavue's because DD didn't show immense early promise. She was good but not jaw-droppingly so. It wasn't until she auditioned for junior conservatoire that it became clear that she had real ability but lacked technique. Meanwhile her friend had showed very early promise, had shot ahead in terms of grades and had exactly the same opportunities. Interestingly they both achieved grade 8 distinction in the same term so DD was a late developer and the early developer slowed down.
Exam grades do get put on a back burner when technique starts to get picked apart. This was a slight irritation because, despite the blurb which says 'grade 8 or a teacher's recommendation', DD found it impossible to get into county orchestra without grade 8 even though a prestigious teacher was endorsing her application. I'm pretty sure that this is so the organisers don't come under pressure from disappointed parents if they pick someone who hasn't actually got a piece of paper.
Having said all that, flute is probably one of the most over-subscribed instruments in terms of opportunities. It's a cut-throat business even at school level!
confidence - that is a vivid distinction. How to put it to a 12 year old - thats the next problem. Maybe just seeing a school that clicks - hopefully.
She did ask at both chets and lincoln - can you dissect here (in the lab - not the orchestra pit) - and the idea of dissecting a full rat offered at lincoln really made her eyes light up!
Where did I read the bassoon is an endangered instrument? - maybe a good career move?
unitarian - your daughter still plays? or is medicine too full on?
oh with regard to aptitudes and achievements - DD was very excited that Chets asked to test her for perfect pitch which they said she had it. She is very excited. Possibly because it has the word perfect in it. Not sure what it is and wiki does not help.
Those that dont have it say its a bad thing. Typical!
I applied for a job in a dye laboratory once and they tested me for colour sensitivity - with ten colour cards. They asked if they could carry on and showed me a huge number (100?) and then said well we have never had anyone with 100% perfect colour vision. My only claim to fame (or perfection.)
dejaview - Yes she still plays. Even whilst doing school exam revision she found that she studied better if she took time off to practise. It clears her mind.
She chose which universities to apply to according to whether or not there was an orchestra. Her first choice offered a music scholarship which she won so now she gets free lessons at RCM - and plays in 2 orchestras!
Most of her medic friends have other interests/areas of excellence. It seems that med schools like to pick students who have another side to them.
Whatever your daughter chooses to do, all that music tuition will still have been worthwhile. It is character-forming and I think it will give my DD a life-long pleasure, as well as an 'instant' social life wherever she lives.
I don't think a specialist music school would have suited her (though she would have liked the lack of sport) but, as I said, she didn't show exceptional talent until she was well entrenched in a secondary school she liked so it was never really an option.
Saturday music school gave her maturity, self-confidence and countless other benefits which we had not expected when she started there, including a personal statement to die for! I do recommend it. Most of her contemporaries are now at music college. DD and one other are at med school.
Hi deja - I'm the OP - I check back every now and then to see what's being said!
You clearly have a big decision to make, and I can see its not easy.
Just one thought at this stage - do you live in a county with good music provision? We are extermely fortunate to live in a county which has weekly orchestras (for grades 6 and up usually) for symphony, wind, jazz, brass, percussion and several choirs - all at very reasonable fees (£50 per term, no matter how many groups you play in). In addition to a JD they may give your daughter what you're looking for, if you choose the non-boarding route.
There are also several competitive choirs around - we regularly see one oursleves - which offer tours, training and international competitions, and which have good sponsorship so costs to performers are kept low.
And I'm sure its been mentioned up thread but dont overlook the national youth orchestra and the opportunities there.
So lots of options which arent boarding if it proves too much for you to contemplate your DD going away.
Deja, "perfect pitch" is the ability to tell what a note is when played or (in more advanced form) to sing it when asked, without a reference note.
Most people with any musical training, if you play them say middle C on the piano and tell them what it is, and then play the G above it but don't tell them what it is, could name the G. They've learnt the sound of the interval between two notes five steps apart in the scale. This is called "relative pitch". It's how even non-musicians know how to sing a tune, or when a note in a tune they know is wrong.
The difference with the person with perfect pitch is that if they get up in the morning having heard no music that day, or even the past few days, and you don't give them any known reference note but just play the G out of the blue, they can tell you it's a G. It's a completely different kind of hearing and learning: they know the "chroma" or sound quality of each pitch as a thing in itself.
Actually perfect pitch is a misnomer. The better term is "absolute pitch" because this describes the difference between hearing a single note absolutely, and judging the connection between two notes relatively. I dislike the term perfect pitch because it leads people to think that it's one end of a continuum, which it isn't. In actual fact, the absolute pitch of people who have it is no more "perfect" than well trained relative pitch. People with absolute pitch still make errors, and they vary in their degree of tolerance of slightly out of tune notes before they no longer recognise them as the same note.
Unlike relative pitch, perfect pitch can't be learnt as an adult. There are various schools of thought about whether it is genetic, whether it emerges out of early musical training, or whether it can be taught but only in a "critical period" of early childhood. Actually I'm intrigued by your DD having it as one of the most agreed factors is that the vast majority of people with it had music lessons before the age of about 7, and I gather she didn't start till well after that.
It's sometimes said that it has various disadvantages like making it hard to transpose or sing in a choir that is slightly out from A440. I think these are overdone to be honest. I've know plenty of singers with absolute pitch who have no trouble at all "switching it off" or moving between absolute and relative strategies as required. I think the truth is just that you still need relative pitch training. Absolute pitch doesn't replace the deeper musical understanding that comes with relative pitch - and it's the lack of that understanding that hampers some musicians, not the presence of absolute pitch.
On the positive side, I've noticed it seems to massively increase the speed with which people can internalise and memorise music, which may have something to do with your DD's rapid progress. It's very useful for things like advanced score reading and anything requiring an instant connection between sound and symbol. The majority of famous conductors seem to have it, for example.
A trial week boarding was successful. I also met her teachers and was astonished how intense and focussed they are - almost constantly analysing my daughters responses and referring her back to exercises etc (she had several lessons.) She also loved the other children. I had imagined her main teacher who was also present at her auditions would be a matronly older musician but she was actually very beautiful and young and elegant - and DD then told me how at her audition this person had eyeliner in a swirl round her eyes - and high heels - so this obviously impressed her! (And I have to point out it would have impressed her equally if it had been a guy wearing the heels.)
Frankly the place seems astonishing - and given I now live as an ex-artist?having left Sussex far too long ago in a rather cultureless backwater I finally realised my daughter had ESCAPED! so it all seemed rather liberating. Me next.
Just in case its useful I should point out my daughter had free lessons 20 mins a week at primary from age 10 and had done her 5 grades in 18 months with merits. (They asked her why at Chethams she had not got distinctions and have asked her to re-stage her exam next lesson! She was 1-2 or 3 points off each time!) She plays with feeling and good tone (they said) but is not a recognisable genius on any level lol - no-one in fact ever remarked on her during school. She won one small competition - and it was clear she had won. And did attend excellent local county orchestras (full of visibly talented musicians). But my point is that I get the impression the whole thing is very subtle at these schools and colleges. Maybe its simply energy and enthusiasm? Visible focus. Not 'talent.' Some applicants must simply be amazing. I think my DD is simply earnest, and works hard. As a performer she is rather bashful.
She met people at the choir school who had known excellent grade 8 musicians who had applied to Chethams and not got past the 1st audition. I imagine if a child WANTS to enjoy music SO MUCH this is the place and it IS visible to the school who they are. Grades are irrelevant.
Its a shame not to go to the RCM finally - I would have loved to hang out there some weekends! lol and I do feel on some level an interest I have shared with my DD has now become an almost private affair with her teachers - but it will be wonderful to follow her progress.
Other classes at Chets like science have 14 to a class and sound like great fun too - but DD was alarmed how low the SATS scores are compared to her High School at the other private school she looked into. Chets has a good record for exams and the art class is excellent.
The whole place seems like a very close relaxed caring community. Thanks for all the advice and I hope our experiences are of use to others. Oh and DD pointed out that few students are 'rich.' She asked!
Be very careful about sending your daughter to Chets as a boarder. The
school works extremely hard to project the image of a caring, family
atmosphere, there are some lovely children there and some of the staff are
great and will go the extra mile for you or your daughter.
Chets is also an extremely pressured place, with highly talented and very
driven students, prima donna teachers (especially instrumental ones) and a
management whose main concern is maintaining the image of the school and
the efficient running of the institution rather than the welfare of
individual children. As you would expect, this means bullying - both
between children and by teachers of children - is habitual, and distress
among the children, whether or not they are deemed to be "stars" in the
school's pecking order, can be acute. Self-harming,eating disorders and other aberrant behaviours are not uncommon, although of course children who end up being unable to "cope" leave quietly, feeling like failures.
That said, my children don't want to leave (and are on the surface doing
extremely well) - but I have had to be closely and continually involved in
their lives at school, to deal with, or make sure the school is dealing
with, some of the issues outlined above. Boarding makes it that much
harder to find out in good time if something is going wrong for your
child, and to find someone effective at the school who can deal with it.
One other piece of advice - get to know other parents with children at Chets and keep talking to them!
The school will set up itself as THE expert on your daughter and her musical education - difficult to resist if (like me) you are a non-musical parent - but these are only opinions, often the result of the narrow ambitions of individual teachers or what the school needs in its timetable/orchestra - so find as many musical people (teachers, students, musicians) as possible to talk to and glean advice from. Also listen to your daughter - her perceptions are of course provisional and will change - but first and foremost she needs to be happy in her music-making.
That alarmed me just before bed! You obviously speak from experience.
Boarding will make these problems - let alone the intense nature of the place - worse. Potentially. At home things can go wrong - but boarding..
Do you live anywhere near enough to get to know parents? I am three and a half hours away. How is it possible to maintain involvement - except via phone and internet and letter maybe? Home visits every three weeks - some missed it seems in some terms.. will make contact sparse and most of those trips will be alone - so I may rarely get to see the school. In any case they rarely seem to allow you in.
I had hoped the online community of parents at Chets may be of help but I am not sure it has a forum any more.
Concerts may be the best bet but not so much at this distance.
I will certainly be watching my daughter..
I live further away than you do. I only got to know parents slowly and accidentally. In retrospect, I would have been a lot more pro-active - ie. introduce yourself to the parents of your daughters' roommates (you should meet them unpacking on the first day) and get their contact details. This can be very useful if any issues crop up in the dorm - or just to get info, as in when children can be picked up, when concerts are etc (the school is not always brilliant at conveying this and the children are often just too busy to pass it on). Also as your daughter makes friends, plays in chamber ensembles etc, it's fine to introduce yourself to the parents - or ask your daughter to get phone numbers. Then you can always arrange to have a coffee with them when you're down in Manchester collecting/dropping off your daughter.
Maintaining involvement/contact is hard, largely because the children are so busy. The best and main way is by mobile, including texting (all the children have one) but it is no substitute for seeing your child in person and having the time to talk.
Be prepared for more visits than the free w/e. Boarders can also be taken out of school for other w/es - the school may fuss about orchestra practice on Saturday mornings but it is possible (and not harmful) to miss this sometimes. It's obviously not good to take your child out every w/e because they might miss social bonding things etc BUT be guided by your child - you may find that your child is the only one in her dorm or year who is there for the weekend which can feel jolly lonely.
The travelling has been difficult and expensive for me. Again we have learnt from experience (1) it is possible to get to know other children who travel from your area so travelling - either by car or train - can be shared. Ask the school, and also your daughter as she gets to know children at Chets, if any come form your area.
(2) it is possible for your child to travel on its own by train - a dummy run, plenty of instructions, a mobile phone and talking to the conductor when you put her on the train. Mine have been very proud of their ability to do so.
Yes, Chets is extreme about the rules for letting parents in - I suspect it's because they've had weirdos wondering in because it's central Manchester - but Mr Taylor, the junior housemaster is very kind and helpful and is the person to call to ask. Do not be put off! In any case it's always nicer not to spend significant amounts of time with your child in school but to to take them out of school for a meal or ice-cream - even just for an hour or two (and this can be in the evening). You have to clear it with the school beforehand but there is normally no problem if your child has nothing scheduled.
Another mistake I made as a long-distance parent who did not visit her child at school initially is that I didn't realise how chaotic her room, belongings and personal organisation were - especially at the beginning. It only dawned on me gradually that other mothers of newbies were in the dorms every w/e sorting out their children's stuff/dirty laundry etc. Obviously my children have got better at this over time - and may also have been exceptionally bad to begin with. Also they began under previous house staff who were less effective than the present crew.
Don't know anything about an online community at Chets - sadly.
hi tern and others - I still dwell on the idea that DD could be at a local choir school and RCM! Thats the way of choices ie one HAS to choose! I find it astonishing she has created these choices for herself! I think as colleger suggested it IS the best choice - Chethams - but as you suggest the thing with boarding is FRAUGHT! DD is already facebooked out with contacts from children in her class - so thats promising (after 2 nights boarding.) She is good at football so boys and girls like her..
I had not realised a parent IS allowed in the dorms. As it is I dare not enter her room at home I am so susceptible to a fit! However I do know she does have some pride and can organise herself.. but I do agree some pro-active approach may help with a whole host of details. I wonder whether to try to have a forum - or even a page here! for Chethams parents? Boarders?
Looking at the documents today - it seems like auditions take place for ensembles and accompanists when they get back - and I do wonder how best to prepare for them. I also have the extensive list of items required for boarding. And on a psychological note already see a change in DD who practices a hell of a lot more and spends far more time alone and even seems slightly hyper.. but I do talk to her still! And I assume email IS allowed there - tho I read today it maybe not on the school network?
Purcell seemed so much nearer but did seem rather more uptight maybe? and quite isolated too for the occupants themselves.
However I AM intent on living nearer (or actually IN Manchester) and am also trying to re-instate contacts with extended family in the north-west which will all be good hopefully.
As for networking with other parents - I see that as an uphill task, at this distance. I did make contacts at the auditions but even they have evaporated.
I am unsure how often concerts are and how to attend as well as all the other commitments that may arise - such as other orchestras and competitons which DD loves but requires very much input from me to jog her along (sensitively!!) - or do teachers now take this role?
Dejaview, I can't remember how old DD is but have you thought about Trinity School, Croydon. It is as close to a music school as a normal school can get and the singing opportunities are phenomenal. This year the boys are touring with Glyndebourne, ENO, and are at the Proms and this is a normal year. They are accepting girls into the sixth form from September and many students are at the RCM JD. In fact the Director of Music is in close contact with the RCM when it comes to allowing for time off. The bands are extensive and the latest tour was to Dubai and that wasn't even for the most prestigious orchestra.
Sorry - I hadn't realised your DD would be year 11 as opposed to age 11. My children are a lot younger (one started boarding age 10) - hence my panicky comments. Also what I say applies to the Junior Boarding House - the Girls' Boarding House is much happier, and I think things improve on a number of fronts as you go up the school. Have you see the recent ofsted report on the boarding provision? Of course email is allowed - but texting/phoning is much better as the students are so busy and can't access email constantly unless they have it on their phones.
How much jogging along there is depends on the individual teacher - I wouldn't rely on it. On the other hand your daughter will (and should) need you less as the whole atmosphere in the school is very motivating in terms of practicing, preparing etc
Despite all my downers, the reason my first child went to Chets and continues to board there is because she wanted to. She needed and wanted to "separate" and to focus hard on her music with other like-minded children (we have no musical background at home).
Nothing is written in stone. If you or your daughter don't end up being happy at Chets, there will still be other options.
My DD is 12. So year 8 when she starts in september.
I do think some kind of parents network - a forum etc would be useful.
Thanks colleger but its too late the docs are signed for this year and its unlikely my daughter will give up on this by the end. Or me. It was her choice. However the boarding could be a problem - we will see.
I have two problems already tern. One is I was told help with travel would be available but when I got the figures today it certainly does not cover the travel and it will be almost impossible for me to get there and quite hard for DD. So I will be looking into that. (Would it be automatically expected for a 12 year old to travel 3.5 hours alone?) My other DD got a full bursary by exam to a day school locally and they did not give travel as part of it. They did finally concede it was not a scholarship at all if she could not actually get there - and awarded it. Travel costs were £55 pw!
My other problem is unusual - a boy from DD's primary school (from a year ago now) has finally asked her 'to go out with him' - by text! - how modern! - and since he is the most desired boy wherever he goes it seems - and she has always always liked him - she is very tempted.. but just as she is about to leave the county for most of the year. I am discouraging her (when I would not normally interfere..) so already that tug and split between home - and the 'new' home.
It would be her first boyfriend and she has chosen him very carefully (she did actually do the choosing although he would never know that!)
I fear that would not help the boarding experience at first maybe.. what to do! DD did see couples at Chethams but again to actually live in with the b/f so young seems problematic too - given such long holidays. This is not a problem I had foresaw - as I imagine none of them will be as they crop up.
One other thing - most students seem to attend a summer music course. We have never done that and are looking at Pro Corda (but its the West one - which is strings WITH a FEW woodwind..?) and the other is Harrogate Clarinet summer school (who say DD would have to join the seniors due to her grade of playing - and be charged the senior fee - twice the junior fee). Has anyone any experience of these or others - I have also contacted Dartington.
Again we are total newbies on this one too.
DD is going tom Pro Corda so I will be able to report back - in 3 weeks. Its at Wells Cathedral school so we will see that too. Its 7 days - so a good boarding trial again. It seems to be for strings but they do have a few woodwind for quintets so we will see how that works out.
Did consider the Harrogate Clarinet course but the website is so awful I gave it a miss - it did seem to even have the dates. I emailed them and asked all the info - like where it was held! etc - and they emailed back and said 'so many questions!' They did answer them - but really! It seems to have some keen followers. They also do sax.
Yes in my experience Chets doesn't help with travel costs. You could ask the school/your daughter after she's got to know people at Chetse if there are other children travelling from her area - then she can either get a lift with them or travel with them on the train. We did this a bit until the children became confident about travelling on their own.
On the boyfriend front, at your daughter's age it seems pretty unpressured at Chets. Some have them, most don't. Usually in school, and only ever boys in their own year (no dating across year groups my daughter tells me) which is what has put my daughter off so far. Not aware of long-distance relationships at this age. Couples seem to get more intense as you go up the school. So I wouldn't wory if I were you - your daughter should be so busy and stimulated when she gets to Chets that there won't be much time/energy spare for hankering after someone at home.
My experience of Pro Corda is that depends entirely on the course, and who's running it. Have you checked out out the National Youth/Children's Wind Orchestra/Ensemble - there are a number of these outfits?
The b/f thing was just a fleeting concern! Nothing serious.
I have written to the National Children's Orchestra but not heard anything yet. The local county group has two streams and in the younger one it has been taken over by two military band guys and the musical standard has also suffered - having become very loud - complete with constant background drum kit. DD may not return next year. However the main orchestra seems very good and their resources are excellent.
I am wondering if there will be any difficulty helping ones child into their dorm at Chethams on the first day back - are you suggesting they are reluctant to allow that? I hope and expect not.. we will see. As I say I rarely check my daughters personal space but it would be nice to see where she lives!
Pro Corda seemed like a really friendly, very enjoyable and focussed group. The staff seemed devoted to the children and the musical results were excellent. There were a range of abilities from the possibly parent propelled - to talented enthusiasts and clearly obsessed to those at junior conservatoires and Yehudi Menuhin etc (its mainly string.) The very different age groups seemed to get on really well. It is very expensive but is all week and they do give bursaries.
It was the way they all got on that seemed so good. The final performance was very good - Bartoks Romanian Dances and all kinds of trio pieces etc. They also did solo's - a piece by Suk stood out and a piece by Ysaye played by a young staff member was astonishing.
This was the one at Wells Cathedral School - there are quite a few different ones all of which vary I heard. Hope to return next year but will check others - Aberystwyth has one.
Do Chethams funnel some to things like the Young Musician of the year or is this a parent/child led thing? We have been told their own orchestra is very difficult to get into and takes time. Also have you had experience of help with a new instrument given by Chethams themselves! They have suggested it is possible. The instrument we are looking at is well over £2000.
Hi - sorry only just checked the mumsnet thread. Hope your daughter is settling in happily. I'm happy to stay in touch - direct email is probably better and I will see it promptly!
No experience of Chets helping with instrument costs - or rather I emailed twice about possible help and was blanked.
Chets are big on Young Musician of the Year - you have to have the School's support/approval to enter.It's tough because so many enter from Chets each year (I think I heard 2/3s of the school - but I think that must be an exaggeration) and in the first Manchester-based audition they are all competing against each other (a set quota go through from each of the regional auditions). The whole thing is something of a lottery. The deadline has passed for this year but you should hear about the possibility of entering from the school in summer term 2013. I'm sure your daughter's instrumental teacher will discuss it with her when the time comes.
Just wondered how your daughter was settling into Chets. It's where we are looking at for entry next September.
Anybody interested in music schools should check out the Comments on Norman LeBrecht's blog - although about the Purcell School, there are elements common to all the music school to a greater or lesser extent.
And another thread with comments about the Purcell School is at https://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2011/10/head-of-music-school-resigns-no-comment.html
Very interesting reading - thank you. We had considered applying to Purcell but not so sure now; it looks like it may take a while to settle down.
hi peardrops - sorry to have taken so long to reply
My daughter has settled in very well indeed and is almost stupendously happy there. The staff - the students - her room-mates - the lessons - both academic and musical are all brilliant.
The evening and weekend events are fun - the chance to go out with pals to Manchester - having lived in a tiny village all her life - suits her. The other children there are very friendly and not at all hierarchical even though say one of her best friends is abroad winning competitions even at the age of 12 - she just gets pictures back from obscure places and its all taken with a pinch of salt. They all love music and enjoy where-ever each other is at.
One friend who happened to join at the same time who like her was home educated (but for far longer) resists all the many demands and so is being sanctioned regularly in various ways - as the work load is indeed huge. After 5 hours a day practising all week there are 5 hour ensemble sessions on saturday and many different pieces of music to learn as well as home work and other demands. Practice is enforced by the praccies - invigilators who monitor that everyone is doing the hours and doing it alone as demanded. Obviously some children find that hard and go awol and then can ultimately be suspended. The older friend my daughter has flouts all the rules and does get punished but they still seem to take it all humorously. One child who joined who hated being away from home did leave for a while but is now back and my own daughter and others did try to comfort that person.
I went to a concert there recently and it was excellent and great fun and an old couple whose daughter had been there 20 years ago attended - and even they seemed still very attached to the place.
If you are very strapped for cash and live at a distance (like me) you will find it hard and guidance for parents of that kind is sparse I found and I have suffered the consequences which means going into debt which I have found very distressing. However no-one seems particularly to bother and my daughter has checked this out with others and they confirm the first year and first terms can be hard financially. In the long run unless I sort my finances I will not be able to have a huge input and be kept at a distance which I find hard. I have consulted with the MDS over this and it really does not seem to concern them although I do think it runs counter to the notion that poorer families will not find it hard. They will. However it also has to be said all the major costs of the child's education ARE met and so - given its excellence - is amazing.
I get the distinct impression that Chethams offers greater support than other full time music schools and my daughter was very reluctant to consider going to Purcell. She also had the chance in the summer at a summer school to meet a number of students at Wells and asked them what they would choose and they insisted if they could get a place at Chethams they would be off!
However Wells looked to me wonderful. Purcell seemed to be suffering from cash problems but again also looked great. It seemed as though it may be better suited to 6th formers and more independent types of person who maybe do not want a wider education necessarily. However I cannot really comment. They use the Royal College of Music for tuition in certain cases (if your child can get into both) which means there is some travel involved etc but to me seems like a good option - allowing a child to be far more independent of a single institution (given it is live-in.) But may be a bit too all over the place for some.
I think the fact these institutions are so small makes them far more like a family and far more characterful than most schools. This is sometimes disconcerting - and feels like you are dealing with extended family as an outsider I feel - but thats just me and at the distance I am from the place. When I have met staff they have been extremely friendly.
My daughter is VERY independent and strong willed and balanced (despite the efforts of her disfunctional family!) so maybe she is well equipped to deal with it. It is a test I think of stamina and willpower and I have met people who say it is very much not for everyone. The children do not think many do find it too hard. However it's early days. It is certainly unusual but given it is an eduction as a classical musician there seems to be lots of open creative work and spontaneous child led input and is not stuffy or straight jacketed.
My daughter came from a very good school but she thinks ALL the lessons she gets are better at Chethams - particularly Science and Maths. She also rates art there.
I really recommend it. And wish they did it for visual artists too!! (The MDS that is.)
One child who had to leave boarding by his parents is in fact very distressed - and indeed most love boarding - which was a surprise. It helps them all get on and support each other.
Also one last point. Next year the new building opens and it is fabulous and will transform the place into a futuristic venue - and a stunning state of the art place for the 250 students!
Oh and my daughter went in 6 weeks from having failed to get into a very good county orchestra last year locally to getting in and also being placed as the principle on her instrument! Progress is remarkable it seems...
oh can I add that the headmistress at Chethams is one of the loveliest school people I have ever met (and I am speaking as a home educator who had a phobia for schools and teachers..)
If you apply if you get to the 2nd interview you are also effectively interviewed too at one point and she was so nice. Intelligent - gentle - informative - friendly - and a really strong person. I believe she once worked with the head of Purcell at Eton too.
The whole place seems quite chilled for a pressure cooker (so called.) I think she led the attempts to raise money for funding the new building. I have not yet met Mr Threlfall - but the children seem to like him - tho he does seem very disciplined.
My daughter says the children there are all very focussed and quite different from most children at her other school (a grammar school) - and it makes for a less silly atmosphere even though some see non-music lessons as a waste of time!
Oh Dejaview thank you SO much for those posts. That's the sort of details I was looking for.
My child is already a boarding chorister (although boarding quite close to home so we have a lot of contact and input still) so that side of things doesn't bother me as much.
The travel and travel costs does concern me but I think it's a cost we've just got to find a way of absorbing.
We've got the 1st audition after Christmas so fingers crossed it will go well and we can progress onto the main audition.
We've also been to Wells and I absolutely loved it too! But Chets is the aim so that's what we're working towards.
Thanks again for all you info.
Good luck - sorry I drone on! With travel if you have a very low income the MDS pay for six journeys for the child (and make sure you get 12 SINGLES! in your budget you put in.. they do not ask for tickets..) however there are in fact at least 9 journeys per term for the child and possibly more. Also there is a £200 deposit to pay on entry - which eats up any travel grant if you have not got the cash! There are also a lot of journeys YOU will make and its not possible to use a family railcard because the child is not coming back with you so at that point the costs soar. The net result is that you do not go to concerts and parents evenings - then you cut costs by risking the child travelling alone - which literally NO-ONE gives a hoot about. My child had never travelled alone on a train ever before. Anyway she is now fine with it (as if she has a choice!)
The most caring place I ever saw was Trinity Laban and Chethams is on a par I feel. But your child will also form a real sense of if she likes it from trial boarding which is allowed once you get in. Try to make them give her a full week!? Any other questions you have please do ask. There was one person I met whose child was accepted and they refused the place - due to boarding - and there are alternatives (like a very good private teacher and the conservatoires.)
Also I am concerned about all the posts about Purcell. I think negative talk on the net gets out of hand and while I do not want to be unrealistic it weighs heavily for those looking for advice. I met the Purcell headmaster and although we did not get on I he was actually very kind to me, and other staff despite being rather robust were kind too, and their outreach person - Alison Cox - is very well known and very involved in the wider community. It has a very different atmosphere to Chetham's tho.
Like any school the child has to gain some kind of position amongst peers and theres lots of tangled school relationships but it all seems quite happy and well balanced. However in a small institution I imagine strains do develop and may become quite extreme so I think Purcell must be trying to recover from that situation. I have seen no signs personally of that at Chethams in my short acquaintance.
Try Pro Corda West if you want to see what it feels like at Wells - it is held there and some who go actually study there. Its great.
Apply to everyone if you can as the training and experience in auditions and advice gleaned is useful - but only if your child has that kind of stamina.
The food is amazing - served by a chef - and they do cookery with the same chef in the school kitchen. Full english breakfast every day or 18 different cereals and melon too? What more could a child want!
Instrument practice is about an hour every other hour (between lessons) so it passes quickly I am told and the rhythm of the day in that way is ones that suits my daughter.
Really glad your daughter is happy Dejaview.
I will fill you in our Purcell experiences once we've got a couple of weeks under our belts. I didn't look at Chets because it was just too inconvenient for us and I didn't want to fall in love with the place. I had preconceptions about Purcell but the staff are great and it seems to match DS personality - lack of uniform probably helps. The wind department likes their pupils to go to the JD's so they can mix with other musicians outside of school. The location has pro's and cons. Not great for sixth formers to go out and about, though that may be a good thing if they practice more , but for the younger child I prefer the location. Being close to London and a wide range of JD's is also very advantageous.
The other thing that is very important is the tutor. I chose Purcell because I believe the instrumental tutor to be the best their is and if a decision is proving difficult then I would certainly use this as a contributing factor.
Good luck with the auditions!
Yes did like the no-uniform aspect of Purcell and the arrangement with the junior conservatoires (they give up part of the MDS award for the private instruction too.) Just in case others do not know (because you cannot have two MDS awards if you are eligible.)
Not sure about the location. It was certainly closer to me but one guy at Chethams did not consider Purcell because whereas Chets is in the middle of a city (next to Selfridges) Purcell is in a field lol - ok its close to the edge of London!
My daughters friends seem to spend the whole weekend at the Arts Cinema and that is quite a cool place.
For choristers you have Manchester Cathedral next door too. I am starting to sound like an advert now.
Chets uniform is a black jumper with an optional lapel badge - its not too bad and it makes them look like a little monastic order which is sweet.
What does your child play colleger and are they attending the conservatoire too?
He got into a JD but we've decided it's too much for now as he is only 11. Ironically, if he went to JD he would not have as good a teacher as the one at Purcell, plus we would need to pay twice as we do not get the MDS. Because he plays bassoon I hope a JD will be happy to have him for their orchestras at some point without him having to get tuition there. I definitely think voice is probably better at Chets, but I am not musical and really would not know which school to choose other than knowledge of the instrumental teacher.
Regarding recent issues: I did have a wobble but then I realised that often when bad things happen the school will tighten it's belt and be more watchful. Unfortunately there is always a tiny, very vocal minority - like the Chets one on facebook - who attract attention, but it seems a happy place.
Fortunately I do not use Facebook! Do you have any other musical children? I do not - just an actor! (now heading for politics?!). I think bassoon is lovely and have tried to persuade the daughter - but I also like trombone. I am not musical but listen to a lot - especially modern classical. I just wish I could get to Huddersfield this week.
I had assumed from your previous posts you were a lecturer in music.
The facilities at Chets are excellent - she has her own practice room for each instrument - the piano room has a steinway in it! She also has her own accompanist!
Frankly I am astonished and its a shame that similar resources are not put into visual art which is even more neglected in schools than music I think.
No, I only lecture on music!
I have learnt so much via my son and all the mistakes we've made along the way so my posts tend to me more based on hindsight and what I've learnt from being around musical people.
My other son has the potential to be musical but is not interested in music, he's a science and maths boff but utterly lazy!
I don't rate the non-music facilities at Purcell, other than the outdoor space, but I can't complain about the music facilities. Being totally clueless, I was so impressed with the little things - full length mirrors in the practice rooms so the musician could check their posture, hand positions etc. They have two steinways in every teaching room so the teacher can play and teach on one piano whilst the pupil plays on the other. I'm sure Chets is the same - do you know if Wells is like that? Purcell pupils also have a piano in every bedroom.
I have heard that their is movement between pupils at Purcell and Chets but I don't know if this is true.
Lecturer in music is ok! When the ex head showed us round Purcell I saw the playing fields and said my dd was a champion runner. Oh no we don't do sports he said tho the girls are getting so unhealthy we think they should do something - the boys play football. dd is a keen footballer so that did n't go down well. Maybe its changed now. At Chets they seem to do quite a bit of sports and have their own swimming pool.
I did contact one rising young saxophonist who had gone to chets then purcell for 6th form. He liked both. Some of the boys from chets seem to go to Eton - which surprised me. Some of dd's friends have come from purcell - one girl got expelled from both!
I only saw hall - so I am not sure. The practice rooms were in two? little houses in Wells' famous almshouses.
The main thing is that dd is very very happy so thats a relief. I did mention one girl who joined at the same time as her and then became ill and is now back but I understand her family are unhappy she is away. So it depends on the individual. But after 10 weeks dd seems like quite a different person - much more mature and she was that way anyway.
How is your ds getting on?
I didn't realise that Chets had a swimming pool. Things like that would have swayed my decision as I am seriously worried about the lack of sport. For now he will be a day boy so I can have as much input in his non-musical pursuits.
Have just come across this thread by accident ! I have to put in a word for Wells here. DD is in Yr 13 as a Specialist Musician so I have some experience. The music is fantastic, the academic support and teaching is outstanding, sport is mandatory and pastoral care is equally good. DD has just finished auditions for music college and has 4 places with several scholarships at London Conservatoires to chose from. You should consider it !
Thanks Trinite. We're going for the Wells entrance exams next month so it's good to hear your opinion. We were really impressed with Wells when we went to look at it.
The problem with wells is that you think you're getting the best of both worlds but the reality is that a specialist musician cannot take part in all the activities and ends up feeling as if they are missing out.
There is a sports centre just down the road with a pool from Purcell.
At Chethams every teacher is also a musician. On every level it is music focussed even though it is often higher in the private school league of top performing academic schools. It is for MUSIC!
Choir schools are not just for music although there is a huge amount of flexibility. My local Lincoln Minster (recommended kindly on here) who have a head of choir at Lincoln Cathedral who is also head of music at the school - no mean feat - is a great person and although they have a brand new purpose built music wing - essentially their main aim is to get students into junior conservatoires - which does finally underline the fact that their own resources are noticeably limited.
Wells school looks great but Wells itself I doubt is any active child's (or parent's) idea of a great place to live - unless you want to study tourism or agriculture ultimately. It is very out of the way and to be serious I think that may be a concern depending on the family and child.
(Although to be honest I like isolated country places.)
The intensity and enclosed nature of the private boarding school I think needs a huge out of school life available to be well balanced. Although obviously cities seem like an option one wants to avoid for children - for children who are seasoned public performers - it seems like a great plus. Even my 12 year old loves the city and it gives her and her friends a carefree life outside the pressure cooker school (potentially.)
This may be of interest to everyone concerned with music education in the future in the UK - if you have not already seen it.
Too long for me to read tonight. I'm glad DS was a chorister before embarking on music school because I probably would have chosen Wells as it would have been sold to me as he best of both worlds when the reality is not the case. If choristers, with a lesser workload, miss out on so much then surely specialist musicians miss out on so much more. Pianists and string players are often expected to practice for 5 hours per day so it is impossible to fit in all the extra curric and social aspect of the rest of the school.
It's great when people are enthusiastic about schools but some of the statements made above just aren't true. Not every teacher at Chets is a musician, not even every instrumental teacher is a performer. The food is grim, stodgy, processed, limited in terms of fresh fruit and vegetables - it's sodehxo. Eating disorders and self-harming are endemic (maybe not surprising given the kind of student and teacher the place attracts) but they are a compelling argument for a much more informed and professional culture of pastoral care than the school in fact supports. Instrumental teachers do not as a matter of course have any training whatsoever in teaching (let alone pastoral care)- nor are they appointed because of their pedagogical ability. The assumption is if they can play to a certain standard - or if especially they have produced prize-winning pupils in the past - then they are fit to teach. Pupils or parents who complain about the incompetence and abuse that such a non-system inevitably produces are deemed to lack the requisite talent or backbone.
Interesting comment about the food. My son has started a spec music school and the food is dire. He wants to move towards packed lunches asap!
I sympathise with your agitation - and I sometimes get like that actually over even minor things let alone the major issues you are concerned with. One such incidence would be alarming and I sympathise with any parent that faces that scenario but I am not sure this is the place to discuss it - so vaguely and generally. To suggest it is widespread - worse - 'endemic' - is not my experience of any school I have ever heard of - though I did home educate - let alone this excellent school. Such talk is not exaggeration - it is I have to say virtually libellous and very damaging and undermines a forum. If I am too positive then I hope I do try to be realistic. My daughter has not experienced anything like that - and she is extremely sociable with all ages - thats my only response.
My experience so far IS very positive. I have minor concerns - one of which I voiced. DD told me that most of the staff - all she said - apart from the gym teacher (and chef who teaches cooking) are musicians on some level. The biology teacher confirmed that but obviously it cannot be absolutely true. Staff change etc. The spirt of what I suggest is true I think but rather a minor point literally.
The Chetham's chef just won an award for cheff-ery I understand. I did cook at home entirely organic following Whole Earth nutritional guidelines I picked up in Brighton for over 10 years but pennilessness means I now fall rather short of that and I have always been concerned since they went to school my children had been introduced to less healthy eating habits - but I still try to educate on that level and its a struggle. Pringles rule it seems. The meals and variety of fruit/grains/meats/pulses etc at the school seems very good. Its 280 that are being cooked for not 1250. I have eaten there.
Teaching qualifications? I taught at art colleges. I disliked teaching and did not have a teaching qualification. Artists who do have a PGCE and those that do not? - I would tend to go with the nots really if you could divide them so divisively. I get your point - but you almost suggest the psycho staff are attracting pshyco pupils. It sounds more like the League of Gentlemen than Chethams.
I miss my daughter so much that my feelings sometimes boil over idiotically. She herself is getting on fine and I hope her joy is never tarnished by false alarm or back biting or negativity. Chethams just gave her a huge award to buy her dream instrument after several other trusts chipped in. I had to do 30 trust applications but it was worth it. I have to feel very positive about music education and creativity for children in the UK. Any worries I had about the privileged few benefiting at the expense of so many others I hope is addressed by the MDS's new plan for music eduction.
Finally you slip in the word 'abuse.' I hope my own reply is accurate and measured and more so in the future.
sodexo is not a promising name but I did like the food myself.. much prefer organic salmon fillets with hummous..!
Well, that's me told. I can back up everything I write but to do so involves revealing personal details which would damage children at Chets. Of course there are children who have good experiences at Chets - and I hope your daughter is one of them - but there are plenty who don't and the reasons they don't are to a great extent institutional and (in my view) alterable. The award the Chets chef won was an in-house sodexo one (i.e. a PR gambit) and sodexo is a pretty nasty company (google it; check out the LRB blog). As a school Chets is certainly not in the same league - there are some wonderful individuals there among the academic and music staff which is why my kids are still there - but like sodexo all schools are in the PR business. Sometimes that can be more important than the welfare and education of individual children. Specialist music and dance schools are the only independent schools in the country to enjoy a high level of guaranteed government funding. This means they are not regulated by the market as other private schools are, but at the same time they are exempt from the regulation and scrutiny (eg. parent governors, Ofsted, FoI legislation) that applies to the state sector.
Tern, your posts sound almost word for word identical to a teacher who worked at Purcell and is now slating that on other forums!
Well I'm not a teacher and I have nothing to do with the Purcell School - although I have seen Norman Lebrecht's blog on the school's troubles and certainly agree with some of the comments made - i.e. that there are cultural/institutional reasons why things go wrong at music schools. It's not a matter of slagging schools off but being truthful and realistic - and also pointing to ways they could be better. Of course it's easier all round to agree with the PR and believe everything in the garden is rosy - especially if one has left one's child there - and to believe when things go wrong, it's down to the odd bad apple on the staff or kid who couldn't cope.
You insult most parents who are all too well aware of the flaws in a school - there are flaws in every school.
I don't mean to insult parents - why should I? But these schools are not like every school - they are specialist schools that stand outside the normal rules /system / market and cater for "special" children. The flaws are unique too, and I would argue tolerated precisely because the schools and their pupils are seen as sui generis. I'm not saying they shouldn't exist - just that they could be a lot better - in terms of the musical education and the pastoral care they provide. Why is it taboo to say so?
thank you Colleger this is help full information
This is so interesting as I've studied/ taught at Purcell, RCM, RAM & Trinity Laban. Also have many friends who were at Chets. I've never seen it all from auditioning parents' perspectives before.
Well - this is an old post- but I think all these schools are amazing, actually - Wells, Purcell, Chets- I don't think there is much going on thats more of a problem in these schools than in any other school, state or private. Maybe less sport, but the same or more than in state sector.
Plus, their intake is much wider demographically (or was when I went there). There is no perfect school. I was happy there and so were most of my friends -very friendly school.
Fanstastic music - expert teaching. If your dc wants to do music it will cost time - nothing to do with the school, just what music demands if fufilling ability is important.
Also - having just read post again- many Uni's have a foundation year for science students who might need it. Thats a good option for ex-music specialist and many will bring superb concentration, dedication and memorizing ability to a science course after studying music because thats what music trains you in.
What do parents think about the Andrade scandal in the papers this weekend? Abuse to teenagers by teachers taking advantage of teenagers in their care in conservatoires such as Chethams coming to light etc. Hopefully you can be reassured that things have changed?
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