Would you send a child to a specialist music school?

(62 Posts)
Colleger Tue 02-Aug-11 19:03:44

DC has asked to audition for the Purcell and I'm not sure what to do. I don't mind DC auditioning but if it is a YES, then I'm unsure what to do. The place would be for entry into Year 7.

Has anyone gone through such a school at a young age and was the academic education up to scratch? Where did the school fall short - was PE/Games adequate, were there opportunities to debate and take part in academic competitions such as the Olympiads?

MrsHoolie Mon 15-Aug-11 22:25:31

I wouldn't say the majority joined in 6th form,many joined at 11 (not sure what that year is in the current system!).

There was only one class of juniors at Chet's,we had a ball as it was like a big adventure.of course some kids had major homesickness issues understandably.

I think a lot depends on your upbringing,your relationship with your parents and also your personality. If you are a very sociable person then boarding is great fun.

If one of my children were to excel in something I would worry about them narrowing their options should they go to a specialist school. I am one of the lucky ones....I knew I wanted a job in an orchestra from a young age and I got one straight out of music college luckily. But there are many musicians who have not fulfilled their dreams.

I'm not saying I don't think your son should go to music school but be aware that some things will naturally have less importance,be it sport or range of academic subjects available.

For me that kind of school was great but obviously there will be many who hated it. My parents would have taken me out had I hated it too.

Other options are Saturday music college,and NYO (can't remember what age it starts from).

I went to Wells as a non musician and disagree with those that say it's not academically good. I got straight a's! grin

It's also very good at giving all its pupils, even the specialist musicians, a reasonably normal life rather than a hothouse.

I loved it.

Namechangeoshame Mon 15-Aug-11 23:35:41

I wouldn't say Wells is bad academically, (also got a crop of As there, a little before your time) but it can't compare with the hyper-academic selective private schools or the insanely competitive grammars.

snorkie Tue 16-Aug-11 10:51:16

It sounds like an ideal school to me - one where bright children can thrive and everyone can develop their talents but not at the cost of deeming 95% of the population a failure and denying them access (aside from the cost issue of course).

toniguy Fri 19-Aug-11 10:00:07

A work colleague has a dd who boards at wells. She is a specialist musician and intends to make a career in music and thrives in it. My colleague is upfront about it though: she says from visits and parents evenings she is distinctly underwhelmed by much of it, uninspiring teachers etc. Her other children are at our local state school and she rates those higher in terms of general experience, but says if you have an amazingly musical child' then theres really no option but specialist school. I agree- if my children were highly talented and intended to make a career in music I would look at specialist music schools,'but if they aren't dead set on it, your probably better off keeping your options wider

Colleger Fri 19-Aug-11 18:18:17

So I asked DS if he wanted to be a musician today and he looked at me as if I'd asked the dumbest question - "of course mum, why would you even ask?!". There was a moment when I thought I should reconsider when he mentioned that he would have some fallbacks. Until he told me it was being an international cricket player and a formula one test driver! We'll stick with the musician path then!

Everyone I know is underwhelmed by Wells and scathing about the academics so he ain't going there!

exaspomum Sun 21-Aug-11 22:17:16

My DD goes to a specialist music school in Scotland and LOVES it. The only disadvantage is that she is almost ridiculously busy in November and March when there is often a cluster of music performances - school concerts, local music festival and sometimes AB exams. Good luck with your decision.

coffeeaddict Mon 22-Aug-11 11:22:56

I would sound a slight note of caution. Even the most talented, committed musicians (I was one) can reconsider. I pursued music doggedly till leaving school, then realised a career in it wasn't for me. My sister was an amazing precocious cellist and was offered a place at the Menuhin school very young. My parents turned it down and thank God, because she grew up to become a lawyer who likes music but certainly doesn't want to earn a living from it. We were both glad to have not just academic back-ups, but other interests, hobbies and a broad education.

Even now I wish I had done less piano/violin practice during my teens and more drama. Yes, I did love reaching a very high standard, performing, composing... and I was passionate about music, but then, looking back, I had never had the chance to explore other areas fully.

caffeineaddict Mon 22-Aug-11 14:50:42

Such wise words coffeeaddict

coffeeaddict Tue 23-Aug-11 12:17:39

Ha ha, caffeineaddict, are we related? smile

mistlethrush Tue 23-Aug-11 12:29:30

I was lucky to have the advantage of a wonderful Saturday morning music school option - which turned into county youth orchestra one week a month. A friend at school did Guidhall saturday morning school - and had cello lessons there. I went onto do the music degree and loved it - she did English. Not that I'm doing music now - just enjoy playing and singing when I want to. BiL went to Chets - PiLs didn't really have much choice because of his precocious talent - but they're not particularly OTT with their praise of it generally. He is, now, a very sucessful musician - but whether going there had that much influence on that I don't know - possibly the degree in Cambridge followed by a year in Glasgow might have had more impact.

I'm of the opinion that it's our job as parents to let them pursue their dreams, while making sure they haven't burnt their bridges in the process. Most musicians don't make a living at it, but that doesn't mean there is no point in going to a music school, doing music at university, spending time practising etc.

We've just always made sure DS knows that most musicians have to do other things to make ends meet - he sees his very talented music teachers and knows how many other things they have to do to earn a living apart from performing, so he understands it's not just a question of what he wants to do, but also luck.

So, if your son wants to do this, and its reasonably practical for you, I'd let him go for it.

spiderpig8 Tue 23-Aug-11 19:22:14

Based on experience amongst my friends DCs who have gone to music and ballet schools ,the drop out rate is very high.

confidence Tue 23-Aug-11 23:23:05

I would sound a slight note of caution. Even the most talented, committed musicians (I was one) can reconsider. I pursued music doggedly till leaving school, then realised a career in it wasn't for me. My sister was an amazing precocious cellist and was offered a place at the Menuhin school very young. My parents turned it down and thank God, because she grew up to become a lawyer who likes music but certainly doesn't want to earn a living from it. We were both glad to have not just academic back-ups, but other interests, hobbies and a broad education.

There'a a lot of truth in that, but the problem is that the obsessive focus on music in youth and having the "choice" to do it as a career or not, are two sides of the same coin.

The fact that music is so incredibly competitive, poorly paid and hard to make work as a career makes one want to leave "options open" as you say. If a child develops at some stage an equally passionate interest in law or engineering, and are clever, it's hard to ignore the fact that they'll be much more likely to have a securing and fulfilling career doing one of those. And if a child likes other "arty" things like drama, it's hard to avoid the feeling that being able to enjoy taking part in all those is probably better for their personal development than practising four hours a day.

But OTOH, it's precisely because music is so incredibly competitive, poorly paid and hard to make word as a career that it's important to do the obessive thing in early childhood if a child or their parents think they might want to. There are two possible answers to extreme comptetitiveness - to walk away and decide it's not for you, or to enter the competition, bring every ounce of force you can to it and win. Either is valid, but anything in between isn't really.

You say for example that your sister's place at the Menuhin school was turned down and then she became a lawyer, but who knows? Maybe if she HAD gone there, and been surrounded by incredibly talented and dedicated musicians through her childhood, she would have wanted to become a musician, and become a happy and successful one? I'm not saying she would, only that these things work both ways. We make choices for our children to give them options, but those choices also determine, limit or bias those options.

With most professions, you only really need to start thinking about what a child will do when they come to choose their GCSEs. If by that point they're showing passionate interest and ability in medicine, art or running a business, then you go with it - no need to worry too much about it before that. But with fields requiring high levels of extremely detailed physical training like music, ballet or sport (and all of these being highly competitive fields with not much living to offer anyone below the very top), it just doesn't work like that.

Noone ever took up music at 16 and became a professional. OTOH noone knows what they'll want to do as a profession when they're five. What do you do? It's a judgment call, I suppose. My personal view is that schools like Chets and Purcell are academically strong enough that they won't really stop someone from doing well in another field if that's how they end up. Their results seem to be well above average for comprehensives and closer to those of some grammars or private schools. And it's not like somebody can't take a year out and go enrol at a college to get another A Level if they need to. I think any possible "damage" to a kid's prospects in a non-musical field from going to a music school is likely to be less than the potential damage to their prospects in music from turning down the opportunity at such a formative stage.

Also with the new tuition fees regime, I think people probably really need to work out whether they want to do something as barmy as music (and by "want" I mean, "can't conceive of not doing it") by the time they're 18, not 22 after a degree and 50 grand's worth of debt. If these schools have high drop-out rates, then it's probably no bad thing that kids are getting the chance to find out for themselves what being a musician is really like good and early, while they still have time to discover it's not for them and move on.

IMHO.

roentgenium Wed 24-Aug-11 00:14:29

"Either is valid, but anything in between isn't really"

I disagree. Very valid to continue to enjoy making music, and get proficient enough to continue to enjoy it as a hobby throughout life.

"Also with the new tuition fees regime, I think people probably really need to work out whether they want to do something as barmy as music"

This isn't right either. The new tuition regime strongly favours would be musicians as 99% of them will never earn enough to pay much if any of their loan back at all. I know musicians under the old system just getting their loans written off as they've never earned enough to repay it, but now musicians can earn a lot more without paying a penny and are quite likely to get their degrees for free. People doing degrees that lead to low paying jobs are the big winners under the new system.

confidence Wed 24-Aug-11 10:03:46

I disagree. Very valid to continue to enjoy making music, and get proficient enough to continue to enjoy it as a hobby throughout life.

Not sure what you're disagreeing with - I completely agree with this.

I was referring to the extreme competitiveness of doing music as a profession. One way of responding to that is to "walk away" - ie to ignore that aspect of it and just do it for fun, as you say. In fact this is probably the best way for most people.

All I meant was that IF you're going to enter the competition - ie attempt to do it as a career - you need to do so with 100% dedication and every possible advantage (such as lots of work on it as a child) behind you. It's not a competition that has a lot of second prizes. The problem of course is that most chiildren don't really know whether they'll want to do that when they're 8, 10, 12 etc, which is when that work needs to be done. So parents need to make a judgment call based on their abilities and apparent leanings.

And most musicians will end up earning over 21 grand a year if they want to anything like own a house or have a family. They just probably won't earn it from playing their instrument.

mistlethrush Wed 24-Aug-11 11:30:13

I know what you're saying about a music degree confidence - I have one - and whilst I don't regret doing it for a moment, and feel that it was a very sound 'first' degree and taught me how to learn and study very effectively, its not what I've ended up doing - and I had to do a 2 yr masters on top to get into that profession (which I had to pay for myself - which I did by teaching violin one day a week at the local grammar school!). Yes. I could have done music as a profession, but I also don't regret not doing it as a profession.

roentgenium Wed 24-Aug-11 12:59:22

ah I miss understood confidence, thought you were saying you may as well not bother with music at all. That makes more sense and I agree totally.

Also agree that music is as good a general degree as history or geography and doesn't preclude earning lots. But the musicians I know don't, and as you actually need to earn quite a lot more than £21k before the repayments start to be significant, I still think that people choosing a music degree with the intention of working in the field need to worry about the fees less than most.

Colleger Sat 10-Sep-11 21:31:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Colleger Fri 23-Sep-11 08:15:30

Update:

DS has been offered a place at Purcell and we've decided to accept. We didn't go and see Chets because it would have confused things and realistically, Manchester is not a convenient location for us. We've decided to send him but I'd be interested to know what the kids are like there. My son is a lively boy and loves his music but has periods where he is not the most focussed. Do they expect children to be compliant drones?

Theas18 Fri 23-Sep-11 08:52:42

That good news colleger :-)

I should hope they don't expect compliant drones - artists are very much individuals after all.....

callmemrs Thu 06-Oct-11 21:10:29

Dhs family are very musical. His sister went to Chets and loved it. Niece is a strings player and went through the Menuhin school, which is very small, and limited in terms of friendship groups but was perfect for her and shes now at the royal academy. Nephew was at Wells and like others have said, very disappointing. Amazing location and excellent facilities, but wasted as the management are out of date and uninspiring. Nephew is very bright and found a lot of lessons deeply dull and pedestrian. He's now at chets and flourishing. Am rather envious of dhs family as would love to have musical children.

Colleger Thu 06-Oct-11 22:13:40

DS got into Purcell and we make a decision on Saturday as to whether we will send him. I wasn't blown away but I am used to top notch private school facilities and the ethos that goes with it. However I think it will fit DS quirky personality and we are running out of ways to help him. Anyone can give me more of a lowdown on Purcell then I'd be very grateful.

gettingalifenow Fri 07-Oct-11 10:02:54

Well done Colleger's DS!

All I can offer is that DD has a couple of friends from Saturday JD who go to Purcell and they are lovely kids.

MrsHoolie Sun 06-Nov-11 14:43:44

Many of my friends and colleagues went to Purcell and were very happy there.
Congratulations to your son.

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