Music dilemma...not impressed with Wells, was thinking Chethams or Purcell but wondering if non-specialist school would be better

(28 Posts)
tinkerbel72 Wed 18-Apr-12 22:41:19

dd is Yr 7 at local school and very musical, Grade 8 already, plays in orchestras etc. She broached the idea of music school a year or two back; we felt she was too young then but fair play to her, shes stuck to her guns and insists that its what she wants.

She has had interviews and auditions at 2 schools - Wells Cathedral and Chethams and has been offered a place at both. Big dilemma though. Wells would be logistically easiest; we arent a million miles away and she could probably do part time boarding, coming home weekends and midweek. However, although the music side is great, I've heard a lot of negatives about other aspects - very middle of the road teaching, uninspiring fed up staff, pupils bunking off with no consequences, poor drama dept (dd also very into drama and musicals). I was with dd for the interview and personally found it very patronising and felt that as the parent it was just a very transparent hard sell.

Chethams was far more positive in terms of the interview; I felt dd and myself were treated as intelligent people and there was more of a sense that the Head wasnt talking down to us or only interested in our cheque book. Downsides to Chets are distance (we're quite far south) so dd would have to stay most weekends (she's up for it, I'm not so sure). Also the curriculum seems more narrow, though having said that, I was more impressed with the academic standards.

Im also now wondering whether a closer independent (non specialist) school might be the answer. Our nearest independent has great facilities; I have watched a couple of drama productions there (friends children go there) and was very impressed. Also very good art and desighn dept. Upsides would be great all round teaching and dd wouldnt need to board , though it would be an option to stay over now and then (dd's keen!), downside would be the music would be more an out of school thing; she would need to continue private lessons, though there are amazing orchestras and bands in the school so she would definately have the chance to play in lots of groups.

DD really doesnt know what to think either; the only thing shes sure of is that she wants the chance to play more music and do lots of drama and performance

ElphabaisWicked Wed 18-Apr-12 22:50:11

Chets has always had a good reputation.

Have you considered The Hammond School at all. It is probably more well known for its dance specialism but they also have drama and music specialist strands.

The advantage of Chethams though is that most children are funded on an MDS award so fees are based on a sliding scale of parental income. HAmmind only have MDS funding for its dance stream not the music one.

tinkerbel72 Wed 18-Apr-12 23:05:04

I hadnt heard of Hammond at all - I will investigate

hellsbells99 Wed 18-Apr-12 23:28:28

The Hammond has a reputation locally for being a great dance school but not very academic - if I remember correctly, grades are lower than the local state schools.

Colleger Thu 19-Apr-12 08:13:55

Drama and performance is practically zero at Chets and Purcell.

Colleger Thu 19-Apr-12 08:14:26

Have you thought about Tring Park?

gettingalifenow Thu 19-Apr-12 08:15:05

You could also consider a junior dept for Saturday at a conservatoire - lots of us on here have DC at one or other of the London colleges so we'd be happy to advise.

My DD, for instance, goes to a day independent school locally with good music, plays in the county youth and county brass orchestras and goes to RCM on Saturdays - plenty of music but she lives at home and academic work is still her main focus.

Several of her friends at RCM also go to Purcell during the week, so that's an option too, for 6 days a week of music if that's what you'd like!

Colleger Thu 19-Apr-12 08:54:34

The best balance is a JD. Wales would be your closest.

tinkerbel72 Thu 19-Apr-12 12:40:22

We're Gloucester so not handy for saturday mornings in London unfortunately, as that sounds like a good option.
I am moving further away from the idea of a narrow specialist school tbh. Dd is certainly very musical, but has broad interests and is also generally bright so I'm wary of her narrowing her options too early. I'm also very conscious that even if she loves music-making, it's a big leap to doing it professionally later on, and very few people will end up making a good living out of it. (ok money isn't the be-all, but I know many musicians in orchestras can barely scrape a living so it makes sense to keep her options broad.)

Wells appealed in theory, because it sells itself as offering a broad curriculum alongside the music, but I was so disappointed after visiting. Lots of development and new build going on, but I felt it was all gloss, and that the general school experience wasn't great. And no point in having drama on the timetable if it's going to be poor- and have heard from friends with kids there that it is poor at wells, as is general standards and boarding.

I will look at other saturday options closer to home. Chets seems great for someone who definately wants to dedicate their life to music music music- but dd is more of an all rounder (we think, at the moment)

Colleger Fri 20-Apr-12 20:50:31

Dean Close is a very, very good school for music and drama.

gettingalifenow Sun 22-Apr-12 08:10:34

I had another thought which might help - you could look at holiday options - the Ntaional Youth Orchestrra has two sessions a year - Easter and summer holidays - and the National Youth Theatre has summer courses. The are both fantastic standard and although you'd have to travel, everyone does and it doesn't cut into school term time.

And I don't want to push the London option for Saturdays if you think it's too far, but people do travel great distances and timetables can be adjusted to take account of how early you have to leave - but that may be something you come back to in a couple of years when she's older and you can see how much dedication you're going to need!

tinkerbel72 Sun 22-Apr-12 08:41:01

Thanks for the advice gettingalife. We has started thinking about summer courses, so will do some more investigating.

Good to know the London idea isn't something totally out of the realms of possibility too. I had assumed it would only be people around London who attended those, but if they are used to people coming some distance then it could be something dd opts for when she's a little older

MiceElfAgin Sun 22-Apr-12 20:25:59

Apologies if you already have this info . Have you looked into the CAT scheme? It allows talented children to stay at home while experiencing tuition on a par with the boarding schools. I don't have any experience of music cats but my son has been on the dance cat for 3 years and it's great.
There seems to be one in Cardiff would that be near enough?

Info here www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/subjects/b0068711/mds

mummytime Mon 23-Apr-12 07:04:11

Have you looked at the Cathedral Youth Choir, a lot of musicians spend some time as Choristers.

Dozer Mon 23-Apr-12 18:02:10

Another option would be state school plus a great teacher or teachers for the music, then if she still wanted to do it, boarding for sixth form.

I wouldn't be keen on my DC specialising too much in music too soon, even if v talented. I know some professional musicians (from local youth orchestra which I played in, lots people went to music colleges at or after 6th form). Is v v tough to make any money at all (many people are still financially supported by their parents well into adulthood, as v hard to get enough music playing work to pay rent etc), virtually impossible to get an orchestral job etc. Also not nice treatment from employers (who have their pick of numerous talented people so can treat people badly), lots sexism, not family-friendly (travel , unsocial hours, unpredictable work pattern making it hard to get childcare) etc.

And things are getting worse because of cuts in funding / competition from overseas players etc.

tinkerbel72 Mon 23-Apr-12 21:04:45

I agree dozer. On the one hand it's dds life, and I don't want to run it for her. But I feel I need to balance her enthusiasm with reality too. I also know professional musicians who just cannot afford to live independently as adults and it's worrying. I love that she loves music, but i know she could get a lot of enjoyment from it as an interest too, not just as a job

FayeFayeJune Wed 25-Apr-12 21:21:40

Hi, as a now grown up 'musical child'! Please persuade your daughter not to go to full time music school!! Make the trip to London, I was a Junior Guildhall girl from age 11 and can honestly say it was the best thing ever (travelled for 3 hours each way but was there from 9 in the morning till 6 at night so made the most of the journey!) It gives you the best of both worlds. Also see if your daughter wants to audition for National Children's Orchestra, it's brilliant and a great foundation before NYO.
There is really no advantage at all of going to full time music school, your career prospects (music wise) will be no different to musicians who were full time students however if you choose not to go into a career in music then you are of course in a much better position.
The important time to decide on full time music studies is when applying to music college at 18. Try and persuade her to wait till then!! Junior school affiliations will again really help when you audition for music college.
Try and contact some families with children at Purcell or Chets and find out what the day to day life is like, ignore the beautiful photos and blurb in the prospectus, I have heard more horror stories than I care to remember about these schools, especially from friends who started in year 7-9.
If she is really set on it, try and persuade her to wait until sixth form!

Sorry to sound so anti chets but I really really do believe that Junior departments are the best way forward if you want to become a well rounded, intelligent performer who has a concept of life outside the dreaded 'music bubble' and who is able to fill out their own tax form!!

Best of luck to your daughter, I hope she has a fantastic time as a young musician. :-)

FayeFayeJune Wed 25-Apr-12 21:45:02

Ooo also have a look at YMT:UK - pure bliss for a young performer!

I wish I was 11 again so I could do NCO and YMT:UK all over again! The absolute highlights of growing up. Xx

jasmiin Sat 28-Apr-12 12:45:02

No real time experience yet, but daughter is heading to Purcell this September. We are not counting on the quality of music teaching / mentoring but the standard and like-mindedness of the peers, which should be a great motivation!

We also hope music will take priority over academics, which is what she wants.

racingheart Wed 02-May-12 12:04:05

What about the Yehudi Menhuin in Surrey? I've met some pupils from there and it seems strong academically as well as hot on the arts and humanities subjects. (Don't know about maths & science.)

tinkerbel72 Wed 02-May-12 18:09:02

We did look at the yehudi Menuhin but were rather put off by the extremely small size- dd might have been one of about 6 in her year group! We worried about the lack of wider opportunities given its such a small setup

DonInKillerHeels Wed 02-May-12 18:13:20

I don't know for sure, but surely there are junior conservatoire-type arrangements in Cardiff? Closer than London for you and just as good.

Chets is great; a good choice. BUT....Unless she's 100% sure at this point that she really really must be a musician (or she will die), don't send her to a specialist music school. A more rounded school with good music plus junior conservatoire would be much better.

DonInKillerHeels Wed 02-May-12 18:14:26

(And definitely not the Menuhin school if you want her to have options beyond performance. Chets is definitely better than Menuhin if you want options, though still narrow.)

dancinglife Wed 26-Jun-13 23:23:38

Am thinking of Cardiff for my ds too (he is 8) - tried the main-steam school with private lessons thing for other ds and it didn't work out -constantly changing teachers who weren't that interested in the first place.

Is it any good (the Young RWCD in Cardiff)? Is the teaching a good standard?

They can lose motivation when they get to teen years and am hoping good music school/peer mentoring will be motivating.

dancinglife Wed 26-Jun-13 23:25:12

BTW we have musicians in the family - orchestral players - they make an OK living - not loaded but surviving and travel all over the world. its an exciting life - beats some jobs anyway.

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