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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?

AMumInScotland Mon 17-Jun-13 13:12:40

caritomama you'd probably be better off starting a new thread with a suitable title - maybe with an idea of area -as people will get confused on here and probably not be as much help to you.

eg I have some experience, but up here in Scotland, which isn't much help to you!

Xenia Mon 17-Jun-13 12:33:22

Yes, I saw that too although someone did post on it earlier today...
One of mine seems to have managed to be a phantom member of the choir this year (voice broke) which is the opposite of the Habba son's impressive efforts.

There really is a lot of music in the music boarding schools and if you happen to change your mind about how important it is later it then is hard in my view. Also music is one of the worst paid careers there is and most people end up teaching in schools for a pittance an hour rather than become a leading soloist so I suspect for many it is best to keep it as a hobby.

HabbaDabbaDoo Mon 17-Jun-13 12:22:01

Gawddammit! Just realized I replied to a zombie thread.

HabbaDabbaDoo Mon 17-Jun-13 12:20:24

We considered Purcell but when we look at their academic results they were ok as opposed to outstanding. In the interest of keeping DS's career options open we decided to look for a 'normal' academic school with a challenging music program.

DS has orchestra practice twice a week and quartet practice once a week. Saturday's he attends a Saturday morning music program where he spends 3 hours doing (another) quartet, strings orchestra and symphony orchestra. The school orchestra sessions does get in the way of a lot of the extra curriculum stuff but this didn't stop him being in the hockey team.

This way DS can indulge his passion for music but it keeps doors open if at a later stage he decides that he wants a 'regular' job.

Xenia Mon 17-Jun-13 12:03:30

A bit of an old thread... but.... some of ours could have gone to music boarding schools (3 won music scholarships to academic day schools instead) but (a) I am not happy with boarding although had they wanted they coudl have gone but did not want to (like own home, own bed, own time, total lack of regulation of life too much) (b) I think the top 20 academic day schools tend to have music which is good anyway whilst also not being too focussed on music.

Reigate grammar is 100th on the FT league tables which sounds pretty good. I don't know about its music. Purcell school is 411th much much worse for A level results.

I think it can be a bit young to pick a music career in a residential music boarding school at 11+ although for some children it will be the best choice.
Chetham's is 308th and cannot find Yehudi M school.

caritomama Mon 17-Jun-13 11:56:49

As there aren't many schools specialising in music, we'd have to move house to get our daughter into one. although its obviously impossible to tell what a child will do in the future she is very gifted musically and spends most of her time playing, composing and talking about music (and maths). I'm wondering about schools that dont specialise in music but just have a very good music department, Reigate Grammar, for example, as this one is close to us. Could anyone offer advice?

hardboiled Wed 14-Nov-12 10:21:10

Hi Colleger, just wondering how your DS is doing in Purcell?

diamondsinthesand Wed 14-Nov-12 03:24:31

This is an old post but to add to the mix - some musical/artistic children can also be a bit 'wierd/different' - not to their parents, but to their less sensitive peers.
So a specialist music school (I went to one) can be a kids first oportunity to be completely accepted and 'normal' . Then they make really good friends and the teamwork of a good orchestra is way beyond anything an academic school can offer.
That can make a huge difference in life. I remember kids who found they weren't bullied for the first time in their lives and others who would have been mincemeat in an ordinary school, but who were safe in a hothouse musical environment.
That's a huge part of success and future happiness, whatever you end up doing, such as law or medicine or modern languages etc.

rufus8 Thu 10-Nov-11 16:04:04

Indeed. I would hardly describe the music as average particularly that associated with the Cathedral.
On reflection I think we all need to be careful asking for advice. Nothing beats ones own instinct. We should also be cautious... some who post on musmnet( if you look at the message record) seem to have an opinion on every independent school in the UK ( which is odd) and do not compare like with like. Not every one can afford or know the scholarship system of the top public schools. Nor indeed would they want to sign up to the values they promote.The bottom line is that its great to have a forum to find out information but it needs to be treated with caution.This is explained by the forum guidelines

mummytime Wed 09-Nov-11 21:18:50

I don't know why people are down on Wells either. The cathedral's organ scholar last year had been there and was fabulous, now a prestigious Oxford college Organ scholar.

Colleger Wed 09-Nov-11 20:43:13

Depends what you want Rufus. I wouldn't choose Wells to specialise in music or choose it as an academic independent but if you have an average child then they'll have a wide range of good opportunities there.

rufus8 Wed 09-Nov-11 13:14:35

panic....DS starting at Wells..everyone seems so down on it

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.....

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


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?

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.


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.

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