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Music grade 8 at top schools (Wycombe Abbey, St Paul's Girls, etc)(77 Posts)
On average, by what year (before/after GCSE?) do pupils pass ABRSM/Trinity Grade 8 music exams in order to be in the top symphony orchestras at schools like WA and SPGS? Is it "normal" for musically-high-achieving girls to go for ABRSM diplomas beyond Grade 8, even if they are not planning for a music career?
I don't quite understand what you're asking re the school orchestras. As far as I know, most schools only have 1 orchestra? Maybe I'm wrong in this assumption though.
Yes, plenty of people (boys and girls) take diplomas if they are good enough. These are usually 6th form pupils.
My pupils (brass) get grade 8 ranging from year 9 - 13.
Dd was in a top county orchestra (they won a trip to the Albert Hall for beating all the others) and the grade requirement was 6, I strongly doubt even the most exclusive private school (apart from music colleges) have enough musicians to require grade 8! Dd auditioned for her place. The top musicians at the schools you mention will be playing in county orchestras or music college junior depts
I’ve worked in one of the schools you’ve mentioned and in the music department of the boys school associated with it. Most of these schools will have more than one orchestra, and the music they play in their top one will be of an incredibly high standard. In one school I worked in they had three pupils who could each play the Grieg piano concerto, so they split it into three and each of them played a movement each in the end of term concert. If your daughter is a string or brass player then grade 7/8 will probably be enough to get into the top ensembles. For flute/clarinet or the more popular instruments you would possibly need to be diploma standard to play in the top orchestra simply because of high numbers of players within the school and you only need a couple of those in each orchestra. In my experience of working in these kinds of schools there are very bright children who are extremely able across the board and will often have taken grade 8 on an instrument by year 10/11 even If they’re not planning a music career.
How times have changed.
40 years ago, I made it into the orchestra of one of the aforementioned schools after 1 lesson. (Tympani. The previous players had just left).
LEH top orchestra is g6 strings/wind g7/8 brass (who they don’t have enough of so they end up bringing in professionals for concerts)...
There are a good number of girls who arrive in year 7 with g8 done...most of top orchestra will do it by end yr8...
@TeenTimesTwo Me too!
I played in my university symphony orchestra concert after 6 lessons - Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony was on the programme & it was a baptism of fire. This was on double bass. I played the piece again 3 weeks ago. I can play a few more notes now!
Crumbs - doing grade 8 by the end of year 6 is really impressive.
Jeez, at my school’s symphony orchestra you were generally allowed to audition for second violins after grade 5, first violins you had to be especially asked (therefore probs 7ish) - it was a real honour.
Wind and brass were always especially asked too; only the best were allowed in the symphony orchestra and everyone else was in the concert band.
This sounds like another level of musicianship, though. How times have changed!!
Yes, particularly as WA and SPGS are really academic (so not places where people would focus solely on music).
DD in one of these schools even one girl who came into year 7 with grade 8 in a string instrument didn't make the top orchestras and probably won't in year 8. It does depend on the instrument brass it's easier. I don't think it's a great environment for those good musicians that are grade 5/6 in year 7 and know they may not get into the top orchestras until year 10.
What is the second tier of orchestra like? It might be that the second tier is the same as a top orchestra at another school.
At DS2's prep school (so ending in Year 8) there is no chance of getting into the quartets unless taking the at least the same grade as the name of the year, if you see what I mean. First violins in orchestra at least working in grade 7 to scrape in. Strings always the hardest tough
Thank you everyone for your replies. Just to clarify, I wasn't wondering about the grade level needed for entry to top school orchestras, but rather about the usual age/class year by which most girls would achieve grade 8 and be able to enter orchestras such as Wycombe Abbey's Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra. (The website explicitly states that Grade 8 is required for entry to these orchestras.) Sounds like the year of achieving Grade 8 can vary a lot, from coming into Year 7 already with Grade 8, to achieving Grade 8 in 6th form. Sorry for repeating the question, but is their an "average" year or year range by which most students achieve this Grade 8 and enter the top orchestras? That is, do most top orchestra students achieve Grade 8 before GCSE (Year7-9), or during GCSE (Year10-11), or 6th form (Year 12-13)? Alternatively, in which class years does the majority of the top orchestra (Grade 8+) intake occur?
Apologies again for belabouring the point...I myself took lessons a long time ago as a student and only made it to Grade 5-6 level by the end of Year 12 (I wasn't super-motivated musically), and then quit. In my class there were only 4 students who made it into the very top orchestra upon entering the school, and it seemed like achieving Grade 8 was a pretty big deal that few students could do before Year 12-13 (unless they came from a musical family and had been taking lessons since they were toddlers...). But times have changed now, it seems!
Before GCSE and diploma year after gcse
I think what people forget, is that in these very academic schools, the students are very driven about all aspects of achievement, including extra curricular. It's not a question of focusing on the academics OR extra curricular, but achieving at the highest levels in both. So loads of girls will play county and sometimes national level sport and lots will have been playing instruments since Yr 2 and steadily progressing through the grades. They are bright and capable of making excellent progress in a range of fields. It still won't be usual for the majority to have taken G8 by Yr6, but many who aren't musical whizz kids or destined for music college or a career in music can reach G4-5 by the end of Yr6 and by plodding Lomg at a grade every year or so, will certainly reach G8 by GCSE or the end of school. It is impressive how many get to that level and therefore the standard in the orchestras (and there will be many ensembles and orchestras in those top schools because all who want to play need accommodating) but this is what you'd expect of a top school. Most will stop at G8 though and not go onto diploma level.
When they get to uni, the orchestras require a very high standard, because all of those G8 players are converging on a few places. Those from schools where they really were unusual in their musical achievements are often suddenly surprised to find just how many seem to be at their level or above. It's less of a shock for those from the schools where huge numbers reach those top grades. I think the same applies to sport.
I don't remember school life being so competitive as a child/teenager.
There would be perhaps a handful of children at grade 8 on one instrument only by A-level in most schools I knew of.
When did children become so incredibly driven?
It's not a criticism - just an observation.
Sherry, good question!
I think music has become another thing that parents can push to make their children stand out. It seems particularly prevalent in London and the home counties, perhaps because of the competition for decent school places?
I am a pro classical musician who's had a decent career; I got grade 8 on my first instrument at 12, which was considered unusual back then, but seems to be considered standard ( or even old) now. Yes, there were a few prodigies, but even among my friends who were aiming for a career, grade 8 before 13/14 wasn't the norm.
Wow. Dd2 is at a very good girls school and there are lots of grade 8s by year 11. But she was secind violins with grade 5. Grade 8 in year 7 would be exceptional.
Sherry 20 years ago, Music Scholars at SPGS came in at G6/7 on their first instrument (they would have two or three more) and did G8 before GCSEs. To get into Senior Orchestra was minimum G5, though in practice substantially higher for many instruments. So I’m not sure it’s changed that much.
It’s a very musical school with many different choirs and ensembles - even the entrance exam day included singing as relaxation between exams.
My daughter is working on Grade 8 now (just finished year 10) She will do the exam in year 11 before her GCSEs. She’s at a well known all girls school in the South East. Most girls go on to do the diploma but my daughter is a bit hesitant. I’m not sure she enjoys the pushy ness of the school. I’m proud of her whatever grade she is. (She’s not a music scholar btw) All members of orchestra are grade 6 and above.
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