Our School App Stay connected on the go...



"All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music

Walter Pater

"...musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul..."



We believe that all pupils should have access to musical learning and, whatever their level of musicianship, should be encouraged to participate in regular musical activities. It is known that exposure to music has the ability to stimulate and even enhance key aspects of development in young people.  Both in the classroom and in extra-curricular music, it provides a powerful and unique form of communication and self expression. Learning through music develops students’ critical skills, their ability to listen and to make judgements.  It also increases their self–discipline, creativity, the ability to take risks, their aesthetic sensitivity and sense of personal fulfilment.  By bringing together these elements of intellect and feeling, music can change the way students think and act towards each other.  Thus, positive engagement with music is encouraged for all students at CGS to provide these opportunities for their personal expression, reflection, and emotional well-being.


Music in Years 7-9

Every student learns about music in Years 7, 8 and 9. In one and a half hours of class music a week, students sing and play together on instruments such as the keyboard and recorder and learn how computer technology is used in music.  They are given frequent opportunities to compose music of their own from many different stimuli and thus learn to play and create music in a variety of styles and genres.

Students are encouraged to be confident performers who have the courage to play out. Rehearsals are collaborative affairs where students learn to listen attentively and encourage each other to improve.  They learn that mistakes don't matter as long as improvements are occurring over time.  In their own compositions, students feel able to take risks in front of each other because analysis of successful composers' music shows them that the creative process involves constant experimenting and discarding and refining.  Schemes in the lower school music course include Africa, Folksongs, Symphony, Jazz Improvisation, Dance Music, Variations, Minimalism, Concerto, Arranging and Song Writing.


Instrument Tuition

On entry to Year 7, students are encouraged to take a special interest in developing their current level of musical skills and enjoy more specialised teaching on an instrument from one of the twenty-two visiting instrumental teachers.  If they wish, they can be prepared for instrumental, theory and musicianship exams with Associated Board, Trinity Guildhall or London College of Music.

Instruments offered are: singing, piano, classical guitar, violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, saxophone, cornet, trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba, drum kit, electric guitar, bass guitar.  Our instrumental teaching team consists of well qualified professional performers who offer excellent tuition during the school day.  Many students remain with their instrument teachers throughout their school life and gain Grade 8 and even diplomas on their instruments while here.

Parents who wish to request instrument lessons for their child should first complete the Instrumental Tuition Request form which can be found on the website.  This form gives details of the fees and timings of lessons and also gives contact details for the music and finance departments.


GCSE Music in Years 10-11

Music at GCSE is aimed at enthusiastic musicians who are keen to build on their skills as performers and composers and to extend their knowledge of how music is created in a range of styles and genres of music.  About 30 students a year take music at GCSE at Chesham Grammar School.  They study for the Edexcel 9-1 qualification which has a 60% coursework option, allowing them to continue to focus on practical music, both as soloists and in ensembles.  At GCSE, students perform, compose and study scores of a range of composers from Bach to Queen.  They have opportunities to develop their analytical, comparative and evaluative writing skills and are encouraged to develop their own specialisms in the final coursework.  The course at a glance contains three units:


UNIT ONE: Performing Coursework - 30% of the total GCSE

Recordings of students’ solo and ensemble work are made at intervals during the course and the two best performances totalling 4 minutes are submitted for coursework.

UNIT TWO: Composing Coursework - 30% of the total GCSE
Students compose pieces based on choices from set areas of study and the two best compositions totalling 3 minutes are recorded and submitted with scores at the end of the course.
UNIT THREE: Listening & Appraising Listening Examination - 40% of the total GCSE

Students study set works from three Areas of Study.  In an hour and 45-minute written paper, sat at the end of Year 11, they respond to questions testing understanding of styles and techniques in the set works and in unfamiliar music helped by a CD of recorded extracts.

The syllabus caters for a wide range of musical abilities, but it is essential that students choosing music at GCSE commit to studying an instrument or singing and aim to achieve Grade 4 by the end of Year 10.  In addition, students need to be able to read and write musical notation in at least the treble clef to be able to access all examination questions.

GCSE results for Summer 2016 were 80% A*/A; 100% A*-C


Cambridge Pre-U Music

Post-16 Music has excellent transferable cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills for progression to university or music conservatoire or to the workplace for a music or arts related career path.  We replaced the A Level course with the two-year Cambridge International Pre-U in Music. This qualification, with its promotion of independent and self-directed learning, critical thinking and interpretative and comparative skills, is a particularly focused preparation for undergraduate study.  Assessment takes place at the end of the second year of the course, creating more time for musical development, since students will not undertake public music exams in Year 12.

Music has respectable numbers post-16: there are currently 14 students taking A Level/Pre-U Music at Chesham Grammar School.  It is still a practical subject at this level, but it is also an academic qualification and highly regarded by universities, even for those students not taking up music as their main subject.

The Pre-U involves recital performance and composition at a high level, historical study and analysis of set pieces and the study of harmony and counterpoint.  It has a high percentage of coursework, allowing students to continue to excel in practical music making and composition while the rest of the course gives them the opportunity to extend their analytical skills and develop fully as academic musicians. Independent learning is encouraged through a further personal study option that allows extension of skills through a challenging project of personal interest, choosing between a dissertation, advanced recital, free composition, or music technology project. Students can thus tailor their studies to suit their interests, and, importantly, their higher education plans.


Entrance requirements

GCSE Music Grade A
Grade 5 Theory
and at least Grade 5 practical (ideally Grade 6).

It is essential that students are able to read music in both the bass and treble clefs. Please note that Post-16, it is very important that all students have an instrument teacher and follow a course of guided study on their instruments.

Examination Board: Cambridge International Examinations (CiE)

The Pre-U course is in four components, leading to a full qualification at the end of Year 13.  It is 100% externally assessed.

COMPONENT 1: Listening, Analysis & Historical Study - 30% of the total qualification
Students will answer two listening questions from a CD and three essay questions relating to their study of Classical symphonies and Romantic operas and detailed study of a twentieth century set work.  Two one-and-a-half hour exams will occur in June of Year 13.
COMPONENT 2: Performing - 15% of the total qualification
In Year 13, students will prepare and present a solo or ensemble recital to a visiting examiner lasting about 15 minutes.  They will then show a different skill, either solo or ensemble or playing a different instrument, in a programme lasting about 6 minutes. To have access to the highest marks, students will need to perform at Grade 7 or above.
COMPONENT 3: Composing - 22.5% of the total qualification
Students will complete one exercise in a chosen genre-eg chorale harmonisations or keyboard accompaniments during a two-hour exam.  They will also submit ten exercises completed during the course in each of two genres.  They will, in addition, complete ONE composition, based on a commission but in a style of their choice.  A recording on CD will be made and a written score submitted.
COMPONENT 4: Personal Study - 25% of total qualification

Students will extend their musical skills through working independently over a prolonged period of time on a challenging project of their own.  Students choose whether to submit a dissertation of 3,500 words, an advanced recital of 30 minutes, a free composition or a music technology project for this component.

AS results for Summer 2016 were 67% Grade A; 100% A/B
A Level results in 2016 were 100% A*/B


Extra-Curricular Music

The Music Department has a lively programme of extra-curricular musical groups which meet weekly to prepare items for a number of termly events.  Students are encouraged to take leadership roles and several music groups are led by talented young musicians from Year 8 upwards.

Choir has a good balance of girls and boys and performs SATB music to a very high standard.  Its repertoire is highly varied, ranging from sacred anthems to popular music in 4-6 parts.

Men's Choir is a well attended group by boys from all years and sings in four part arrangements of popular film music and songs from musicals as well as sacred music.

Year 9 &10 Singers is a student - led group which has been together since Year 8 and specialises in close harmony arrangements of popular and folk music.

Orchestra currently has around 65 members, with string playing being a particular strength.  Repertoire ranges from film and musical theatre music to symphony movements. Orchestra is open to all ages and abilities.

Chamber Orchestra has more recently been run by talented musical sixth formers and regularly tackles more demanding repertoire pieces for players Grade 5 and above.

CGS String Quartet plays to a very high standard and is able to perform professional repertoire.

Brass Group has been a student run group from its inception eight years ago.  It performs regularly and has a repertoire of mainly light music.

Wind Group is a newly formed group and aims to exploit the growing number excellent flute and oboe players at CGS.  It is looking particularly to recruit bassoonists this year.


Main Events

Christmas In Words And Music is held in church every year in Chesham.  Over one hundred students are involved giving either festive readings or musical performances to celebrate the Christmas season.  This traditional and highly popular event is the one most fondly remembered by alumni.

Brass Group and the Choir perform annually in the community: the Brass Group at Workaid's Carol service at their Chesham workshops and the choir performs carols to Senior Citizens at Chesham Town Hall.

Spring Concert is held every March in the school hall.  There is invariably a theme chosen by the students and all extra-curricular groups contribute music of a high standard.

House Music is a House competition run by Year 12 prefects, culminating in a finals adjudicated concert in mid July each year.  All students are encouraged to take part in their house choir or to contribute to staging a musical theatre number or collaborating in a house band.  Alumni frequently assist with stage management and sound and lighting for this event.

Music often occurs in assemblies and Prize Giving evenings. Impromptu concerts and performances by the pupils are also frequent.

Students are given many opportunities to perform in the community - at the Town Hall, at local charities and primary schools in the town.  These initiatives are often led by the students themselves.

Students also enjoy visits in school from professional musicians such as our Musician in Residence, composing workshops from our alumni, brass and wind demonstrations from our instrument teachers, special focus days such as the recent Viola Day, African drumming workshops and occasional Indian music seminars.

They also have opportunities to enjoy music trips to see professional orchestras and artists perform.  In the last two years, choir has attended a singing workshop for schools at Watford Colisseum; GCSE and A Level students have visited the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall and Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury for performances of their set works and there have been trips to the opera at theatres in Hatfield and Milton Keynes.



Numerous A Level music students have gone on to study music at conservatoires or universities.  They keep in close touch and many regularly return to help with sound and lighting or to stage manage or play in our concerts.  Some have even returned more permanently to teach here, helping to shape a new generation of CGS musicians

Page Gallery