- Sixth Form
The arts have been a contentious topic in the news this year with increasingly conflicting views about the value and place they have in society. Throughout lockdown, music has been a vital lifeline for students’ wellbeing, confidence and self-belief. With three musicians that left Millfield last year now attending a university known to have one of the most prestigious music courses in the UK, Millfield’s Director of Music Matthew Cook explains why music in education is so important for young people.
One of our greatest strengths at Millfield is our ability to allow students the opportunities to develop into the musicians they want to become. Alongside this we encourage students to aim high with their musical ambitions and be confident that they can make a living out of music. Recent leavers Harvey Morland, Cameron Murray and Rowan Wilson all hope to pursue a career in music, and Millfield Music School was where they were able to discover their passion and pursue their creative curiosity.
Harvey, Cameron and Rowan began their Millfield music journey with performance as their core focus but as extremely capable academics, they quickly developed an ability and contagious enthusiasm towards understanding music at a much deeper level. Often not perceived as a ‘core subject’, music is frequently overlooked, however the skills that music develops, the ability to listen, read, and analyse, along with essay-writing, composing and performing, are all transferable across the curriculum. Students studying Music also develop skills crucial to all areas of life, be it development of communication skills, developing self-esteem and building confidence.
Millfield develops musicians by exposing them to as many different styles and musical disciplines as possible. It is important to provide the freedom for students to dedicate themselves to their areas of passion and expertise, whilst ensuring they also follow a programme that builds a core skillset. Millfield strives to develop a lifelong passion for the subject, promoting independence and curiosity.
“The Concerto Concert was something I don’t think I would have ever experienced or will experience in my lifetime again.” Cameron Murray
Millfield students are fortunate to benefit from an incredibly supportive environment that provides a world class musical education. The department’s aim is to enable access to the best musical opportunities for all, regardless of experience or ability, across all genres and styles. Millfield are passionate about breaking down the barriers that young people face in participating in music, unlocking their creativity and building a pathway for them to discover their brilliance.
Students can take part in a vibrant ensemble programme, with over 35 rehearsing weekly, up to 60 performances a year, as well as participating in renowned festivals, competitions, worldwide concert tours and regular performances at Wells Cathedral. For many, one of the highlights of their Millfield experience are the workshops from some of the world’s leading musicians, as part of the ‘International Concert Series’, and the incredible opportunity to perform in the annual Concerto Concert. With the expertise of 30 specialist tutors and 11 full-time teachers, many students leave Millfield with a new passion or skill they never would have discovered without stepping into the department. Whilst maintaining an inclusive programme, our Music School ensures sector-leading provision for those on specialist pathways, with many students securing places at major conservatoires.
Giving Students a Voice
Our students’ voices are echoed in the diverse range of concerts, ensembles and musical tuition on offer. Harvey, Cameron and Rowan are prime examples of students who took it upon themselves to inspire and enthuse, making the department their own, in a safe, nurturing, yet challenging environment. Whilst at Millfield, Cameron wrote a motet for 8-part choir and worked with Millfield Dance on a specially-commissioned piece; Rowan set up a Jazz Sextet, performing regularly in school events and Harvey completed an exceptional research project into Beethoven’s piano writing whilst composing a staggering piano trio. This term alone, we have put on a dynamic series of virtual concerts, continued to deliver a substantial programme of lessons and ensembles, and have welcomed our largest ever GCSE, BTEC and A level music sets. It is a programme full of endless opportunity for the students, one in which their voice helps shape its evolution.
Developing Resilience in a Supportive Environment
“The Music Department at Millfield feels like one big family.” Rowan Wilson
Music is an integral part of our community and provides a welcome haven to the busyness of school life. It teaches students to express their emotions, take risks and deal constructively with feedback. There is no greater privilege than watching musicians express themselves and display emotion in its rawest form, but to also give students the confidence to develop their own interpretation of music. Young people are put into a vulnerable position when performing publicly; this is the perfect preparation for so many different life endeavours, from job interviews and auditions, to staying calm under pressure and being adaptable.
“Music provides a safe and supportive environment for students to discover that hard work leads to success. Talent is not innate or inbuilt but a reflection of a student’s dedication to their chosen musical pursuit.” Director of Music, Matthew Cook
Our musical alumni epitomise the positive impact studying music has on your future. Harvey, Cameron and Rowan are at the start of the next chapter of their musical journeys, having had the pleasure of looking up to a wealth of inspirational musicians. From prize-winning violinist, erhuist and Associate of The Royal Academy of Music, Amy Yuan, to world-renowned violinist and 2019 winner of the prestigious Michael Hill International Violin Competition, Anna Im, Millfield students don’t have to look far for inspiration. Other Millfield alumni who have gone on to work in the industry include opera singer, William Wallace, recording artist, Ella Eyre, Mumford & Sons bassist, Ted Dwayne, and composer, Stewart Copeland.
“When I joined Millfield, I had no intention of studying music. After making the most of the numerous opportunities, I decided to take music at A level and embrace fully its programme of performance. If I hadn’t, I would certainly not be in the position I am today, so I am extremely grateful to the department for giving me the opportunities to realise my passion for music and explore it as far as I wanted.” Rowan Wilson
Providing a creative outlet is the key to discovering untapped brilliance in every student. If we don’t start developing and embracing positive associations surrounding music education and its wider benefits, it will always be deemed as a subject for specialists, not for all, one that will continue to be overlooked and undervalued. Here at Millfield, we are continuing the conversation and our students are proof that studying music can lead to life-changing possibilities.