Music in independent schools – full of opportunities for all

Posted on 23rd Nov 2022 in Which School?, School News, Music, Curriculum

How Durlston Court School embraces the power of music and the benefits it has for students and the wider community.

With a purpose-built Music School and dedicated staff, musical opportunities at Durlston Court School offer all children from Pre-Prep through to Senior the chance to find a love of music and to share the joy.

The music department headed by Director of Music, Caroline Moss, is a welcoming hub of learning, laughter, and creativity. From the age of four, Reception children receive weekly class music lessons with specialist staff and Pre-Prep children have their own orchestra. Run by the Head of Strings alongside senior pupils, the younger children relish the opportunity to listen to and play alongside the older pupils.

With a team of ten peripatetic staff teaching a full range of individual lessons it is no wonder that most Durlston children play an instrument ranging from piano to cello, to drums and electric guitar. It is the mission, however, of the music department that music is for all, regardless of age or ability, working hard to make music accessible.

In the classroom projects are designed to ensure that everyone, regardless of ability, can access the benefits of music. Creating protest songs to highlight plastic pollution, composing music for short stories, writing music for a film trailer, and generating a podcast are just some of the projects. Class concerts run every term, and every child is involved in some way.

Getting the older students more involved in the running of the department is important. A pupil prefect team have taken an active role in decision making. One of their ideas was to create a ‘Musical Mindfulness Room’ where students can book the small room and listen to classical music in a calming environment. Addressing mental health is more crucial than ever in the current climate, and music is a powerful tool in meditation and calming the brain. The Music Committee is a group voted in by the peers from Year 3–8. They meet together and discuss how to keep the music department moving forward. They are also in control of the last ten minutes of some lessons, where they bring a project to the class and Mrs Moss joins in as a student rather than a teacher. One of these projects involved Mrs Moss learning how to play the cello in front of Year 3 and 4 so they could see that everybody can learn something new, regardless of age!

Children have regular opportunities to perform throughout the year from informal concerts including ‘bands’ that have been created by the children in their break and lunch times to the more formal opportunities. There is a myriad of choirs, an orchestra, samba band, jazz band, various ensembles, and a ukulele band which have completed a tour of the local area raising money for charity.

Concerts at Durlston offer talented musicians the chance to shine, as well as music scholarships offered alongside senior responsibilities. There is an excellent record in examination results too. It is, however, music for the whole community which brings the added joy. As musicians performed in the grounds of a local care home, one resident said: “I look out of my window every day and see beautiful flowers, today I look out and see beautiful faces making beautiful music.”There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

A further demonstration of the power of music was during the school’s ‘Big Gig’ – a concert to raise funds for Ukraine charities. The event saw pupils, staff, parents, family and neighbours gather with picnic blankets and camping chairs as they settled to watch a music concert. Children from Years 3 to 8 sang and played their instruments, the Durlston Jazz Band, Samba Band, and Orchestra took to the stage to perform tracks old and new. The Choir Engine, a community choir, led by Caroline, also joined the school to perform and support the event. Mrs Moss had further challenged the children to raise money in their year groups and the children made crafts to sell and games to play and circulated the field with their buckets on the night. Mrs Moss explained proudly: “Every child worked extremely hard to learn music for the evening and to contribute in their own way. They have done it all with enthusiasm and passion and I have been humbled by their commitment.” In total £4048 was raised as part of this event, a long way from the initial £1000 target!

Whilst a music department might be found in one area of the grounds, the enthusiasm, positivity, and joy are certainly felt across the school and continues to extend to the local community – a true demonstration of the power of music.

This article first appeared in the 2023 edition of Which School? You can view the digital version of the guidebook here: