Subject Team

Head of Department:  Mrs L Doogan MA BMus LTCL ALCM PGCE


EA Southern Region

Upper strings: Mrs D McConville

Woodwind: Mr F Juhasz

Brass: Mr W McLean

Harp: Ms A McAlinden


Guitar: Mr D Millar

Voice: Mrs C Wilson

Drum kit: Mr S Maginnis

Department Aims

The Music Department aims to help students to:

  • Enjoy and appreciate music through learning to listen, perform, compose and appraise music from a range of different styles and periods of history;
  • Acquire skills which will allow them to progress to further academic or vocational study, or to follow a music-related career;
  • Take part in a wide ranging and challenging extra-curricular programme.


GCSE Music

Examination Board: CCEA

What is GCSE Music about?

GCSE Music is a subject suited to the student who has a passion for Music, for understanding how it works and an open mind to exploring new styles. It is also a subject that requires students to already have a practical experience of Music. Students will continue to develop instrumental or vocal performing skills through their private or EA tutors, striving for a minimum of grade 4. Ensemble skills will be introduced at this stage and students will learn how to perform in a group situation and appraise their work. In the classroom students will learn the theory of music which will ultimately develop their composing and listening skills, allowing them to create and understand how music works. Set pieces drawn across 400 years of musical history gives students a broad overview of Classical and popular musical styles, leading to an appreciation of music and laying the foundation for further study. The study of GCSE Music develops useful skills such as creativity, analysis, confidence, discipline, problem solving and communication.

What topics will I study and how will I be assessed?

Unit 1: Composing


Controlled Assessment

2 compositions over 25 hours

Unit 2: Performing


1 solo, 1 ensemble, viva voce – visiting examiner35%
Unit 3: Listening


External Examination

1.5 hour listening paper


What can this subject lead to?

GCSE Music is a pre-requisite for the study of Advanced Level Music. The study of Music strengthens one’s ability to listen critically, evaluate, research, appreciate the value of context, analyse, apply technology, compose, present and perform. All these skills are transferable to many careers not specifically related to Music (e.g. research based careers, administration). Specific music related careers include performing, composing, arranging, arts administration, concert hall management, promotion of the arts, recording industry, music therapy, classroom teaching, peripatetic teaching, television and radio presenting and researching.


Yr 12 music class

A Level


Examination Board: CCEA

What is A Level Music about?
AS and A2 Music develop essential knowledge and understanding of the many aspects of Music. Pupils have opportunities to develop composition and performance skills to a higher level and study several music topics in more depth, looking at the social and cultural context to works and composers. Set pieces are studied for the aural perception paper alongside a more in depth appreciation of the various periods of music. Works not specifically studied will also be assessed in the examination. 

What will I study and how will I be assessed?

AS ContentAssessmentWeighting
Unit 1 Performing:

·         Solo (grade 6)

·         Viva voce

External Examination assessed by visiting examiner


35% of AS

14% of A level

Unit 2 Composing:

·         Recorded composition

·         Commentary

Coursework, externally marked


35% of AS

14% of A level

Unit 3 Responding to Music:

·         Music for Orchestra 1700-1900

·         Sacred vocal music (anthems)

·         Secular vocal music (musicals)

Two External Examinations:

·         Aural Perception Examination

·         Written Examination

30% of AS

12% of A level

A2 ContentAssessmentWeighting
Unit 1 Performing:

·         Solo (grade 7)

·         Viva voce

External Examination assessed by visiting examiner


21% of A level
Unit 2 Composing:

·         Recorded composition

·         Commentary

Coursework, externally marked


21% of A level
Unit 3 Responding to Music:

·         Music for Orchestra in 20th Century

·         Sacred vocal music (mass/requiem mass)

·         Secular vocal music (1600 to present day)

Two External Examinations:

·         Aural Perception Examination

·         Written Examination

18% of A level

Are there any particular qualities or skills I should have to study this course and to what kind of careers can it lead?

To study A level Music a student must have studied GCSE Music, ideally achieving an A or A* grade and be able to perform on their instrument or sing at grade 6 level or above for AS and grade 7 or above for A2 level. Fluent reading of staff notation is essential. 

Career opportunities with music are wide-ranging. Specific music related careers include classroom teaching, composing, arranging, performing, music therapy, recording industry, arts administration, concert hall management, promotion of the arts, peripatetic teaching, television presenting and researching. The study of Music strengthens one’s ability to listen critically, evaluate, research, appreciate the value of context, write, analyse, apply technology, compose, present and perform. These transferable skills are highly valued in most non-musical careers.

Department News / Events

Latest News (via Twitter)

The Music Department calendar features the following permanent events:

  • Autumn Concert – October
  • Speech Day performance – October
  • Carol Service – December
  • Inter-House Music Competition – Easter

Other events may include:

  • Portadown Music Festival
  • Composing and performing competitions

Department News
Congratulations to Samuel Kane and Lucy Place who performed as part of the Ulster Youth Orchestra during the summer.
Music UYO 2015

Congratulations to James Cunningham, who was selected to attend the RNIB and Handel House Summer School.

James at Handel's harpsichord

Read James’ account:

RNIB and Handel House Summer School 2015

(James Cunningham)

 After arriving in London on the Sunday evening I, and my fellow Visually Impaired composers Noah McNeill and Zoe Dixon, met at the Handel House Museum in central London. Leading the workshop were two professional composers; Edwin and Michael, who is also Visually Impaired. That first day we got to know the instruments and performers which we would be writing for e.g. different techniques, limitations etc. On that first day we also did some group composition using bird whistles; I was the duck #quackquack.

We were also given our task, which was to set a poem by John Milton to music:

Sweet bird

Who shun’st the noise of folly,

So musical, so melancholy.

Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among

I woo to hear thy evensong.

Or, missing you, I walk unseen

On the smooth-shaven green

To behold the wand’ring moon

Riding her highest noon,

Sweet bird.

 One trip to Leicester Square and a late night composing session later, and we resumed our workshop at RNIB London. Overseen by Sally Zimmermann and James Risdon, Edwin and Michael shared with us some contemporary ideas, as well as their own stories and advice for the composition industry.

There then followed a number of late nights and many cups of coffee. Pieces written and ready we returned to Handel House for the debut of our compositions by an amazing trio in a chamber concert. The experience of hearing my own piece performed live in front of me was surreal and has definitely inspired me to aim for composition as a profession.

If you would like to download the sheet music for my, Zoe’s or Noah’s pieces, you can do so at


James with other course students


Congratulations to Samuel Kane (violin) and Lucy Place (French Horn) on gaining places in the Ulster Youth Orchestra Summer 2015.

Samuel Kane

Lucy Place

Congratulations to Beth Gilbert who won the solo piano prize at Portadown Music Festival.

Beth Gilbert

Congratulations to Rachel Gilpin, winner of SELB Music Service South Ulster Brass Ensemble Cup 2014.

Rachel Gilpin

Congratulations to James Cunningham, winner of SELB Music Service Clarinet Concerto Cup 2014.

James Cunningham

View the extra-curricular page on music

Educational Visits / Trips

AS Music Choral Event. February 2020

Music students enjoyed an AS Music Choral event featuring one of their choral set works in Belfast.

West Side Story Trip

Sixth form musicians enjoyed a trip to see West Side Story performed in the Grand Opera House.

Students at West Side Story


Many former A-level Music students take their studies further and choose to read Music at various Universities across the country; the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Durham and Queen’s in Belfast are just some of the higher education schools that offer Music at an Undergraduate level.  The curriculum at Undergraduate level is wide-ranging across the many Universities, with most offering study in Performance, Composition, Theory, Musicology, Historical topics, and Ethnomusicology.  A BA degree in Music or BMus degree gives this broad sweep of the subject, allowing students to focus in on particular areas in their final years.

Conservatoires, such as The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, or the London College of Music, offer intense instruction in performance, with pupils being able to study with local professionals, take master classes with touring soloists and have opportunities to play with influential orchestras.  Taking this path means students focus almost entirely on performing, and less on the other elements of Music such as composing or Music history.


Studying Music at GCSE and A-Level gives students a range of versatile, transferable skills which they will take with them later in their careers.  Aural, appraising, performing, literary, time management and organisation skills are all developed through the study of Music as well as quick thinking when things don’t go to plan (e.g. in a concert setting).

General skills

  • Analytical, critical thinking, research, writing, communication and presentation skills – developed through reading, discussions and writing essays.
  • IT skills – through the use of standard software packages.

Specific skills and attributes

  • Powers of memory, physical dexterity and concentration – developed in practice and performance.
  • Communication skills – developed through performing and engaging listeners.
  • Teamwork – through working in bands or orchestras as a player or section leader.
  • Self-management – physical and mental self-discipline achieved through regular practice.
  • Performing under pressure – overcoming nervousness in order to perform well during examinations, concerts and auditions.
  • Planning – organising and working towards a project or performance.
  • Technical skills – using technology to create and record music.
  • Critical reflection – giving and receiving criticism, learning from mistakes and striving for improved performance.


Whilst many students who study A level Music will continue to study Music to degree level not all choose to do so.  Here is a selection of careers that students with an AS or A level in Music have gone on to:

  • Teaching
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Nursing
  • Costume Design
  • Ordained Ministry
  • Medicine

Students who have studied Music at degree level have also gone to a variety of careers:

  • Recording studio technician
  • BBC producer
  • Set design
  • Costume design
  • Teaching
  • Professional performer
  • Peripatetic teaching
  • Lay clerk in a Cathedral
  • Arts administration
  • Theatre management
  • Music publishing
  • Orchestral management
  • Music therapy