Author Archives: ohdigital

  1. Exam revision for musicians

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    Students across the country are gearing up to take GCSE and A-level exams. It can be a stressful time, not just for teenagers but for parents and guardians too – particularly because they might feel powerless to help. For children who have shown an early talent, such as young musicians, or indeed athletes or specialists in another field, there’s the added challenge of balancing practice or training with academic exams. 

    In reality, parents can help far more than they think just by being there for their children to offer advice and support. We consulted our Lead Nurse and Head of Sixth Form to compile some top tips for navigating this challenging and rewarding time. 

    My child is revising – how can I help? 

    Recall past successes

    Self-confidence fluctuates during exam time. Where revision is concerned, there will naturally be good days and less successful ones. So, if your child plays an instrument – or if they’re an athlete, an entrepreneur, or even a gaming master –  remind them of the dedication they showed to progress, and encourage them to apply the same determination to their academic studies. This is a great way to help them put things in perspective and gain some confidence.  

    You can also share stories with your children. Tell them about a time when you weren’t sure you could tackle something, but by sticking at it and being positive, you managed to succeed.

    Praise effort, over results 

    Many students are perfectionists, and this is a trait often seen in children with musical ability or another strong interest. Whilst exceptional academic results are exciting, students need to know that their parents are proud of them for doing their best, as well as for getting great results. It’s actually very healthy for them to know they won’t always be the very best at something, or get top marks – especially when they’ve been celebrated for a special talent from an early age. It’s crucial that they develop resilience and understand that by applying their best efforts, they keep control of their own futures. 

    Trust your children 

    You know your own children best, so you’ll have a good idea of how diligently they work and how much encouragement they need. Generally though, showing your children that you trust them to get on with revision can provide more of a boost than transmitting your own anxiety to them. However nervous you may feel on their behalf, a gentle nudge and offer of support is more motivating than a panicked appeal! 

    I’m a student and I’m feeling anxious – what really works? 

    Musicians: take five with your instrument! 

    If you’re at a specialist music school, don’t be worried about taking a short break from intense music practice during GCSE or A level exam time. Believe it or not, the exams will be over very soon!  

    Play pieces for enjoyment, relish the time to experiment, and remember that creativity boosts your confidence, memory and attention span, all of which will benefit you in your academic work. Rather than challenging yourself too much musically, see your instrument as an enjoyable release from stress, rather than piling hours of rehearsal on top of your revision schedule.  

    Look after yourself 

    It’s advice you hear over and over again in articles about exam success – make sure you relax, take time out, eat well and go to bed early. Health and wellbeing are the foundations on which you build – so, if you’re neglecting yourself, it’s almost certainly going to impact your studiesSo, set yourself a switch-off time each evening and stick to it, establish a routine, and make time for some exercise, even if it’s just a ten minute walk each day. Try not to turn to sweets for an energy boost, but instead choose slow release carbohydrates like a banana or hummus with some oatcakes when you’re peckish. Do something you enjoy and don’t isolate yourself from friends – they’re going through the same thing and sharing feelings can be helpful, as long as you don’t compare yourself. 

    Take time out for some exercise when you’re studying

    Plan ahead with revision 

    Ask for support from teachers if you need, but developing a revision plan for the months and weeks leading up to your exams is the single best way to reduce stress and help you feel more in control of your work. A clear timetable will also break down what can otherwise seem like a huge task and help you to set targets. 

    Definitely don’t cram ahead… 

    Cramming has literally never been consistently successful for anyone, no matter what people might brag. Spacing out revision, planning well and allowing for time to follow up on rusty topics are always going to produce better results. This is particularly true at A level – even if you did succeed with some last minute cramming at GCSE, this is less likely to work at higher level exams which test how you apply your knowledge.  

    Work in chunks 

    Working in small chunks of 15 or 20 minutes and taking regular breaks is a great way to cope with large volumes of material without feeling overwhelmed. Even if you find that you work more effectively when you get into a flow for an hour or so, breaks are still essential to ensure you can pace yourself and absorb knowledge more effectively. Experiment early on in your revision to find a pattern that works for you. A lot of people feel the Pomodoro app is very useful. It’s is a timer which breaks sessions into 25 mins and can be linked to a to-do list of tasks. After each ‘Pomodoro’, you get a reward. 

    Create a pleasant working environment 

    A well organised working environment is important. Get rid of clutter and distractions – being disciplined with use of technology and social media use during exam time will definitely help you concentrate better, too.

    Have you any tips for coping with exams? Maybe you’re a parent with experience of supporting your children through exams? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

  2. Chetham’s Saxophone Choir perform at The Bridgewater Hall

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    On Wednesday 9 May, Chetham’s Saxophone Choir performed at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. Under the leadership of Andrew Wilson, the ensemble played to a near capacity audience in the Hall’s Little Bite Music series. The Saxophone Choir, which comprises of twelve saxophonists from across the school, performed a varied programme of works from the genre’s colourful repertoire.

    Highlights included some spectacular reworkings of Rossini, Bach and Strauss. Year 13 Saxophonist Daniel Poole featured as soloist in Nigel Wood’s Under the Veil, in a spellbinding performance on the soprano saxophone. Congratulations Daniel!

    Alongside a team of internationally renowned saxophonists, including Jim Muirhead, Carl Raven and Iain Dixon, Andrew Wilson guides Chetham’s saxophonists through a vast programme of solo and ensemble opportunities. Since graduating from the RNCM with first-class honours, Andrew has performed with many of the country’s leading orchestras including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic and The Hallé. He is a former member of the Adelphi Saxophone Quartet, with whom he toured widely. Alongside his work at Chetham’s, Andrew’s other work includes tutoring for the National Children’s Orchestra, and at Huddersfield University, where he is currently the External Woodwind Assessor.

    The saxophone department at Chetham’s offers a broad range of learning and performing opportunities to all our saxophonists. The saxophone choir brings all the saxophonists together for a weekly rehearsal in which they enjoy learning music from the Baroque to present day including pieces written by the students themselves. All the players develop their versatility playing music of classical and jazz styles as well as gaining experience on the baritone, soprano and sopranino saxophones. The saxophone choir continues to be a very popular ensemble and give many concerts both in and out of school and the highlight of this year was our lunch time concert at the Bridgewater Hall where we were warmly received for our Little Bite Music Concert. The audience were very appreciative and most complementary about the ensemble.

    Andrew Wilson

  3. Students Learn More About Music Therapy


    Last term, fifteen Sixth Form students took part in a course introducing them to the world of music therapy. The course was led by music therapist, Holly Dickson, in partnership with leading charity, Nordoff Robbins, whose goal is to ‘change lives through music’.

    The students were interested in the course for various reasons, from exploring potential career options to understanding prior experience of using music to communicate with elderly relatives.

    Consisting of a series of evening sessions, students learnt about the origins and ethos of music therapy, engaged in practical improvisation work to begin to see how music can have a positive impact on someone with, for example, learning difficulties or dementia, reflected on the relationship between therapist and client and explored the psychology involved.

    The course culminated in students working with music therapists in a variety of places, including care homes, refugee centres and special schools, incorporating sessions for both individuals and groups.

    Not only did students come away from every session inspired and excited by what they’d learnt, they also impressed the music therapists they worked with, who were full of praise for them…

    It was wonderful to involve students from Chetham’s recently in some of my music therapy sessions.  They were sensitive and attentive to what was happening, and we chatted in between sessions about why what they were witnessing was significant for the individual receiving therapy. It wasn’t long before I was throwing them in the deep end, asking them to play alongside students with varying learning and developmental difficulties – I think they forgave me for it though!

    It was great to have the students participate in my work at this care home.  They were enthusiastic and keen to apply the principles they had learnt during the school-based workshops in ‘real life’ music therapy settings.  Both students eagerly took up the challenge of making music with people living with dementia in many different ways, and their presence brought exciting new musical ingredients and possibilities into the sessions!

    We had a great session with three youngsters who have autism; having the three Chetham’s students there was super, as they could model some solo playing!

    Having the Chetham’s students in school with us was great. They each brought along their own musical skills and very bravely jumped in at the deep end to make music in sessions, to my clients’ great delight!

    Congratulations to all the students involved!


  4. From Wordsworth to Mini Sagas – the Latest from the English Department

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    Chetham’s Year 7 English class have recently been studying Romantic poetry and poetry inspired by nature. Wordsworth’s Composed upon Westminster Bridge describes the beauty of sunrise over London and students have been coming up with their own creations in response. Here is 11 year old Zosia’s wonderful poem about sunrise across Manchester:

    City Mourning

    January mornings and the sun wakes up with me
    Stepping outside, my footsteps fall in line with the commuters.
    We all beat time to the thrum of the cars, the song of the birds,
    and the clatter of the Waitrose van;
    The light drawing is into another day.
    Blackened, giant buildings are silhouetted against a rich, vivid sky.
    The sunrise is like a search-light,
    Picking its way through the dark moods of the city.
    The light softens the stance of the stark concrete buildings,
    giving the murky canal water a sheen
    that masks the city’s cast away secrets.
    As the sun rises and warms the morning,
    last night’s troubles seem to evaporate,
    the colours giving the city a chance to renew.
    Sunrise uses a fine brush to stroke the sky bright with colour.
    The colours seep into the very fabric of the buildings,
    framing a photo that shows them at their very best.
    Even the neon signs of Crazy Pedro’s are muted by the intensity,
    and cannot compete with the brilliant glow of the sun.
    Feeling the weight of need and want,
    now that the sun has penetrated the city’s armour.
    Vulnerable as the light reveals the lost and the broken;
    still huddled in a doorway called ‘home’.

    In other English news, last term, students in Years 7 and 9 entered the Young Writers’ Stranger Sagas Competition – where they were challenged to write a ‘mini-saga’ in just 100 words!

    We are delighted to announce that, out of over 20,000 entries nationally, 17 of our students have been chosen to have their short stories included in a published anthology. Congratulations to those students and everyone who took part!

  5. Student Trip to Berlin

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    “So you’re from England, but you want a tour in German? That never happens!” So said our guide at the former Stasi prison. But this was par for the course for our intrepid 19 students from Year 12 and 13 who embarked upon a 5 day study tour of the German capital during February half-term, exploring the social, cultural and political highlights of this most fascinating of European cities.

    The students had a packed and varied programme, calling on their stamina and linguistic skills in equal measure, from making speeches during a debate on the environment – in German! – during a role play exercise at the European Union information centre, to visiting the Bundestag parliament building, to enjoying an evening of improvised theatre – again, all in the target language.

    And natürlich, a visit to Berlin would not have been complete without a trip to the Opera, to see an excellent production of The Magic Flute. But the highlight was surely a chance to see the Berlin Philharmonic and a double treat of Daniel Barenboim and Sir Simon Rattle, the latter even meeting up with us after the concert to sign programmes and talk with the students.

    To say that the students became adults during the trip is not mere opinion, for two of the students celebrated their 18th birthdays with us: congratulations to Darya and Reuben.

    The trip was planned and led by Dr Law, and she was accompanied by Ms Geschwendt and Mr Chillingworth, who was responsible for the only transport mishap when he got left behind on a station platform on the last day! German efficiency won out…

  6. Chetham’s Community Music Visits Retirement Living Complex

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    On Friday 2 February, the residents of Broadfield Court, a retirement living complex in Prestwich, were treated to a concert given by Year 9 and 10 students as part of Chetham’s Community Music. Their wide-ranging programme of solos and string quartet pieces included Schumann, Dvorak and Rachmaninov, and a jazzy flavour added by music by Scott Joplin, Leonard Bernstein and Jim Parker. Usually heard playing his bass guitar, second study singer, Keiron (aged 14) got an extra round of applause for singing a solo for the first time in a public concert; “Not too scary”, he said.

    Afterwards, students and older people, including a 93-year old former cellist from St Petersburg, swapped stories; “I loved the music, but I really enjoyed talking with the young people”, commented a member of the audience.

  7. Chetham’s Community Music Visit Specialist School in Didsbury

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    Chetham’s Community Music Programme is designed to take live music to people who might otherwise have little access to it. On Friday 17 November, seven Year 10s took part in project at Lancasterian School in Didsbury, a specialist school for children 3-16 who have physical, complex medical and / or complex communication difficulties. The students worked with a class called Hawkings, who, every Friday, have a sensory story centred around their school dog, a black Labrador called Albert, who joins them in the classroom.

    Chetham’s musicians created a soundtrack to enhance the story, with an Albert theme and a range of sounds to reflect actions in the story. This culminated in an assembly, in which Chetham’s students introduced their instruments by playing familiar tunes (both Mario and Pepper Pig received a hugely enthusiastic response!) and helped Hawkings present their Albert story for the whole school to enjoy.

    We’ve since had some wonderful feedback from Lancasterian. These included highlighting a boy, who only uses limited vocals, singing Albert’s name, and a girl who loved having the saxophone played to her in her wheelchair, as she took Albert  along the corridor back to the office.

    If you would like to know more about our Community Music Programme, please feel free to contact us.

  8. Chetham’s Community Music Visit Specialist Dementia Home

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    “The most enjoyable afternoon!”

    “To watch such talented youngsters….”

    “To close my eyes and listen…reminisce.”

    These were just some of the appreciative comments from an enthusiastic audience on Friday 6 October, following a performance by instrumentalists from Chetham’s.

    As part of the school’s Community Music programme, designed to take live music to people who might otherwise have little access to it, six Year 10 students visited Belong Morris Feinmann in Didsbury, a new specialist home for dementia and for older people living independently in apartments.

    They presented a varied programme, from jazz standards on saxophone and keyboard music by Bach, to a dazzling violin showpiece by Kreisler. Two familiar songs – The Way You Look Tonight and Moon River – performed by the whole group, added a touch of nostalgia and got the audience singing along.

    After the concert, the students mingled with audience members and heard their stories of dance bands and concerts they attended in their younger days. Needless to say, they’d love us to visit again soon!

    Then, on Friday 13 October, the Community Music programme continued with a workshop led by Ros Hawley, clarinettist and specialist in music and health. She shared her experience of working at the Seashell Trust in Cheadle, which supports children and young adults with complex learning disabilities and additional communication needs. Students from Chetham’s engage in music at the Seashell Trust several times a year, the first visit being planned for later this term.

  9. GCSE Results 2017

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    Following on from last week’s outstanding A-level results, we are delighted to report that Chetham’s students have also achieved excellent results for their GCSEs

    Nearly 64% of our students’ grades were at A*/A or 9-7*.  94.5% of grades were at A*-C or 9-4.  There are some outstanding individual successes with a number of students achieving 7 or more A*/A.  Particular congratulations to students in Year 9 and 10 who achieved nearly 90% of their GCSE Music results at A*/A!

    Praising the results, Head, Alun Jones, said:

    “As we read more and more in the media of the volatility of results this year due to examination reform, let’s not lose sight of the significant efforts and achievements of our students and the work of our dedicated staff as they guide and support them during this period of extensive examination overhaul.”

    Finally, we were delighted to receive the following message from Professor Linda Merrick, Principal, Royal Northern College of Music:

    “Congratulations – these are excellent results and you should be very proud of what these highly talented young people have achieved. It’s challenging to develop your skills as a musician to such high levels, so to add to this impressive academic results is testament to the outstanding teaching and support provided at the school”.

    *Our GCSE Mathematics results use the new grading system from 9 to 1 with 9 being the highest grade. (Chetham’s students take IGCSE English which still uses A*-G grades).

    Pass rates

    A*– A: 63.8% | A*– C: 94.5% 

  10. A-level Results 2017

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    With a 100% pass rate for the sixth year running and almost 73% of results at A*-B, Chetham’s students leave us to attend the finest conservatoires and universities in the world.

    Students join Chetham’s from a wide range of backgrounds, with no criteria for academic ability, and the School’s small class sizes and commitment to excellence, along with the commitment of our academic team, have all helped them to achieve these excellent results.

    Head, Alun Jones, said he was “absolutely thrilled for these incredibly talented young people and the team of committed staff who work with them. They have given so much of themselves and contributed a great deal to life at Chetham’s – they can proceed to the next stage of their education with such confidence – I can ask no more and wish them every success”.

    The Sixth Form students’ hard work in both music and academic subjects will see them moving on from Chetham’s to leading conservatoires and universities, including the Royal College and Royal Academy of Music in London and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, as well as Oxford, Cambridge, King’s College London, Imperial College London, and the Universities of (among others) Durham, Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester, to read subjects as diverse as Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Molecular Bioengineering, Ophthalmic Dispensing, Accounting, Law, and Psychology.

    Well done to all of the students who took exams this summer. Enjoy the rest of the holidays. We wish you the very best of luck in the future.

    Pass rates

    A*– B: 72.6% | A*– C: 92.3% | A*– E: 100%