Music at Rochester is broad, practical and fun. In the lower years, students make the most of small class sizes to perform in bands and other ensembles on a range of college instruments. They listen to a vast range of music, from classical to pop to music for games and films and compose their own music in response to what they've heard. With access to the latest Mac software, they use technology to make music that would not be possible otherwise, from musique concrete to synthpop, Stockhausen to trap.
The focus throughout is on making music real and relevant. Space and support is given to students to explore their own interests and to develop their own approach to making music. During lunchtimes, the music room is a popular destinations for curious students looking to work on their own projects, play in college bands, sing in the choir, or just to spend some time listening to music they're interested in. At the end of the year, many students perform at the college festival for parents and visiting luminaries.
Traditional and contemporary pathways
For students in year 10 to 13 there is a range of exam courses to suit the different priorities that students bring. In years 10 and 11, we offer both the BTEC Music and the music GCSE. Students looking for a practical course where they can explore their own interests in some depth in the context of the music industry benefit from the choices offered on the BTEC, whilst those interested to combine practical work with an in depth study of music from the Baroque to the present day may opt for the Music GCSE.
At AS and A-level, we offer both the A-level Music and Music Technology courses. AS and A-level Music is popular with students with a background in performance on any instrument and an interest in a range of classical and popular music, whilst AS and A level Music Technology attract students interested in pop music and technology. It isn't unusual for students to do both courses.
Smaller group numbers mean contact time is plentiful and students have the opportunity to create and score their own compositions in a relaxed environment.
From Peter Tong to the Royal Opera House
Our Year 10 Music class were very lucky to be invited along to watch a rehearsal for Pete Tong's Ibiza Classics on the afternoon of Tuesday 29 November at The Music Bank Studios, London. This was a fantastic opportunity for the students to see a live orchestral rehearsal and to see how a music production team works for a large-scale music event.
We organise a range of exciting trips to concerts, musicals and gigs. Past highlights include music exhibitions at the O2, performance training on the Balinese gamelan, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at the Festival Hall in a programme of Electronica introduced by Jarvis Cocker, the Olivier Award winning version of Puccini’s La Boheme at The King’s Head in Islington, Terry Gilliam’s reimagining of Berlioz’s Faust at the ENO, Alice in Wonderland at the ROH and West End musicals such as Wicked, Six and Everybody's Talking About Jamie.
Music and Music Technology A level students also visited Cafe Oto (“Oto” means sound or noise in Japanese), which was one of the first experimental music venues in London. They went to see an art/sound music event at the Dalston venue at which four artists were showing their work. All the artists had created new instruments that worked with the relationship between light and sound.
Truly talented music students
Past years’ A level students have won places to study Music at Liverpool University, BIMM, Goldsmiths, Canterbury Christchurch University and The Academy of Contemporary Music.
RIC alumni often keep in touch to let us know how their post College lives are progressing. Harry took both Music and Music Technology as one-year courses after his first set of A levels at The Perse School, Cambridge. After graduating with a first from Leeds College of Music Harry is spent a year as President of the student union there, and is in the final stages of producing an EP and is continuing to develop his portfolio as a composer for new media.
Instrumental Lessons and performances
Students have the opportunity to take up instrumental lessons if they wish, organised through Kent Music School. The College owns a number of instruments, including two pianos. There are always groups of students who have their own bands, choirs and ensembles and the College supports and encourages this, offering practice and performance facilities.
RIC’s is home to a unique musical instrument
A five-ton set of stainless steel gates and railings on a busy road in the Kent cathedral city of Rochester is actually a unique musical instrument.
The latest project by musician, sound sculptor and Björk collaborator Henry Dagg, this marvel of ingenuity and Victorian-style engineering took more than four years to build. Standing almost four metres tall and 8.5 metres wide across the entrance to Rochester Independent College, the imposing structure is designed to make music with vibraphone bars, tubular bells and organ pipe-like tubes with resonating strings that can be plucked, struck or bowed. “It has a pitch span of six octaves, so most of the orchestral range, and each section has its own very distinctive sound quality,” said Henry, who is busy putting the finishing touches on the instrument ready for its debut performance. “It will require a group of players to co-operate, in a manner similar to hand-bell ringers which will help develop skills every musician needs to be a good ensemble player.”
Henry, a former BBC sound engineer and award-winning musical saw player who has worked with acts including Bob Geldof, Keane and The Cranberries, is well known for his unique, hand-built musical creations.
His magnificent two-ton Sharpsichord, a 46-string mechanical pin-barrel harp, accompanied Björk on her 2011 Biophilia album and tour. And he famously reduced Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to tears of laughter with a performance on his 'Catastrophony' cat organ at a royal garden party
Back in 2003, he built a glockenspiel-style musical garden fence outside his Kent home which was officially opened with a performance by virtuoso classical percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie broadcast on the Richard & Judy TV show.
Soon afterwards, Rochester Independent College commissioned Henry to build a suite of musical gates and railings for the school's main entrance on Star Hill. The gates will become an important part of the music curriculum at the College and we also hope to cooperate with other local schools, community groups and the music department of the University of Kent.