Saffron Walden County High School Sixth Form Open Day on 12th November and Music Academy information

What is the Music Academy?

Saffron Hall is not only one of the best concert venues in the country and boasts a programme to rival any, but also has a keen interest in supporting and promoting music education. These combine to provide opportunities and facilities for young musicians studying at SWCHS that are unrivalled in Eastern England and means that our Post-16 Music Academy now attracts some of the best student musicians from a wide geographical area. Academicians are welcomed to both a regional centre of excellence for music education and a school that sets the highest of academic standards. While most applicants will naturally want to follow the A-Level music route, this is not a pre-requisite as we recognise that at this stage some talented musicians prefer to further develop their musical skills and experience while studying for a career in another discipline.

 What does the Academy provide?

Saffron Hall already claims a number of resident ensembles such as The Brodsky Quartet and Britten Sinfonia who, along with other professional artists such as Nicola Benedetti are us. During the past two years, Academy students have taken part in Masterclasses delivered by artists from the Young Classical Artist Trust as well as more established professional musicians. Janice Watson, Roger Argente and Gary Ryan would be typical of this latter group. This clearly represents an outstanding opportunity to gain advice and tuition from professional musicians of international repute. The academy programme is tailored to specific needs each year but normally covers all instruments and voices in both classical and more popular idioms along with ensemble playing, composition and conducting workshops. In addition, academy students are able to listen to visiting groups in rehearsal, receive free tickets for events in Saffron Hall and the best performers may be invited to join an associate ensemble to extend their repertoire experience. We have worked with The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden to deliver the Gold Arts Award qualification and taken part in exciting outreach projects in other local schools where academy members have worked alongside professional performers and composers. We also have strong links with NYO and Guildhall School of Music, not least through the Saturday morning Saffron Walden Centre for Young Musicians.

Academy students have the opportunity to regularly make music in a world-class performance venue by joining the most senior of our many ensembles and making a sustained commitment to these. Typically these are the Senior Jazz Band, Senior Concert Band, Senior Choir, Chamber Choir, Senior String Orchestra or Symphony Orchestra. A number of these ensembles tour to Europe each summer.

All academy students are able to promote their own recitals in either the main hall or as part of our lunchtime series in the Foyer. SWCHS has a team of highly qualified instrumental and vocal teachers and, whilst academy students are free to continue arrangements with an existing teacher, we ensure that those wishing to have their lessons at SWCHS receive excellent tuition. All instrumental and vocal staff will prepare students for ABRSM examinations as required and these take place in school every term.

Each academy student negotiates a Personal Music Development Plan (PMDP) at the start of Year 12 and reviews this on a regular basis with a member of the music staff. This might include measured progression through practical examinations, directing work with a junior ensemble, composing for a specific event or occasion, but will always be tailored to the specific interests and skills of the student.


Admission criteria for SWCHS Post-16 Music Academy

In addition to the standard academic entry requirements for SWCHS, applicants must have achieved at least Grade 6 at merit or above on any instrument or voice and also have passed Grade 5 theory if not following the ABRSM practical examination series.

 What is expected from Academy students?

All Academy Members must:

  • Attend the Academy elective session every Wednesday afternoon
  • Be a regular member of one or more Senior Ensembles
  • Sing in Chamber Choir
  • Agree and adhere to a PMDP
  • Participate in the Masterclass programme as appropriate
  • Take part in concerts, recitals and festivals as appropriate
  • Make a sustained contribution to the wider SWCHS musical community
  • Generally seek to maximise the opportunities offered by the Saffron Hall programme and the hall itself

 Who are the Music Staff?

 Mr Alan Broadbent

B Mus. (Hons) PGCE – Director of Music

A graduate of Bangor University who studied composition with William Mathias and performance at the RLPO, Mr Broadbent was initially a freelance trombonist and peripatetic teacher. He later moved into the classroom at Sawston Village College and was subsequently appointed Area Coordinator – Expressive Arts at SWCHS. He remains a frequent performer and C20 music enthusiast.

Mrs Gillian Smith

B Mus. (Hons) Cert Ed. LTCL

A graduate of Goldsmith’s College, University of London, Mrs Smith has extensive experience of teaching across the 11 – 18 age range. She is heavily involved in the local music scene as both a pianist and French Horn player and works tirelessly to promote school music within the community. Currently in charge of Senior Orchestra and Jazz Band, Gillian is also a keen concert goer and musicologist.

Mrs Jane Patterson

B.A (Hons) PGCE

After studying for her undergraduate degree at Exeter University, Jane completed her PGCE at Homerton College, Cambridge. She has worked at several secondary schools over the last 23 years, including being Head of Department. A first study flautist, Jane also plays the violin, piano and enjoys singing.


Mr Elis Read

BA Mus. (Cantab) LTCL

Recently graduated from Cambridge, Mr Reed is a first study pianist who also plays the trumpet. He is particularly interested in the use of music technology to further learning and is a Logic Pro expert. Always interested in music education, Mr Reed has worked as both a classroom assistant and also for the educational outreach programme at Cambridge. He is also a keen composer and musicologist.