Music is a part of our heritage at St Joseph’s and we encourage all pupils to get involved.
Whilst instrumentalists have to be of a certain standard for the various orchestras and bands (apart from Junior Wind Band which is open to all who can play), anyone can join the Lower Senior or College Choirs and there are no auditions. This is an attempt to encourage even the most timid of musicians to come forward and join an activity. Indeed, Lower Senior Choir is now part of the curriculum for all Year 7s and some of Year 8. Against this, the rest of Year 8 explore other practical activities (learning the guitar, playing djembe). This is an attempt to make sure that all pupils have had an opportunity to perform in public and learn the discipline of working together in a group. However, there are also opportunities for the more advanced musicians in such groups as Chamber Choir or in smaller instrumental ensembles, where a high standard of sight-reading is expected and membership is by audition only. Moreover, part of the Music Prefect’s role is to conduct Junior Wind Band, an invaluable opportunity to develop their musical and leadership skills.
All the groups are given the opportunity to perform in public concerts four times a year with a day’s dress rehearsal prior to the concert. These events are immensely valuable in developing pupils’ feelings of achievement, being the culmination of a term’s work, giving a sense of occasion where presentation and self-confidence are so important.
In the concerts we try to include as great a variety of music as possible, ranging from full orchestral items to piano duets and solos by such varying composers as Vivaldi to Adele – something to entertain and involve everyone. Moreover, we aim to encourage as wide an age range as is feasible in larger groups (including Prep school pupils) to give the younger pupils the benefit of working with older pupils and to develop the seniors’ sense of responsibility as they help the Lower School.
Informal Lunchtime Concerts
Pupils also have the opportunity to perform in informal lunchtime concerts throughout the year (6 in total for each section of instruments – woodwind, brass, strings, piano, guitar and singing) in the recital room in the Music Department, M10. These are designed to be a chance to allow pupils at whatever level to gain their first experiences at performing to a small audience of their peers and staff in a more informal setting. There is also one more formal pupil lunchtime piano recital given in the College Hall in the Spring Term. In addition to concerts, often individual ensembles perform for external events, for example, at Christmas, when the Chamber Choir collect for charity by singing carols at Christmas.
In House Musicals
The Music Department joins with the Drama Department every year to produce a musical. Recent past productions have included: Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act, 9 to 5, Made in Dagenham and Twelfth Night, The Musical. These productions are always yet another opportunity to give as many pupils as possible the chance to be included in a musical/dramatic activity and are vital in helping the pupils to develop the skills necessary to work with other people.
Every other year, at the end of the Summer term, we organise an Arts tour, most recently to Rome, Venice and Florence. These trips give the pupils a tremendous sense of achievement and give the opportunity for them to perform in some of the most prestigious places in the world, such as the Vatican or St. Marks in Venice.
Visits from Professional Musicians
Apart from termly trips to see concerts and musicals there is also a programme of visiting professional musicians delivering lunchtime concerts and masterclasses. We have a partnership with The London Mozart Players with whom we have performed many side-by-side concerts including such pieces as Mozart Piano and Violin Concerto movements performed by our pupils and the Vivaldi Gloria and Schubert Mass in G sung by the choir and accompanied by LMP. Members of the orchestra have also given lunchtime recitals and masterclasses. Chaconne Brass, Andrew Zolinsky (pianist) and the Marici Saxophone ensemble have all delivered masterclasses and performed with pupils in professional lunchtime concerts.
Partnership with Yamaha
We are proud to be a Yamaha School and share the Yamaha ambition of cultural enrichment through musical excellence in the arts. We are able to offer pupils top quality new, well maintained Yamaha pianos for use in all teaching rooms and throughout the school, including the excellent grand piano in the College Hall. Part of the collaboration with Yamaha is to sponsor visits from leading pianists to provide masterclasses with our piano pupils.
Instrumental and Vocal Tuition
The Music Department also provides instrumental or vocal tuition for over 120 pupils, employing many highly qualified visiting instrumental teachers from a variety of backgrounds ensuring that the pupils have the greatest possible exposure to as many different types of professional musician as possible.
Pupils are encouraged, although not expected, to take instrumental/singing examinations run by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and other recognised boards (e.g., MTB, Trinity and Rock School) as part of their instrumental/singing lessons. We are an ABRSM centre ourselves, and many pupils take MTB exams which can be sat at any time.
The Drama Department has a lively programme of activities that runs throughout the year. Our ethos with productions is one of inclusivity and opportunity.
Everyone is welcome and everyone will be featured. Our double cast system for the Y5-8 and Senior Productions ensures that as many pupils as possible are given the opportunity and challenge to tackle substantial roles and that everyone is featured and given the chance to grow as a performer. Our productions also provide an opportunity to take on leadership roles, develop discipline, teamwork, collaboration and creative thinking.
Senior Drama Production
Our annual Year 9-13 production takes place in the Spring Term. This is a popular activity with typically over 100 pupils participating in cast, crew and tech. Due to the popularity of the shows we double cast, with each cast performing on alternating nights. Our cast are supported by a pupil stage crew and tech team, where pupils have the opportunity to run sound, lights and projection/special effects. Typically, these productions are full scale musicals. Recent productions include: Grease, Twelfth Night, Made in Dagenham, 9-5, Sister Act and Little Shop of Horrors.
Year 5-8 Production
Our Year 5 – 8 production launched in 2022 with a beautiful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – set in the Regency era and performed in the full original Shakespearean text featuring original costume designs for the fairies from GCSE Drama costume design pupils. This successful venture comprised 2 casts of 35, 70 pupils in total, with many of our upper Seniors supporting in tech and crew. Alice in Wonderland followed with 2 casts providing opportunities to perform to over 90 pupils; this year’s production is The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Year 3-4 Production
Our Year 3 and 4 production is open to all pupils and launched in 2023 with Pirates of the Currybean. This activity provides opportunities for our Prep pupils to sing, dance and act. The production again is supported by pupils from Y5 and 6 and the senior school as crew, tech and front of house.
Speech and Drama Lessons
Speech and Drama lessons continue to grow in popularity at St Joseph’s; we have over 160 pupils across the College participating, with the vast majority of past pupils having been awarded merits and distinctions. Speech and Drama lessons help pupils develop skill and confidence in public speaking, comprehension, articulation, diction, rhythm, pause, pace, expression, vocal modulation, engaging an audience, mood, conveying meaning, formal presentation or acting skills.
We currently follow the prestigious LAMDA (London Academy for Music and the Dramatic Arts) syllabus and are a private centre for LAMDA. Our programme is taught by our highly qualified and experienced team of professionals, who provide a bespoke approach tailored to each individual pupil’s requirements. Pupils can opt to take either individual (solo) or shared (duo) classes and can commence taking lessons from Year 1- Year 13.
Pupils can choose from the two core components of Speech (Communication – verse and prose, reading for performance or speaking in public) or Drama (Performance – acting, devising or mime).
From September 2020 we also began offering the Musical Theatre qualification. This is taught in conjunction with the Music Department as it is a cross disciplinary area of the curriculum. We currently have two Musical Theatre specialists across the two departments and work together to ensure that the quality of singing remains in line with Music department standards and the quality of acting in line with Drama department standards.
Performances and Examinations
Year 1-6 pupils are invited to perform in termly showcases, which parents can attend, providing an opportunity for them to share their performances and recitals with friends and family and gain experience and confidence in public speaking, presentation and performance.
In Years 7-13 we host a formal Speech and Drama Presentation Evening, in which pupils achieving medals and certificates can be presented with their awards, sharing their achievements with the College community. During the evening, presentations and performances are given by our Speech and Drama pupils.
We host exam days three times a year, allowing each pupil to move at their own pace and enter when they are ready. The qualifications achieved in these exams are widely recognised and respected.
The Art Department aims to provide a variety of stimulating activities to encourage creativity in as many pupils as possible.
Apart from Art trips (for example, visual art for KS3) all pupils are invited to attend weekly co-curricular clubs, including in the senior school: Art Club, Animation Club and Set Design (where the participants prepare for the school musical and other plays, learning how to make props and prepare sets). In the Prep Department as well, there are a selection of arts and crafts themed activities such as the Crochet and Knitting Club (the products of which are sent to an African charity).
There are also annual exhibitions by our senior artists who study GCSE and A Level Art. These usually last a week, being displayed to members of our community and beyond.
Pupils enjoy an annual KS3 Arts Trip combining Music, Drama and visual Art, for example, visiting the London Portrait Gallery before watching a West End performance of The Lion King. Senior Art pupils in KS4 and 5 have the opportunity to visit a number of exhibitions in London, Oxford and Berkshire to help inspire their portfolio work.