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Music

Music is an integral part of School life; thriving as an academic subject, a major co-curricular activity and a vital part of Chapel services.

The Music School facilities include two recital halls, a suite of teaching and practice rooms, a music library, a percussion room, and a well-equipped double recording studio. The School’s “All Steinway” status guarantees top quality pianos in every room. Larger scale events are held in the Chapel – with its internationally famous, four-manual Marcussen organ.

Academic Teaching

Music is taught as a timetabled curriculum subject in the first term for the Novi year, with an option to continue beyond. Emphasis during this initial year is upon the presentation of a wide variety of musical subjects, as well as composition projects. This gives boys an insight into how music works, as well as the valuable opportunity to create music of their own.

After the first year, Music becomes an IGCSE option choice, with generally 20-25 boys choosing the subject in two or three sets. The IGCSE course covers composition, performance, the study of historical periods, World Music topics and a Set Work.

In the Sixth Form, there are usually between four and eight boys in each year opting to take the Music A-level course. Here, small set sizes and teaching by a range of staff means that boys are able particularly to develop and pursue their own individual musical enthusiasms, within the structured framework of a flexible course, especially in the Performing and the Composing components. The course covers a range of set works and styles, with a range of listening questions, essay topics and analysis.

Tonbridgians regularly continue their musical studies beyond School with a number of Oxbridge organ and choral awards in recent years, as well as scholarships and places at music colleges and conservatoires.

Co-Curricular

The School has a long-standing tradition of musical excellence, both choral and instrumental. Over forty percent of the boys in the School learn at least one musical instrument, and there are seventy music award holders. Over 80 boys have Grade VII or above and up to 70 boys take exams in a wide variety of instruments each year.

Music permeates Tonbridge life. Each term, the School has an extensive performance programme; there are several orchestras, bands, and smaller ensemble groups covering all musical styles. The Music Department curates its own “Themed Festival” each Michaelmas Term, featuring performances from staff, students and visiting artists. Houses hold their own musical evenings and there is an annual House music competition which involves up to a third of the school. Jazz and popular music are actively encouraged and flourish.

Music at Tonbridge is not confined to the School campus. The Chapel Choir has sung Evensongs in St Paul’s Cathedral, St George’s Chapel, Windsor, Southwark Cathedral and Chichester Cathedral as well as touring in France, Holland and Belgium, and the Symphony Orchestra has performed in Hong Kong.

The boys regularly combine with musicians from outside the School, in student based and professional settings. This year’s highlights include Fauré’s Requiem with Benenden School and performances with Canticum at Tonbridge and in London. In 2018 a special concert at London’s Cadogan Hall saw more than 100 Tonbridgians take to the stage for A Celebration of Tonbridge Music.

Musicians also perform for members for the local community, organising visits to schools and churches as well as inviting groups to concerts on site.

Every five years the School performs a “Whole School Concert” with a specially commissioned piece from composers such as Howard Goodall and Jonathan Dove. In March 2023 the whole school performed The Argo, a new oratorio based on Jason and the Argonauts by Hywel Davies, scored for symphony orchestra, whole school chorus, soloists and youth choir.

Department Staff

Mr Mark Forkgen

Director of Music
MA, ARCO, University of Cambridge

Mr Stefan Hargreaves

Teacher of Music, Housemaster of Manor House
MA, University of Oxford
MEd, University of Cambridge

Mr Julian Thomas

Head of Academic Music
MA, FRCO, University of Cambridge

Mr Leo Walsh

Teacher of Music, Teacher of Classics
BMus (Hon), University of Edinburgh

Mr David Williams

Head of Keyboards, Chapel Organist
GRSM, ARCM, LRAM, Royal College of Music, London

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