‘Culture of collaboration’ means musical success

Tonbridge School has long been a centre of excellence for the teaching and learning of music, and the recent successes of its boys in their examinations further enhances this reputation.

In the past year, no fewer than 100 per cent of candidates sitting for Grade 8 in the Associated Board Exams have achieved either a merit or a distinction; likewise, 100 per cent of candidates achieved a distinction for the new ARSM (Associate of the Royal Schools of Music) diploma.

In addition, nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of all candidates achieved either a merit or a distinction for Grade 7 in the Associated Board Exams.

Mark Forkgen, Director of Music at Tonbridge, said he was delighted with the excellent results, adding that one of the great strengths of his department is its culture of collaboration between the school’s musicians. “This is an exciting time for music at the school,” he said. “Proud as I am of the boys’ achievements, what pleases me most is seeing our musicians collaborating in performance, learning from each other and realising their potential.” 

Music plays an important part in the life of the school, with regular performances, recitals and concerts. Tonbridge’s musical diversity is represented by groups such as String and Symphony Orchestras, Concert and Big Bands, and Cello and Percussion Ensembles, as well as the Chapel Choir and numerous chamber music groups.

Recent concert highlights have included Green and Pleasant Land, a series focused on the music of the First and Second English Renaissance, and Holst’s Planets Suite, in which 70 boys from the school performed as part of the Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the opening of the Barton Science Centre. In the autumn, a new music season is being launched with the theme of Vienna: Tradition and Innovation.

Nearly half of pupils learn an instrument at the school, and about a third of these learn more than one. These include the full range of orchestral instruments, piano (classical, pop and jazz) and voice, as well as electric, acoustic, bass and classical guitar.

Boys have scheduled rehearsals with accompanists on site, sit a ‘mock’ with one of the many AB examiners on the staff and have aural classes. There are also 40 visiting music teachers who work with boys at all levels. 

The school has three special visits a year from the Associated Board and one from Trinity College. Tonbridge has also acted as a public centre for Associated Board diplomas and Trinity College exams.