Music at Swanbourne House plays an integral part of school life for every child. Class music lessons involving listening, appraising, composing and performing skills are given across the school at least once a week (some year groups benefit from two sessions, which includes a singing session, involving all children enjoying themselves a lot!).

A great deal of the work that we do is practical, as that is how we believe that children learn best: we have a wide range of classroom percussion instruments, as well as keyboards for children to use whenever the opportunity arises, and they are always welcome to use their own instrument if they are able. We have several networked computers all running Sibelius and other musical software and this is often used as a teaching aid or learning tool when appropriate. We are aiming to increase the use of the school iPads within the Department over the coming year, and we have the facility to record and appraise children’s work and performances.

Individual Music Lessons

Outside of the classroom, there is plenty going on in the Music Department. A team of 12 visiting instrumental and singing teachers provide individual tuition for nearly all musical instruments if required, so there is a wide variety from which to choose: we are always happy to advise or give trial lessons if that would be helpful. There are over 175 individual music lessons happening each week. These 30-minute lessons happen on a rotation basis so as to avoid impacting a child’s academic progress too much; this is carefully monitored in liaison with the child’s Form or Personal Tutor. Theory lessons are also available at no extra cost.

Opportunities for singing for all

Singing is a very important part of what we do and, on top of plenty of singing to enhance learning in the classroom, there are several choirs which children can be a part of: the 6s Choir; the Junior Choir (open to all children in the 7s and the 8s); the Big Sing (open all children from the 9s upwards); the Senior Choir (from the 9s upwards, boys and girls can audition for the Senior Choir, the school’s flagship choir which performs at services, concerts and other events throughout the year) and the Senior Vocal Group- a more select group of musicians who are part of the group by invitation.

Other music groups

We also have several instrumental groups, many of which are led by the specialist instrumental staff. The Percussion Group, Guitar Group, String Group, Woodwind Group, Recorder Group, Brass Group and Rock Group all rehearse weekly and perform regularly in concerts. Children are invited to join the School Orchestra when they reach an appropriate standard.

Performance opportunities for all children

We run an informal series of Junior and Lunchtime Concerts during the Spring Term which is a great performance platform for all children, whether they have been playing their instrument for two weeks or two years. To see the support that children offer one another in these events is one of the strengths of the school as a whole. Beyond this, there are larger scale concerts at Christmas and in the Summer Terms, where all of the instrumental and choral groups will have an opportunity to perform: the Summer Concert really is the culmination of the musical life at Swanbourne over the year and involves a large number of children from Prep and Pre-Prep.

Music exams and scholarships

Examinations for the Associated Board take place regularly in school and we have a long-standing record of music exam success; children are also able to take music exams for other exam boards by arrangement. We regularly win music awards to senior schools, and Mr Phillips will work closely with potential candidates through the Music Mentoring Programme to ensure that the children are well-prepared. We also send children to participate in the Milton Keynes Music Festival.

What else?

We work closely with the Drama Department on several occasions throughout the year, perhaps most notably for the annual senior school musical production, which is always on an impressive scale; recent projects have included ‘Fame’ and ‘Grease’. There is a House Music Competition every two years which is usually adjudicated by a Director of Music from another Independent School – we encourage all children, whatever their standard, to take part and get involved to contribute towards their house’s score; it is always finely contested and of a high standard. Standing alongside this is the House Singing Competition which involves all children in the Prep School and is always great fun.

We are fortunate to have a newly-refurbished Music Department (Summer 2015), located centrally in the heart of the school. This includes a number of practice and teaching rooms, as well as a percussion room. There is certainly plenty going on and at Swanbourne House we encourage musical enjoyment and participation for all; children of all ages thrive by joining in with all aspects of the subject, both in and out of the classroom.

For further information on any of the above, please contact Mr Phillips, Director of Music (

Please have a read of the Music Department's Twitter Feed. You can follow us @SwanbourneMusic