Music to the ears of all parents

Sound advice and financial aid is there to help your child find their perfect place

There are few harder decisions than choosing the right school for your child, but for those with musical offspring, the considerations are even more complex. Will the style of teaching suit your child? Will they cater for your child's other interests and academic capabilities? How many hours a week music tuition are available? And often most importantly, can you afford it?

"It's a minefield, not least because so many independent schools have such excellent music departments," says Scott Price, president of the Music Masters Association (MMA) and director of music at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, London. "Parents often don't know where to start."

The first port of call should undoubtedly be the MMA's annual Music Directory, the 2013 version of which has just been published. Not only does it offer complete profiles of the music departments at most of the UK's leading schools – including facilities, ensembles and groups, tuition and fees and scholarship details – it provides information and advice on issues ranging from scholarship procedures to dealing with nerves in auditions.

Boarding versus non-residential schooling is usually a major issue for parents of talented young musicians, says Price. "Boarding opens up more opportunities, because of the time available, but it's more expensive and some children can't bear the thought of living away from home," he says.

Parents should think about areas of specialism too, he adds. "Rugby School, for example, has focused heavily on musicals in the past, while contemporary music is a particular focus for Bedford School."

Once parents have compiled their shortlist and visited each school, including the music department to meet staff and see the facilities, many will invite your child for a "pre-audition," enabling a dialogue with the director of music about whether your child is at the right standard. "The best thing of all about a personal visit is the opportunity to get a feel for the culture and whether it fits with your child," says Price. "A warning though – don't go too much on looks of the music department itself. Very often, where music is firmly established in an independent school, the music department was built a long time ago and now looks a bit tatty, but that doesn't mean it's not world-class in terms of teaching and opportunities."

Look at the children at the top of the school and ask yourself, "Would I aspire for my child to be like that at the end of their education?" suggests Ian Wicks, director of music and assistant head at Salisbury Cathedral School. "If you feel comfortable with that, you're on to a winner. If possible, parents should attend a school concert as well, just to see if you can picture your child there."

Dorothy Nancekievill, director of music at Wells Cathedral School, says parents often underestimate how much practical advice schools themselves are able to give. "Just today, I met parents of a child who is very good at improvising and composing, so we have talked about encouraging the creativity but balancing that with theory and understanding of computer programming. We always try to work with parents to find the best solution for their child."

You may wish to consider one of the highly renowned music and dance schools, such as St Mary's Music School, Edinburgh. "It's important to point out that music isn't the be-all-and-end-all here, though," says a spokesperson. "We're at the top of the academic league tables and many of our pupils go on to non-musical careers, such as doctors, lawyers and engineers. But if music is a strong hobby or interest, then it's reassuring for families to know that we have music at our core and therefore have wonderful opportunities. And because we're a small school, timetables can be tweaked to individual musical needs. Those pupils that do go on to a career in music have gone on to some very impressive roles."

Like many music schools, there's financial assistance available for up to 100 per cent of fees, based on parental income. Indeed, one of the biggest advantages of having a musically gifted child is the possibility of a music scholarship, bursary or government-led financial assistance scheme. "It is very important to us that nobody gets turned away if at all possible and in fact, 32 of our pupils come from homes where the family income is less than £36,000," says the spokesperson.

Even the Yehudi Menuhin School boasts a good balance between music and academia. "If a student decides that a career in music is not for them, we do not consider this to be a failure," says headmaster Dr Richard Hillier.

The Purcell School in Bushey, near Watford, agrees. "Pupils spend 25-50 per cent of their curricular time on musical activities and most of our pupils are aiming for a career in music, progressing on to a conservatoire or university to read music," says concerts manager Jane Hunt. "Indeed, we are very proud of our alumni, many of whom have achieved distinction, like Nicholas Daniel, 1980 winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year. But this path is never taken for granted. Sixth formers have taken up places at top universities to study subjects such as English, history and modern languages."

Hunt adds that almost all pupils receive funding from the government's music and dance scheme. "There is a general misunderstanding that a specialist education such as ours is prohibitively expensive, but it is available to everyone."

Biky Wan, marketing manager for Manchester's Chetham's School of Music, says the same is true there. "The one big myth is that we are a school for rich people," she says. "But in fact, in terms of household income, our families are very much on par with the national average."

Independent schools which aren't music schools, but nonetheless boast a strong music department, could also be able to offer some financial assistance to help alleviate the burden, although the details of such help can often be complicated. As Tony Henwood, director of music at Latymer Upper School in London, says: "We offer a number of music scholarships at 11+ entry ranging from 10-40 per cent of fees.

"In addition, we offer music awards, which consist of free tuition at school in two instruments and at 13+ and 16+, and we offer music scholarships and awards of up to 25 per cent of fees."

Wicks' advice is always to be upfront with any school you're considering regarding your financial situation. "Yes, financial assistance is harder to come by than in the past," he says. "But it's still more easily available than many people think."

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

News
news

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announce they are set to welcome second child in spring

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Group: TA's urgently required. London (S...

KS1 & KS2 Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Day to Day job opportunities f...

Primary Teachers needed in Cheshire West

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Day to Day job opportunities f...

NQT Job Opportunties in Winsford

£85 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teac...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past