Aside from its extra-curricular importance to the life of the College, music is also studied as an academic subject.
Glenalmond is highly regarded both internally and externally for its music. We take pride in making music accessible to all, but also enjoy the fact that, as a small school, committed musicians from any year group are big fish in a small pond and can benefit from remarkable solo and ensemble performance opportunities. Dr Tim Ridley, Head of Department
All members of the Second and Third Form attend one class music lesson in the two weekly cycle. GCSE and A level Music is offered as an option in the other year groups, along with A level Music Technology in the Lower and Upper Sixth Forms.
At GCSE, pupils follow the Edexcel/Pearson Music course. This divides into three core components – Listening, Composing and Performing. The former two elements are studied in class over the two year course, while pupils prepare their performances within their instrumental/vocal music lessons. Composing (33%) and Performing (33%) are submitted as teacher moderated coursework in April of the Fifth Form year, with a written Listening exam paper sat in June of the same year (33%).
A Level Music pupils follow the Edexcel /Pearson specification. This is an excellent course which combines academic rigour with creativity and musicianship. The performance module at AS Level requires a 6 minute recital on any instrument (30%). Pupils are required to compose a short piece, answering a set brief (30%). In order to achieve this, pupils are taught compositional techniques to develop their musical ideas. Formal harmony is also studied at this level, as pupils learn to write chorales (hymn tunes) according to the stylistic conventions of the eighteenth century, alongside analysis of musical works – this is tested in a written examination (40%).
A level Music Technology pupils also follow an Edexcel/Pearson course. This course marries musical skills together with a practical use of IT to produce sequences, recordings and compositions. At AS, three pieces of coursework account for 70% of the marks: a sequence prepared to an Edexcel stimulus, a multi-track recording with a free choice of stimulus and a sequenced arrangement selected from a choice of Edexcel stimuli. A Listening and Analysis listening/written paper (30%) is completed in the June exam session.
For A2 Music pupils can choose to perform a 12-15 minute recital, or to develop their composition skills further (30%). Pupils opting to compose rather than to perform create a portfolio of compositions answering set briefs. Harmony is developed further through study of chorales, and in addition the Baroque technique of Counterpoint is studied at this level (30% in exam conditions). The important skills of appraising music through listening and analysis are also developed through the close study of prescribed set works covering a range of styles, both instrumental and vocal, from the Renaissance era to the present day (written June exam, 40%).
Once more, Music Technology pupils prepare three items of coursework for A2 (60%): computerised sequenced realised performance with integrated live vocals, a digital multi-track recording using a minimum of twelve audio tracks, and an original composition written to one of three briefs – a movie or TV soundtrack, electro-acoustic music with a specific theme, or a popular song. The final June exam (40%) is taken at a computer workstation: candidates are required to comment on musical and technological aspects of previously unseen MIDI/audio files supplied by Edexcel, identifying and correcting mistakes, and then producing a final stereo mix of the audio tracks to specific guidelines.
Miss Jasmine Neufeld, Teacher of Music
Mr Brian Elrick, Senior Piping Instructor
Mrs Anne Dillon, Music School Administrator
In his teens Tim Ridley was a music scholar at Marlborough College, studying organ, piano, cello, double bass, singing, drums and percussion. In 1985 he rejected the offer of an Oxford Organ Scholarship to move to the Royal Academy of Music in London to study the organ (with Peter Hurford), percussion (with Susan Bixley) and church music (with David Hill and Patrick Russill). His more recent PhD studies at Brunel University centred on the art of composition from within an educational framework.
On leaving the RAM in 1988, Tim toured the world as a session keyboard player, often as keyboardist for the Brotherhood of Man and The Supremes. In addition he covered many other musical bases, ranging from orchestral piano with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales to playing keyboards for the first ever pantomime to be performed in Dubai, while all the time writing and playing keyboards in his own progressive rock band, Mentaur. During this time he also worked as a peripatetic teacher of drums, percussion and jazz piano at Marlborough, St Mary's Calne, Cheam Hawtreys and Sutton Valence schools.
Tim was appointed to the full time music department staff at Marlborough in 1996. He introduced Music Technology to the school, teaching this as an academic subject, while also spending 13 years as an Assistant Housemaster. He subsequently assumed the roles of Head of Shell (Year 9/Third Form) and Director of Chapel Music. In 2009 he made the big break with his alma mater to move north to Scotland to become Director of Music at Glenalmond College. At Glenalmond he is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Music Department, together with teaching academic Music and Music Technology and directing the Chapel and Chamber Choirs. As director of the Glenalmond Choral Society, Tim annually conducts a large scale choral work with professional orchestra away from the College: in 2011 Britten St Nicolas in Edinburgh's St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, 2012 Fauré and Goodall Requiems in Dunblane Cathedral, and in 2013 a joint venture with the Pitlochry Choral Society, presenting Mozart's Requiem in Perth Cathedral.
In addition to his role at Glenalmond, Tim is also a member of both the Main and Jazz Examiner Panels for the ABRSM. Work for the ABRSM has taken him all over the UK, with his Scottish base seeing him gaining the recent opportunity to enjoy music making in Shetland, Orkney and Lewis, and from Peterhead in the north east to Stranraer in the south west. He also examines abroad, with a recent trip to Hong Kong a truly mind expanding experience.
Tim has a private pilot's licence and is a passionate supporter of Portsmouth football, Bath rugby and the San Francisco 49ers American Football teams, although it has to be said that SPL St Johnstone are gradually starting to find a little space in his heart. His spare time is happiest spent walking in the wilds of Rannoch Moor or investigating the comparative merits of Scotland's bacon rolls: combining both activities makes for a perfect day. He lives in Glenalmond with his wife, Judith, and their three children.