Anyone can do A-Level Music

I don’t know about you, but Sixth Form Open Evening is coming up at the schools I work for. I view these evenings as crucial for the development of the Music Department and the future of A-Level Music. If you are not sure when it is then you need to find out! Hopefully these thoughts will help you in the lead up to that evening.

The Big Question

What students ultimately want to know is – Can I take A-Level Music (ALM)? This is a question that you should already have answered in lessons. But it is also one that is likely to come up on Sixth Form Open Evening; parents will definitely be asking on behalf of their son or daughter.

We want to be able to say yes to as many students as possible because lets face it, ALM is in decline nationally. We also want to say yes because we believe in our subject and subsequently know that it will benefit students. Let’s start from the view-point that Anyone can do A-Level Music!

Problems & Myths

One of the problems we face is that our pool of students who might opt for ALM is potentially small. You might have a GCSE class of under 20 and some of them might not be interested in GCSE let alone ALM. Another problem is the way ALM is viewed as a non-essential and therefore unnecessary or un-academic subject. There is the myth that it is only for “classical musicians” with “Grade 8” on an instrument. Or the myth that students only take ALM if they are going to do well, or if they are elite.

Preparing Appropriate Advice

In the lead up to Open Evening I wanted to share some thoughts on how I advise my students. You need to be prepared so that we can give the correct advise on the night.

  1. ALM is an option for students who didn’t take GCSE Music. Whilst Non-GCSE students will have to develop skills quickly, if they want to do it they can. My advise is that they need to at the very least be an instrumental player or singer and they need to be accustomed to performing. I have had students take ALM in the past who are very competent performers and istudy music theory alongside their instrumental playing. Sadly they just couldn’t fit GCSE Music in.
  2. ALM is an academic subject where you learn to apply yourself to written work and learn how to write persuasively, critically and evaluatively. It isn’t in any way a “doss” and students need to be motivated and hard-working. We mustn’t package it as a soft option just to gain numbers. Often parents want to know that ALM is academic and useful.
  3. Start preparing students for ALM NOW! I always suggest that students start to look beyond GCSE and really focus on their composition & performing skills over the coming months.
  4. It is important to consider their predicted grades for GCSE and what kind of student they will be at advanced level. We often think about the top end and yet there might be students who are going to be C/D grade student. ALM might be a great option for them.
  5. Students need to believe it is possible and we need to show them that it is. Get the balance right and show them what is possible. Be armed with examples of students who have succeeded from different starting points. Get students along to the Open Evening to answer questions and explain what they overcame in their first year.

Be Passionate!

ALM is a great option for students. It is a great course full of so many different challenges and opportunities. It is creative, analytical, evaluative and exciting. Students will learn so many skills and therefore have a chance to develop as an independent and collaborative worker. At the end of the day it comes down to our own passion for the subject. Don’t close it off, open it up to everyone! Dare to believe that anyone can take ALM and then go from there!

This is an excellent resource from Wiltshire Music Hub  – Why Choose A-Level Music.


  1. As a relatively large sixth form college I feel I have to tread a careful line. I certainly don’t insist students have taken GCSE in order to do A level but making too big a deal of that sends out the wrong signals to parents and feeder schools. It would absolutely be MUCH BETTER to have done GCSE music, its just that we can cope if students haven’t!

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