Choosing an A-Level is a tricky process. You go from 10 or so subjects down to 3 or 4. Decisions have to be made that will potentially affect your university options and future career.
Why Study A-Level Music is a blog all about this process, with a focus on Music A-Level. I believe that anyone can take a subject if they really want to, regardless of some of the things we often worry about. it is therefore important to really consider the choice and get all the facts before you make a decision.
The Choice Process
The process of choosing A-Levels is often formally started in the January/February of Year 11. Teachers will present at an options evening or provide videos for you to watch. You may have visited local schools or colleges to get the information needed. You have looked at the course requirements and considered what you are good at and if you will reach the required grades.
There are probably 3 reasons why you choose a particular A-Level:
- You choose the A-Level because you are naturally gifted at the subject or have a particular talent/flair for it. You might speak a language, be an excellent artist or excel at maths.
- Enjoyment is key for you and over the years you have loved the subject and enjoyed the lessons.
- In order to pursue a particular career path you know the A-Levels that you need to take.
I am going to look at each of these in turn, with a focus on A-Level Music in particular. Remember, the skills you have in Year 11 will grow and develop over the two years of A-Levels. You need to start to consider where you might be in your learning in 2 years time.
Gifted and/or Talented
If you have a gifting or talent for music then it seems like a good idea for you to take the A-Level. There are a number of reasons for this that I am going to look at.
- Having a talent for an A-Level means that you are likely to succeed. This is of course not a given, but you are more likely to reach a certain level because you bring to the A-level a natural ability.
- Utilising talents at A-Level seems like a good idea as it can ease some of the pressure. The performance aspect of A-Level Music will be a great deal easier for someone who already plays an instrument. It won’t be a complete breeze of course, but it won’t be as much of a struggle. This is the same for any subject where a talent will get you through a certain aspect of the course.
- If you are gifted then it means that your other A-Levels will benefit from the lack of stress and worry over Music A-Level. This might be helpful especially after the Covid-19 Pandemic that has put us in a slightly odd position in terms of learning.
Often students will say that they “do enough music outside of lessons” and therefore “why should I take an A-Level”. I always find this one interesting and I therefore probe deeper into this. If you have skills and talents, then use them. Yes all the outside music stuff is great and you can carry that on, but why not put it to use in the A-Level. Why not help secure your future with the skills that you already have! Put them to good use and learn some more on the way.
There is nothing wrong with choosing the things we enjoy. Every weekend, holiday and frankly most days, I choose things I enjoy. Whether it be a programme on TV, a book or a running route, I want to opt of the things I love.
So if you enjoy studying music, then take it for A-Level. The enjoyment of a subject will take you far and it will help with the harder moments of the course. And the reality is that you may not enjoy every single aspect of the course, but that doesn’t matter. All too often we think that everything needs to be a slog and it doesn’t. Do the subjects you enjoy, and music is a great choice!
It might be the case that you know exactly what you want to do with your life: doctor, lawyer, teacher, performer, journalist, police-officer, actor etc.
If you know that you want music to be part of your future, then taking the A-Level would seem to make complete sense. It will give you the time and space to work on your performing, composing and analytical skills. It will put you in the right mindset for the future.
What is important if you have another career in mind is that you seek advice about what A-Levels you ACTUALLY need. All too often we think that we need certain qualifications to do certain things – and sometimes we are wrong. It is crucial that you are making the right choices and you aren’t being told something that isn’t strictly true. Music is an A-Level that shows a huge range of written & performance skills. Some employers & further education facilities might hugely value music.
You may of course have no idea what you want to do, and therefore you should simply focus on getting the best grades. The better the grades, the more options may be open to you – well that isn’t always true, but it doesn’t hurt. Getting to the end of school with great grades and experiences will however go a long way. The worst case scenario is that you struggle through two years with subjects you don’t need or don’t want to do.
Sometimes students worry that they haven’t studied GCSE Music. Or they worry that the experience of GCSE wasn’t as good as they would have wished. I think that any student can study A-Level Music if they wish – you just need to know what is expected of you and consider your target grades and aspirations. Don’t write off music without speaking to a professional. You may have what it takes to get a C in Music, so don’t think that you need to get an A. What I mean is, some students think that A-Level is only for people who have Grade 8 in ten instruments and can read music upside down whilst under water. It is not – it is an A-Level that can be taken by students at all levels.
Put simply, A-Level music is not elitist and reserved for the few. It is like any A-Level and should be approached in that way. However, you do need to be able to play an instrument at a good level by Year 11 in order to access the course. But you don’t need to be Grade 8 in Year 11. Whilst that might help you have time to develop over the course and you should take this into consideration. You do however need to see what your school say and what their requirements are. Speak to your music teacher to find out more.
Choosing A-Levels can be tough, but I think we can sometimes over complicate it and make it even harder. Fundamentally pick the subjects you enjoy and want to study. If you need certain ones for your plan, then choose those. But make sure that you do actually need them for your future career, and make sure that career is actually for you. Talk to current students, get all the advice you can and spend time thinking about what is beyond school.
A-Level Music is such a wonderful subject and it is full of so many different strands and skills. You will get so much from it and that will all be revealed as you embark on the course. Like any A-Level, there will one challenges. But with hard work and determination you can overcome any challenges in any course.
Why Study A-Level Music?
Simply put, study A-Level Music because you want to. Study it because you enjoy it and study it because you are good at it. As an A-Level, it is fantastic, but I am biased. You will learn so much more than music, you will learn how to stand up and perform, how to compose creatively and how to write analytically. A-Level Music will prepare you for things in later life that you may not even be thinking of yet!
And study it because Music is brilliant, and when we study it we really do unlock its true power.