The Music Department at Sutton Valence School provides a friendly, but firm, atmosphere for academic learning, performs outstanding music at concerts, while also encouraging pupils at all levels to enjoy music making. Music plays an important and vibrant part in the life of the School, centred on the purpose-built building and the Chapel.
Staff and the department
Director of Music, Mr Phil Horley has been in post since 2002. Before then, he was the Assistant Director of Music from 1990, so is now one of the longest serving members of staff. He studied the organ under John Rippin at Chingford Parish Church, before gaining the Organ Scholarship at St John’s College, York, studying under David Lang. After gaining his degree, he won a place at the Royal Northern College of Music to study advanced organ playing, choir training and harpsichord, studying under Ronald Frost and Gordon Stewart. Beyond his involvement with Music, he is a Gold assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and is Master in Charge of the School Shooting Team.
Jonathan Soman, Assistant Director of Music, studied clarinet and saxophone at the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music before studying music at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. Whilst at Oxford, he was involved in many theatrical productions, including musically directing a production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music in the Oxford Playhouse. He sang with the award winning acapella group “Out of the Blue”. On graduation in 2013, he came to Sutton Valence, where in his first year he musically directed the School’s production of We Will Rock You. He is responsible for conducting the Chapel Choir. Away from Sutton Valence, he leads a youth Bible study group at his church in Loose.
The third full-time member of the department, David Holmes was appointed the School’s first Head of Strings in 1999. He began playing the violin at the age of 9 and by 14 he had won an award to study under Carmel Kaine from the Royal Academy. In 1990 he took a place at the Royal Academy of Music to study violin with Nicholas Miller and viola with John White. Since his appointment to Sutton Valence, he has built up the Strings to a very high level. The Senior Strings now regularly perform such works as Elgar’s Serenade, the Holdberg Suite and other famous works to great acclaim. When he is not working on music, he is often found on the golf course making sure his handicap is in single figures.
Mr Horley, Mr Soman and Mr Holmes (who also teaches at the Preparatory School) are supported by a number of talented peripatetic music teachers whose details may be found here.
The department has its own computer suite, with machines running the latest Sibelius composition software. Extra help is offered during Sixth Form free time and at break times whenever possible.
At GCSE the department follows the AQA course. The exam requires pupils to prepare performances, a solo and an ensemble, compose two compositions and study theory of music culminating in a listening paper in June. Thus, approximately two-thirds of the course is completed as coursework, with just one unit taken in the Summer examination series. The teaching of composition, where individual work is crucial, has a staff-pupil ratio of normally one to five at the most.
In Sixth Form pupils take the Edexcel A Level course. The structure is similar for AS and A2 Levels, with pupils preparing performances, writing compositions and studying set works. Approximately two-thirds of the course is completed as coursework, with just one unit taken in the June examination series. The performance levels are grade 5 for AS and grade 6 for A2 and takes the form of a recital, being sis and twelve minutes respectively.
Almost all pupils who opt for AS music continue it to A2 Level, and many pupils who study music at A Level continue to read music at university. Places include The Royal Welsh College of Music, Cardiff, The Leeds College of Music, The Royal Holloway University and Edinburgh University.
Mr Phil Horley
Director of Music
Sutton Valence School music on YouTube