Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School

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The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School offers a remarkable variety of musical opportunities and the chance to perform at the very highest levels both chorally, in instrumental music, jazz and popular music. The large numbers taking music at all levels and the many pupils studying instrumental and vocal lessons make the Music Department an exciting and stimulating environment in which to learn. The Department enjoys wonderful facilities including dedicated rehearsal spaces and teaching rooms, 8 practice rooms, 18 pianos, an extensive percussion department, a recording studio, a music technology suite and a very considerable library of music and other printed resources. Around forty members of staff teach music at the Vaughan and the Department teaches more than 400 individual instrumental and singing lessons per week.

The Vaughan's Music Department is an education partner of Southbank Sinfonia, the UK's orchestra of young professionals. We also have close links with the The Royal Opera House, English National Opera and Opera Holland Park and boys have recently performed alongside groups ranging from the Bach Choir to the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Foreign trips have seen pupils from the Vaughan traveling all over the world to perform whilst in the UK boys can often be heard at London's leading concert halls and in music festivals such as the BBC Proms and the Aldeburgh Festival.

Key Stage 3

Music lessons at Cardinal Vaughan are practical from day one and many pupils enjoy the subject, achieving outstanding academic results at all levels. The School’s nationally renowned new music facilities ensure that music lessons take place in an inspiring environment.

At Key Stage Three boys are taught music in half-size classes (averaging 16 boys). All music lessons are practical and there is a focus on the development of performing and composing skills, alongside developing musical understanding and knowledge.

A wide range of topics are explored including music from the Western Classical tradition, popular music and jazz, folk music and world music. Boys can expect to play keyboards, sing, play percussion instruments, working on their own and in groups. There is extensive use of Music ICT and boys use music computers from the First Form to explore composition.

GCSE Music

Board: Eduqas

Code: C660QS

More information can be found here.

Music GCSE offers you amazing opportunities to develop not only musically, but also creatively and intellectually. Through studying Music at GCSE, you will develop your musicianship in three main areas: performing, composing and listening. Pupils will perform, compose in a variety of styles, and learn more about a whole variety of music, ranging from Western Classical Music through to popular music and jazz.

Performance expectations. Playing a Grade 4-standard piece at the end of Fifth Form could get you full marks for your performances. You can also sing if you are not proficient on an instrument.  Pupils with an interest in music and a desire to learn more about the way that music works will be suited to this course.

A wide variety of music: You will study music across huge variety of styles, from classical music through to electronic dance music. And you can compose in any style you wish, allowing you to develop your musical talents in the direction that you want to go.

Paper 1: Performing 30%

You must perform a minimum of two pieces, one of which must be an ensemble performance of at least one minute duration. The other piece(s)may be either solo and/or ensemble. One of the pieces performed must link to an area of study (see below) of the learner’s choice.

Paper 2: Composing 30%

You will submit two compositions, one to a given starting idea and one completely of your own choice. These can be in any style. Popular choices have always been Rock and Pop songs, Blues, Classical, Minimalism and Dance music; you will notate or record them using Sibelius or Logic.

Paper 3: Listening 40%

At the end of Fifth Form you will sit a Listening Exam, answering questions on the set works and some unfamiliar pieces.

You will learn about the following aspect of music:

  • Form and structure of the music
  • How and which musical elements are used within the piece
  • Appropriate musical vocabulary for each work
  • Stylistic features of the music
  • Conventions used in different times and places
  • How music relates to the context in which it was created
  • How to express and justify their opinions and preferences

This examination will assess knowledge and understanding of music through the following four areas of study:

Area of study 1: Musical Forms and Devices

Area of study 2: Music for Ensemble

Area of study 3: Film Music

Area of study 4: Popular Music


The set works you will study are:

Badinerie by J.S. Bach for Flute and String Orchestra with Harpsichord

(Final movement, Orchestral Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067)

Africa: Toto (released 1982)

A-Level Music 

Board: AQA

Course 7272

More information can be found here.

The Music Department offers the AQA Music A Level in the Sixth Form. You will learn to perform, compose freely, write pastiche music, orchestrate and arrange music, listen and analyse, write essays, study musical history and sociology, all within a practical framework. A subject very highly thought of by Universities, Music A Level will give you the opportunity to develop your musical potential to the full.

You must play an instrument/sing to a standard equivalent to at least Grade V Associated Board standard and have at least a Level 6 at Music GCSE (or have passed the Grade V Theory Examination) to take this subject in the Sixth Form. Musicians working in all styles can take this subject but you must be able to read notation and have a genuine interest in a wide variety of music, including music from the classical tradition.

The Music A Level course comprises three components, all taken at the end of the Upper Sixth.                                                         

1. Appraising Music, 40%                                                                

An Exam paper with listening and written questions using excerpts of music.

There are seven areas of study. Area of Study 1 is compulsory and then two others are chosen.

  1. Western classical tradition 1650–1910 (compulsory)
  2. Pop music 
  3. Music for media
  4. Music for theatre
  5. Jazz
  6. Contemporary traditional music
  7. Art music since 1910.

2. Performance, 35%

A minimum of ten minutes of performance in total is required.

3. Composing, 35%

A minimum of four and a half minutes of music in total is required. This combines free composing with the study of pastiche composing – learning to compose in the style of JS Bach.

Recent Sixth Form Music students have gone on to read a wide variety of subjects at University including Music, many at Oxbridge and the other most highly regarded Universities, including the Music Conservatoires. Music is regarded very highly by University Admission Tutors for all subjects because of the self-discipline and the variety of skills it requires. The Music Industry in all its guises offers endless opportunities to those with the talent and motivation.

Choral Music

The Vaughan has a long tradition of fine choral singing both within the celebration of the liturgy and at public concerts. Today these standards are maintained in the School's three main choirs, the Schola Cantorum, the School Choir, and the Sixth Form Choir.

THE SCHOLA CANTORUM is the liturgical boys choir of The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. The Schola’s principal duty is that of serving the liturgy of the school and the Schola sings each week at the Wednesday morning school Mass.The Schola enjoys frequent external engagements and has sung recently at Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, King’s College, Cambridge, St John’s College, Cambridge, New College, Oxford, Winchester Cathedral, York Minster, Ely Cathedral, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Temple Church, St John’s, Smith Square, Cadogan Hall, Snape Maltings as part of the Aldeburgh Festival, The Royal Festival Hall and The Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms.

Annual tours take place, with destinations in the past few years including South Africa, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, New York, Washington, Venice, Paris, Rome, Leipzig, Madrid, Krakow, Assisi and Barcelona. In October 2020 the Schola will travel to Australia for the first time.

The Schola has worked with among others the London Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, Southbank Sinfonia, St James’ Baroque, The Bach Choir and The Choir of London. The choir has firm links with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with boys appearing in many productions including Gloriana, Suor Angelica, Tannhäuser, Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Tosca, La Bohème, Billy Budd, the world première of Lorin Maazel's opera 1984 and Turandot. Boys feature in the Royal Opera’s DVD releases of Turandot, Król Roger, 1984 and Gloriana. Boys also sing with English National Opera, most recently appearing in their productions of Billy Budd, The Magic Flute, Tosca, Carmen and La Bohème. Conductors the choir has worked with recently include Sir Antonio Pappano, Edward Gardner, Semon Bychkov and Sir James MacMillan.

The Schola also features on numerous film soundtracks including Rocketman, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1), Paddington, Dark Shadows, Transcendence, The Martian, Alice Through the Looking Glass and the Oscar winning score for Life of Pi. Film composers the Schola has worked with recently include Danny Elfman, Mychael Danna, Bruno Coulais, James Horner and Hans Zimmer.

Full details on the Schola's current activities can be found at

The School Choir offers choral opportunities for all boys and girls who wish to take part. The choir, numbering over one hundred pupils, performs at the School’s major concerts throughout year. Recent repertoire has included Vaughan Williams' The Sea Symphony, JS Bach's B Minor MassSt Matthew PassionSt John Passion, Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, Verdi's Requiem, Brahms', A German Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, Orff's Carmina Burana, Handel's Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Requiem and C minor Mass, Poulenc's Gloria and Puccini's Messe di Gloria.  Soloists who have appeared with the choir include Sir Thomas Allen, Sarah Fox, Duncan Rock, Jeremy White, Michael Chance, Barry Banks, Patrizia Kwella and John Mark Ainsley. The Choir has traveled abroad, to the East and West Coasts of the USA, to Spain, Austria and Germany.

The repertoire of the Sixth Form Choir, the School's mixed voice choir, is varied and the choir performs at the School's major concerts and provides music for the Sixth Form Masses and other services. In recent years the Choir has sung at Westminster Cathedral and has also sung Choral Evensong at The Queen's College, and Merton College, Oxford and Selwyn College, Cambridge.

Instrumental Music

The standard of the School's Instrumental Music is very high. More than four hundred instrumental and singing lessons are given each week and pupils have on offer just about every conceivable instrumental ensemble. A large team of well-qualified, highly experienced visiting teachers guide the pupils in their instrumental studies. 
Bursaries are available for those unable to pay for instrumental tuition. The School also offers a small number of Sixth Form Music Bursaries given to more advanced players on the basis of involvement in the School's music-making and the tutoring of younger pupils in their instrument.

Many junior ensembles cater for the needs of the younger boys, whilst a Concert Band and Senior String Ensemble offers the more advanced pupils the opportunity to discover the symphonic band and classical string repertoire. The First Orchestra tackles challenging works from across the orchestral repertoire. Recent concert items have included Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherezade, Mahler's Fourth Symphony, Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Fifth Symphony, Borodin's Second Symphony, Sibelius' Second and Fifth Symphonies, Brahms' Second Symphony, Schumann's First Symphony, Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh Symphonies, Mussorgsky's Night on a Bare Mountain, Schubert’s 'Unfinished' Symphony, Copland's Appalachian Spring, Säint-Säens' Danse Macbre, Eric Coates' London Suite and Dvorak's Eighth and Ninth Symphonies. Pupils have performed many concertos with the Orchestra, including Ravel's G major Piano Concerto, Haydn and Hummel's Trumpet Concertos, Elgar's Cello Concerto, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto and the same composer's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

The Big Band, is the School's busiest instrumental ensemble with a repertoire ranging from Glen Miller to Gordon Goodwin and beyond. The Band has performed at numerous functions in and around London, including at the Barbican Concert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and The Queen Elizabeth Hall and reached the final of the National Festival of Music for Youth on seven occasions. The Band played as part of the School Proms in October 2010 at the Royal Albert Hall and has made several appearances at the world famous Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. The Band has toured in Paris, Barcelona, Holland, the USA and Hong Kong. Regular performers at the famous Bull's Head, Barnes, London's oldest jazz venue, the Band has also performed at the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival, the Thames Festival and at all of London's major concert halls. Jazz musicians the band has worked with include Salena Jones, Bob Mintzer, Jason Yarde, Wayne Escoffery and Arturo Sandoval. The Band has recorded two CDs,The Heat's On and Moment's Notice. These recordings are available from the School.

Concerts & Tours

The Music Department gives several major concerts each year, numerous smaller evening recitals and many other performances besides. These events, held both at the School and at prestigious venues in London and beyond, ensure that pupils at the Vaughan are offered remarkable performing opportunities. Michaelmas term sees the annual celebration of the Patron Saint of music, St. Cecilia, whose Feast Day is marked by a large-scale choral orchestral concert. In addition, in recent years the School has held a choral concert in early December at St James’s, Spanish Place: repertoire performed has included Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, Verdi Requiem, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s Messiah. A traditional Service of Lessons and Carols, held at Our Lady of Victories Church, Kensington ends the term. The Lent Term includes the Spring Instrumental Concert and the Easter Concert. The Spring Concert give the First Orchestra opportunity to perform at length whilst the Easter Concert is often held at St John’s, Smith Square or Cadogan Hall. The less formal Summer Concert ends the year, complete with refreshments and music from the Big Band.Since 2008 the School has enjoyed a formal partnership with Southbank Sinfonia, London's orchestra of young professionals. Concerts, with Southbank Sinfonia performing alongside the Vaughan's Chamber Orchestra, have been given  at the Jerwood Hall at LSO St Lukes, Cadogan Hall and Wathen Hall, St Paul's School.

Each term there is a Junior Concert where the youngest boys have the opportunity to develop their performance skills. An Early Evening Recital Series runs throughout the year and allows soloists and chamber groups to perform. In the Lent Term the Department runs the Annual Music Competition, with heats leading to a final: the competition is judged by a panel of distinguished visiting adjudicators. In addition, the Schola Cantorum and the Big Band are especially busy providing music at various services and events in and around London. A particular highlight for the Schola Cantorum are the termly visits to Westminster Cathedral whilst the Big Band appears regularly at The Bull's Head, Barnes, London's oldest jazz venue. Pupils frequently work with professional groups outside of School, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Choir of London, the Bach, Choir, Opera Holland Park, English National Opera and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

At the end of each School year the Music Department collaborates with the School's English Department to stage a full-scale musical. Recent productions have been as follows:

  • 2014     WEST SIDE STORY
  • 2015     INTO THE WOODS
  • 2016     LES MISERABLES
  • 2017     SWEENEY TODD
  • 2018     GREASE
  • 2019     KISS ME KATE

The Music Department organises at least one foreign tour each year. Recent trips have been as follows:

  • 2019            BIG BAND TOUR TO PARIS


The Vaughan Centre for Young Musicians (VCYM), held from 4.30-6.30 pm, on ten Mondays each term, offers Primary School (age 8-11) boys the opportunity to extend their music curriculum and receive specialist music tuition. The VCYM provides each boy who attends with one instrumental lesson (either individual or in a pair for beginners on certain instruments) lasting between twenty and thirty minutes. Instruments offered are Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone & Guitar. Boys are provided with instruments on which to learn.

The remaining time is spent in musicianship classes, where the boys play in an orchestra, sing in a choir, use music technology, receive aural and rhythmic training and composing lessons. At the end of each term there is an informal concert where the boys perform. Reports are written twice yearly (at Christmas and Summer).The fees for VYCM 2024-25 are to be confirmed but in the current year 2023-24 the cost was £36.00 per session, £360 per term, payable in advance.

The deadline for applying for VCYM 2024-25 is Friday 28 June via the following online form:

Auditions will be held on 10 July.

Any queries please contact the Music Administrator, Mrs T Watkins email

Attending VCYM has given my son a wonderful head start with his music-making.