Music Lessons

Individual Music Lessons - Notes for Parents' Guidance

At St Catherine’s we set great store by individual music lessons.  The benefits to pupils and the School itself are considerable, and the lessons provide skills and engagement that can last a lifetime.  Pupils gain further by being able to play in our many ensembles.  We will do our best, therefore, but we also need your support and understanding of how the lessons run.  The following notes are intended as a reference document to answer some of the more general queries parents often have.  Apology is made for the length of the document, but the matters are quite complex, so we do ask that you take time to familiarise yourself with the contents here.  NB “Instrument” and “playing” should also be taken as referring to “singing”.  

  1. Applications - Applications for individual lessons are made online to the DoM via the above application form. You are advised  to keep a copy for your records.  Preparatory School applications should be routed via the Preparatory School Headmistress.  If the lessons are not to begin at the start of the next term, this should be mentioned on the form.  For lessons beginning in September, application is strongly advised by the preceding May.  A girl will be notified if she has to be on a waiting list. 

    Shared lessons may be taken in some instruments (although this is not always recommended as progress can be slower) and are charged at half-rate.  Parents may also request a double lesson (recommended for Grade 6 and above).

    In September, when there are many new applications, the notice boards should be consulted for details of starting time and day.  When starting in other terms, a girl and teacher are put in contact to arrange mutually agreeable times.

    Please note: if Grade 5 Associated Board Theory has been passed, and a certificate is requested, the certificate itself should be submitted with the application not a photocopy.  This will be returned when details are registered with us.

  2. Transfers - If a girl having music lessons in Preparatory School transfers to Senior School, it is assumed that she will continue these unless the required term’s notice is given.  This will be with the same teacher if s/he teaches in both schools; if not, the girl will be allocated to a new teacher in Senior School.   (Please also see paragraph 8 on rotas.)

  3. Allocation of Teacher – We regard teachers as being of equal status and therefore allocate freely.  A request for a particular teacher may be made, but there can be no guarantee that that teacher will be available or the request complied with.  A change of teacher is usually only considered in extreme circumstances, and after discussion with the DoM.  If a Visiting Music Teacher leaves the school, the school will appoint a new teacher to take his/her place. The school will inform parents if a VMT is going to leave, and it is assumed that lessons will continue with the new teacher, unless you inform us to the contrary as soon as you hear that the teacher is leaving.
  4. Number of Lessons – 30 lessons will be given during the academic year. Lessons are charged as 10 lessons per term (see below), irrespective of the actual number of weeks; the lessons given per term will actually divide more like 12 weeks in the Autumn Term, 10 weeks in the Spring Term and 8 weeks in the Summer Term.  At the end of the Summer Term any shortfall in the lessons that should be due will be credited. 

    The exception to the above is for U5 and U6.  In the Summer Term, because of Exam Leave and general change of timetable due to GCSE and AS/A2 exams, a full number of lessons will still be attempted but only 25 can really be assured. Girls are expected to make special arrangements with their teachers during this time to fit in with their exam timetable. (More under Discontinuation below.)  Girls will receive 30 lessons unless there is written confirmation from parents at the start of the Spring Term asking for 25.

    If either the teacher or the parents would like a pupil to receive more than the statutory 30 lessons, a written request (or other signed authorisation) must be sent from the parents to the teacher, copied to the DoM, who will pass it on to the Business Manager for approval. All extra lessons will then be billed on the final Summer Account.

    In the Autumn Term, lessons usually begin on the second Thursday of term. In the Spring and Summer Terms, lessons begin at the same time as normal academic lessons. 
  5. Billing for lessons - The termly fees for individual lessons can be found by following the Fees Information link available on the School Website. All lessons are charged in advance with the fees being due by the first day of each term. 
    a) Where the Music Teacher is employed by the School then the School charges for lessons. The charge will appear on the school bill.
    b) Where the Music Teacher is self-employed then the Teacher charges for lessons. The Teacher will directly invoice parents for music lessons, and all enquiries regarding payment, number of lessons, etc, should be made directly to the teacher concerned. Copies of any correspondence, however, (particularly discontinuation) should also be sent to the Director of Music.
    c) Music Scholars and Award Holders: for all Award Holders or Scholars entitled to free music lessons then these will be shown as a credit on the school bill.  If those lessons are with a self-employed teacher, parents will still need to pay the teacher directly.
  6. Absences – Where a pupil is absent from a lesson (this includes her illness) and the teacher is present, the lesson is regarded as having taken place unless seven days’ notice has been given to the teacher.  If notice has been given, the lesson is ‘made up’ or a credit is given.  A girl must give this notice even when an event involving her appears on the School calendar, or when she is required for a specific assessment – it must not be assumed that the teacher is aware she will be involved.  This also holds true for end of term House Activities and outings.  If the girl is given less than a week’s notice by the School that she is needed, and this results in absence, parents either are not charged for that lesson or it is made up.

    When a girl in Senior School is absent from an instrumental lesson on two occasions for what are judged to be weak reasons, the teacher will inform parents/guardians by telephone. If she is absent on three occasions for what are judged to be weak reasons, the DoM will contact parents/guardians in writing.

    When the School has its internal summer examination week, music lessons are suspended.  In the mock examination periods, however, girls in L5-U6 must make special arrangements with teachers to fit in with their exam timetable – lessons are not automatically suspended.
  7. DiscontinuationA full term’s notice in writing must be given to the DoM by the first day of that term, otherwise fees for the term following will also be due. Fax or email are acceptable. A letter or email of acknowledgement will be sent, and if you do not receive this please contact us. If a further term is due because of short notice, it is assumed the lessons will occur; however, ‘fees in lieu’ is possible and parents may write confirming lessons are not actually required. It should, however, be noted that with regard to new applications, it is expected that once lessons have begun, they will run for two terms at least – otherwise it would be necessary to write a letter of discontinuation at the same time as the application!

    If a girl wishes to discontinue for her final GCSE or AS/A2 examination term, the normal notice must be given; it should not be assumed that she will automatically stop at the end of the Spring Term.  Where lessons continue, specific arrangements for them must also be made with the teacher during the GCSE/AS/A2 Level period.  Temporary discontinuation for a term is not recognised; a full discontinuation must be made and a new application for lessons then submitted.  We will try to allocate the same teacher.
  8. Rota/Fixed Lessons – It must be understood and accepted that, for girls in F1-L6 years inclusive, lessons will be on a rota system, whereby a girl will miss a different academic lesson each week for the music lesson according to a set pattern.  It is otherwise impossible to fit in all the lessons.  Parents sometimes have anxiety about this, but it has not been the experience, here at St Catherine’s or nationally, that standards are harmed through this system, or that pupils suffer academically.  Girls are, however, expected to ‘catch up’ work covered in the class lesson, and do any prep set - it is not an excuse to delay or avoid study! Only one rota per girl is allowed, however; if more than one instrument is studied the other individual lessons will be at a fixed, non-class time. Fixed lessons for girls learning only one instrument are not available.

    In the Senior School a girl must give her class teacher at least one week’s notice that she will be missing the class lesson, otherwise the teacher is entitled to refuse the request and the lesson will be forfeit.  The Form Teacher will explain how this notice should be given using an electronic diary request.  A girl should be given her full rota for the term, or half term, in advance by her music teacher, though there may have to be changes because of outings/assessments, either for herself or because of the knock-on effect from other girls’ changes.  New girls will have the system explained by their Form Teachers. Where genuine difficulties arise (ie. not simply a girl’s disorganisation), the question of rota should be discussed with the DoM.

    During a music lesson in the Preparatory School the following week’s time is written by the teacher into the pupil’s notebook. On the day of a music lesson, girls must inform their class teacher at morning registration of the lesson time.

    In both schools, individual music lesson times are displayed on the designated notice boards.

  9. Boarders’ Practice – At the start of each term, boarders in L4 and U4 are asked to identify when they are free of commitments so that they may be allocated a daily (except Sunday) practice time for each instrument.  There are regular checks to make sure they are there!  Boarders in U3 are also timetabled by staff; boarders in L5-U6 are considered responsible enough to make their own arrangements.
  10. Sheet Music – Teachers normally obtain any music required without reference to parents/guardians, unless the cost is unusually high.  The charge for sheet music appears on the end of term account.  If, however, music arrives towards the end of a term, it may well not be charged until the following term.  Day girls may be asked to buy some music themselves.

    Girls in choirs or ensembles are responsible for any music issued.  If this music is lost, the appropriate charge for replacement (if necessary a full set of parts) will be made.

    A girl holding a Music Award (see below) has music free of charge for that instrument.
  11. Hire of Instruments –The School holds certain instruments available for hire, the termly charge for which appears on the account. (Please refer to the ‘Fees’ section on the school website.) Many parents welcome the opportunity for their daughters to begin lessons without the (often high) cost of buying or using a rental scheme.  However, parents are urged to see hiring as a temporary measure and to buy an instrument as soon as possible – ownership encourages a real sense of instrument affinity, encourages progress and frees an instrument for others to hire.
  12. Insurance: School Instruments – Girls are responsible for a School instrument’s continued good condition.  Normal wear and tear repairs are taken care of by the Music Department but damage through carelessness or accident is the responsibility of the parents.  It is suggested that parents’ personal insurance should be checked to cover this eventuality.  A School instrument may be taken abroad only with the permission of the DoM and on the above understanding.

    Own Instruments – The School insurance policy does not cover a girl’s own instrument brought onto School premises, even in the instrument locker, and therefore your own insurance policy should cover this.  It is always a good idea to make a note of make, model and serial number and these may also be noted by the music teacher.
  13. Instruments at School – When a girl brings to School, or keeps at School, an instrument (whether her own or School’s), it must be kept in a designated locker when not in use.  No undertaking for the instrument’s safety is given otherwise.  A member of staff is responsible for allocating specific instrument lockers, and a girl should see this teacher.  The School provides a padlock with a code for the girl’s use, but the department also owns a master key.
  14. Lockers – We aim to provide all girls that have instrumental lessons in school, or take part in ensembles, with a single or shared locker for the safe storage of her instrument/s, regardless of whether or not the instrument belongs to her or the school.  An initial padlock will be provided by the school but subsequent replacements due to loss will be charged for.
  15. Reeds, Strings, Small Ancillary Items – When provided by the teacher, and whether for a girl’s own or for a School instrument, these are charged to the termly account.
  16. Choirs and Ensembles – Girls are strongly encouraged to take part in these when an appropriate standard is reached.  Some are reluctant to do this; however, the benefits of playing under specific direction and with others has an inestimable benefit on progress and ability.  It is, however, expected that full and regular commitment will be given to these activities once undertaken.

    Girls learning outside School are warmly encouraged to join a suitable ensemble or choir.
  17. Music Examinations (Associated Board and Trinity) – Girls are normally entered for practical examinations by mutual agreement between themselves and their teachers when their standard is judged to be high enough.  Parents will be notified of entry by letter. The cost of the examination entry appears on the end of term account.  We reserve the right not to make an entry, even at parents’ or pupil’s request, if the teacher considers it ill advised.  Girls having lessons at School are not encouraged to take the examination elsewhere or in different periods.

    Girls learning instruments outside School are most welcome to take their examinations at School.   The charge for these will appear on the end of term account.  Written details (to the DoM) should include: Instrument and Grade entered; teacher’s name (with title); age of pupil and date of birth, and Grade 5 Theory Certificate (if applicable) if taking Grade 6 practical or higher. Practical examinations sessions take place in late November, early March and late June.

    If a girl is unable to take an examination through illness or injury, a doctor’s certificate covering the day of the examination must be provided immediately.  A portion of the examination fee might then be recoverable, at the Board’s discretion.  There is no refund for any other absence.  If a girl seems likely to fail the examination, the teacher may discuss with parents/guardians whether she should withdraw, but the final decision is with the parents.

    Grade 5 Theory classes and Aural classes for various Grades are provided free of charge at extra-curricular times.  Girls are strongly encouraged to attend these well before the examination is taken.  Lessons, especially at the higher Grades, are frequently not long enough to cover everything in depth, and class aural or theory is a great benefit (and frequently a relief that others are in the same boat!).

    For instrumental examinations, accompanists are provided if the teacher does not do this, plus rehearsals, free of charge.  The number and length of rehearsals will be dependent on the grade and the girl’s individual ability.

    It is not essential that a girl take music examinations.  If she and her parents prefer learning without that pressure, this is quite acceptable.
  18. Concerts – There are a large number of performing opportunities for the girls, from House Informal Concerts to the large-scale school events.  Pupils of all abilities are encouraged to participate in relevant ensembles.  Further details are available from the DoM. Girls learning outside School are warmly encouraged to take part in school events, and parents are always welcome to attend as well – your  support means a lot to your daughters.
  19. GCSE/AS/A2 Examinations – With the arrival of more practical elements in these examinations, instrumental teachers are often quite involved in preparing pupils for the Coursework sections.  For GCSE, solo and ensemble playing roughly equivalent to Grade 5 should secure a good mark in the Performing Section but the grade is not mandatory.  For AS/A2 specifications, there is a practical unit which involves both coursework and solo performance, and Grade 6 should be regarded as the minimum standard.
  20. Scholarships – The School ordinarily offers two Music Scholarships annually, one for 11+ entry, the other for Sixth Form, each for 20% of the School fees. Free tuition, free sheet music and free examination entry for one instrument is also included. There is also the Jennifer Bate Organ Scholarship in conjunction with Guildford Cathedral for advanced organ pupils. Full details and application forms are available from the Registrar. 
  21. Music Awards – A Music Award provides free tuition, free sheet music and free examination entry for the Award subject.  Various Awards are available for less common instruments, for rapid progress and advanced players, for singing, and for organ.  A summary of the Awards, full details and application form are available from the Registrar.
  22. Parental Contact – Instrumental teachers provide written reports at the same time as normal School reports (ie, for the term where there is no Parents’ Evening for the year).   There is also a Visiting Music Staff Parents’ Evening every year, covering both Senior and Preparatory Schools, for which separate details will be given. Teachers are encouraged to keep in regular contact with parents so that details of progress can be noted.

These notes are provided in good faith, but are subject to change.  We will try to keep you informed via ‘The Wheel’.

Mr Matthew Greenfield
Director of Music
September 2015