A Level Music


Choose this diverse, stimulating course and study the iconic music in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ in one lesson and compose your own symphony in the next! Music is a multi-faceted subject, and at A Level, you will develop your skills across all aspects of performing, composing, listening and analysing.

Why St Mary's

Inspired by subject-specialist teachers, you will have access to a fully-equipped music department, overlooking the beautiful surroundings of Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Our smaller class sizes offer a distinct advantage for your progress, as we can tailor a bespoke curriculum to meet your needs, focusing on key areas that need further support and development.

Our enriched learning opportunities can include:

  • Collaboration with professional ensembles such as Eboracum Baroque
  • Performing in a range of venues in and around Cambridge, including the Cambridge University Concert Hall and various College Chapels, for example Clare College Chapel
  • St Mary’s Young Pianist of the Year competition
  • St Mary’s Young Musician of the Year competition
  • National competitions

Enabling your transition from GCSE

Throughout your A Level you will have ready access to supportive teachers, who will work closely with you to help you reach your full potential.

Students who undertake GCSE Music at St Mary’s Senior School are particularly well-positioned to study Music at A Level, as we regularly go beyond the parameters of the GCSE specification and extend our teaching and student learning to incorporate additional topics relevant to A Level.

Course overview

A Level content

  • Component 1 Performing (30% of qualification): You will prepare a solo recital (on any instrument/voice) lasting a minimum of eight minutes. Performances must be recorded after the 1 March in Upper Sixth. The recital is recorded and externally assessed by Edexcel.
  • Component 2 Composing (30% of qualification): You will submit two compositions. The first will be either a free choice composition OR a composition in response to a brief set by Edexcel, and the second composition will be a response to a brief assessing technique, also set by Edexcel in the spring of Upper Sixth. The total time across both compositions must be a minimum of six minutes. The compositions must be notated and recorded and they are externally assessed by Edexcel.
  • Component 3 Appraising (40% of qualification): This unit focuses on listening to music, familiar and unfamiliar, and understanding the musical elements, contexts and language. You will focus on six specific areas of music, with in-depth study of three set works for each area:
    • Vocal Music
    • Instrumental Music
    • Music for Film
    • Popular Music and Jazz
    • Fusions
    • New Directions


  • Component 1 Performing (30% of qualification)
  • Component 2 Composing (30% of qualification)
  • Component 3 Appraising (40% of qualification)

Visit our Sixth Form

Music scholarships

We offer scholarships for talented musicians.

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At a glance
  • Syllabus: Edexcel A Level 9MU01
  • Performing, composing and appraising music
  • You will ideally have Grade 5 in your chosen instrument/voice
  • Small class sizes

Entry requirements

GCSE grades (or equivalent)

  • Subject 1: Music: 6+
  • Performing Grade 6+
You will enjoy this course if you...
  • Are passionate about music
  • Like composing your own music
  • Have strong performance skills
  • Relish the challenge of musical analysis and enjoy exploring the development of music (Grade 5 Theory is useful, but not essential)

Our students say...

“The music department is pretty amazing at St Mary’s and they have been enthusiastic from the get go. As Music Captain, I was pleased to give something back to the school by running a string quartet for younger students. I’m delighted to have a place at Cambridge – my teachers encouraged me to apply and were so helpful with the entire application process. For the future, I want to keep up my performing, alongside building a broad academic grounding.” Henrietta McF.

“A day without music is a wasted day.” André Previn

Music exalts us. It has the power to calm and de-stress us, to motivate us, to fire our imaginations and take us on journeys, to transport us back in time, to make us want to dance, to laugh, to weep. It permeates and punctuates our daily lives and it heightens and enhances our every-day experiences.

A high proportion of students who study Music GCSE and Music A level at St Mary’s go on to study music at higher level – whether that be at University or at a conservatoire.

Recently, one of our students secured a place to read Music at the University of Cambridge and her classmate has been offered a place to study singing at the Royal Academy of Music. Both full-time members of our Music teaching team studied music at top UK universities (University of Cambridge and University of Durham) and are well-versed in preparing students for applying to such institutions.

Other recent alumnae have gone on to study performance or music at:

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

University of Durham

University of York

University of Birmingham

University of Surrey

University of Southampton

Leeds College of Music

Royal Holloway

Two of our recent alumnae have forged careers as professional musicians since leaving their university destinations, as a professional freelance conductor and a singer-song writer.

Leaver destinations

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Our results

Achieve the results you need to fulfil your dreams.

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What our teachers say...

“Music has been my passion from a young age, and I am in the fortunate position that I get to immerse myself in it and share my enthusiasm for it with my students every single day.”