The Arts play a central role in shaping personal, social, cultural and creative identity. Learning through performance and expression allows children to cultivate their passions and talents as well as providing limitless opportunities for sharing thought and feelings. We showcase over 40 music and drama productions every year with curriculum music and drama for everyone.
Music at Swanbourne House plays an integral part of school life for every child. Class music lessons involving listening, appraising, composing and performing skills are taught across the school at least once a week. A great deal of the work we do is practical, as that is how we believe that children learn best: we have a wide range of classroom percussion instruments, as well as keyboards for children to use whenever the opportunity arises, and we always encourage children to use their own instruments if they are able. We have several networked computers all running Sibelius and other musical software, and this is often used as a teaching aid or learning tool when appropriate, along with iPads to compose using GarageBand.
Through learning an instrument with one of our team of 12 visiting music staff, taking part in an instrumental or vocal ensemble, or performing in one of the many solo or ensemble performance opportunities throughout the year in and out of school (including the bi-annual European Senior Choir tour), children’s independence, confidence, teamwork and self-reliance is developed in a friendly and encouraging environment.
“Music is very much at the heart of Swanbourne House. Children have the opportunity to discover and develop their own individual musical skills in a safe and secure environment which enables them to build confidence and create memories for life.” Mr M Phillips, Director of Music
As pupils progress, they should develop a critical engagement with music, allowing them to compose, and to listen with discrimination to the best in the musical canon. At Swanbourne House the music curriculum aims to engender a lifelong love and appreciation of music, at a time when music education across the country is under threat within our education system. Whether through listening, composing or performing, children at Swanbourne are invited to explore the world of music, developing a theoretical understanding of the elements of music through practical means.
We run a series of informal concerts during the Spring Term which is a great performance platform for all children, whether they have been playing their instrument for five weeks or five years. To see the great support that children offer one another in these events is one of the strengths of the school as a whole. Beyond this, there is a programme of Form Concerts (held in the Outdoor Classroom when weather permits) during the Summer Term, and an eagerly anticipated bi-annual House Music Competition, as well as concerts and performances held outside school, including our regular St Swithun’s Community Concerts. There are larger scale concerts in school at Christmas and in the Summer Term, where all of the instrumental and choral groups will have an opportunity to perform: the Summer Concert really is the culmination of the musical life at Swanbourne over the year and involves a large number of children from across the School.
Singing is a hugely important part of what we do and, on top of plenty of singing to enhance learning in the classroom, there are several choirs for the children to join: the Year 1 and 2 Choir; the Junior Choir (for all children in Year 3 and 4); the ‘Big Glee Club’ (open to all children from Year 4 upwards). In Year 5 to Year 8 boys and girls can audition for the Senior Choir, the school’s flagship choir which performs at services, concerts and other events throughout the year, as well as having the opportunity to go on a bi-annual European tour. The Senior Vocal Group is a more select group of Year 8 experienced musicians who are part of the group by invitation. Everybody gets stuck in enthusiastically to the House Singing Competition every year – it really is great fun!
We also have several instrumental groups, many of which are led by the specialist instrumental staff. The Percussion Group, Guitar Group, String Group, Woodwind Group and Brass Group all rehearse weekly and perform regularly in concerts. Children are invited to join the School Orchestra when they reach an appropriate standard. It is always great to see pupils getting together to form their own ensembles, which we strongly encourage.
Outside the classroom, there is plenty going on in the Music Department. A team of 12 visiting instrumental and singing teachers provide individual tuition for nearly all musical instruments if required, so there is a wide variety from which to choose: we are always happy to advise or give trial lessons if that would be helpful. There are over 160 individual music lessons happening each week. These 30-minute lessons happen on a rotation basis so as to avoid impacting a child’s academic progress too much; this is carefully monitored in liaison with the child’s Form or Personal Tutor. Theory lessons are also available.
Examinations for the Associated Board take place regularly in school and we have a long-standing record of music exam success; children are also able to take music exams for other exam boards by arrangement.
At Swanbourne House all children in Year 3 and above have a 60 minute drama lesson as part of their weekly timetable. Our children perform with passion and commitment at a level that belies their years. Each half term has a theme and children will participate in a range of activities including games and warm-up exercises, improvised, devised and scripted tasks, dance, singing, mime and directing. Example units of work are physical theatre, musical theatre, comedy, characterisation and class productions.
- Encourage exploration, clarification and expression of ideas, feelings and experiences through a wide range of theatre activities
- Develop and practise the skills necessary for creative expression and joyful participation in Drama
- Enable children to see and to solve problems creatively through imaginative thinking and so encourage individuality and enterprise
- Value a child’s confidence and self-esteem through valuing self-expression
- Foster a sense of excellence in, and appreciation of, Drama in school, local and national contexts
- Provide all children with an opportunity to perform for parents and/or peers at least once in every academic year
“Drama helps children make sense of the world through the creation of imagined characters and situations, and the relationships and events that they encounter. Drama is a creative and cultural activity. The language of theatre is international and understood by everyone. It provides an opportunity to pupils to explore the world of people from other times, places and cultures and to examine differences and similarities within their own environment.” Miss R Walters, Head of Drama
Every child has the opportunity to participate in at least one production a year and will have a speaking part every year from the age of 8. Foundation to Year 2 produce our Christmas Nativity plays. Year 3 and Year 4 perform a full scale musical in the Autumn Term, with Year 3 forming the chorus and Year 4 taking the solo speaking/singing parts. Year 5 perform classic plays which take place in our outdoor amphitheatre. Year 6 produce a summer Shakespeare showcase and Year 7 work on Christmas Pantomimes. Year 8 work in small groups to self direct their own final plays. The Senior Musical is a big budget, large scale production produced in conjunction with the Music Department and is open via audition to all children from Year 6 upwards. This production is performed in the Bridget More Hall with professional scenery, lighting and sound equipment, often supported by a live band of professional musicians. Past shows include ‘Fame’, ‘Grease’, ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Oliver’, ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Footloose’.
Over 90 children opt for additional individual or paired drama lessons. They follow the LAMDA syllabus in either Acting, Musical Theatre or Verse and Prose, taking an exam each year and presenting a showcase to parents each year. For children under 7, we also offer a co-curricular Drama and Musical Theatre class run by Pepperpot Perfect. As part of our wide ranging activities programme, we offer two drama clubs that are open to children in Year 3 and above and a scholarship mentoring programme for children who wish to attempt a Drama or Performing Arts scholarship to their chosen senior school. We also have a visiting specialist dance teacher who offers classes in ballet, tap, street and jazz as well as an auditioned, competitive dance group.
Art at Swanbourne House aims to connect contemporary art to the wealth of knowledge and ideas that have gone before us, especially within the pupils’ work. Specific skills are taught with an emphasis on developing observational drawing skills, in many cases this is linked to the work of various artists, movements and other cultures. The elements of colour, pattern, texture, line, tone, shape, form and space are explored and experienced in a structured way as pupils are taught how to handle the materials used to create art. We encourage first-hand experience with artists and artwork, through visits to museums and galleries, and contact with artists and designers. To explore and experiment with materials, gaining confidence to innovate and refine work as it progresses. To provide varied practical activities developing skills through painting, drawing, collage, printing, sculpture, ceramics and ICT.
The Art Department has two major exhibitions a year, in the Spring and Summer terms, the children also have the opportunity to display their talent at external exhibitions such as the Stowe Art Exhibition, in which Swanbourne work has featured over the last few years. In addition various smaller showcases and displays of recent works are around throughout the year. The children often create artwork that is displayed and sold at events such as the Christmas Market and Church Fair.
As early as 5, children are getting hands on in Pottery & Crafts Club or Textiles Clubs. Year 2 Make & Create Club is a great introduction to art in the Middle School. Children in the Middle and Upper School get the opportunity to take part in Art Clubs throughout the week, and an Art activity is offered as part of the Saturday Enrichment Programme.