Music Theory at the Academy

The Academy takes theory seriously - as seriously as one’s chosen instrument, in fact. Mandatory weekly theory classes cover both traditional theoretical aspects of music (such as notation, scales/chords, harmony, ear training etc) and the application of these principles- i.e. playing in a band. The Academy believes that theory taught in isolation of actual music making is the reason why many music students ofttimes do no engage with this vital topic.

Grade 2 Theory Sample:

Grade 6 Theory Sample:

The Academy’s approach enables the retention of valuable theoretical aspects of music by rendering the theoretical practical-thus students engage with theory as it will be needed in the following week’s ensemble class. This approach has been found to be enormously successful. The ratio of theory classes to ensemble is commensurate to the grade- thus students of higher grades do slightly more ensemble/band classes. The Academy has a series of bespoke publications that go hand-in-hand with graded theory syllabi. These books serve as both a reference text to accompany a class, a work book for in-class exercises and a method of revision prior to exams.

Ensemble classes (done in the same class groupings as theory) are where the theoretical becomes practical, if not vital. Students get to experience the thrill of playing in a live band setting with their peers- very often the reason for their interest in music to begin with. A variety of styles are covered over the grades, with songs being chosen in as democratic a fashion as possible- i.e. student input is welcome.
The pedagogical underpinnings of The Academy state very clearly that music that is culturally relevant and experienced by the student will be the greatest facilitator of student success. Every effort is made by theory instructors at the Academy to ensure that the music played is liked by the students involved. Thus, whilst the setlist played by each grade year on year is apt to change, the theoretical concepts, and more importantly standard and understanding achieved by the student, will not.

Of note here also is that songwriting is a topic that is flourishing at the Academy. “Joined-up thinking” between theory and songwriting tutors ensures that the students own compositions feature aspects of theory covered in class- and provide yet another reinforcement of this vital musical element.

Far-sighted parents might well be making the link between music education and career success. Music’s requirement for high-level abstract reasoning (theory) combined with interpersonal skills (ensemble) are unusual in today’s educational milieu. These normally mutually exclusive skill sets are in great demand by other disciplines (such as medicine or law), thus the high correlation of career success with prior music education.
Lastly, and of immense importance, are the bonds formed between peers whilst at theory/band class. The combination of youthful enthusiasm, a creative and nurturing environment and great teachers has led to immense social benefits for students that hitherto found group interaction difficult. The facilitation of this vital element is done with great care and subtly by dedicated Academy staff. Read more about what parents say about us here.

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