Head of Department
E-mail: Mr R J SaxelBA, Dip.RAM, LRAM, ARAM
Mr Richard Saxel has been Director of Music since September 2019, but has taught Music at Cranleigh since 2001, previously as Head of Performance. He combines teaching at Cranleigh School with a successful career as an international concert pianist, and has performed, recorded and broadcast around the world to critical acclaim, and with a wide variety of musicians. He studied Music with History of Art at the University of York and Piano Accompaniment at the Royal Academy of Music, which recently awarded him Associateship in recognition of his significant contribution to the music profession.
Mr Saxel teaches the A level syllabus, composition to lower year groups, oversees all aspects of Performance, and enjoys working with young musicians at the Prep School. He also teaches the EPQ, specialising in Performance Projects, and is a tutor in Rhodes House, having many years’ experience of being a tutor in girls’ boarding houses. Mr Saxel is married to Dr Saxel (Deputy Head, Pastoral) and they have two daughters at the Prep School, and a menagerie of animals at home. When he has time, he is a keen golfer who aspires to playing off a single-figure handicap.
Music develops a wide variety of skills, both academic and practical, which have a great impact on wider academic development. The subject also enhances pupils’ creative proficiency and abilities as confident and communicative performers.
Music has long been recognised by universities as a valuable entrance qualification and is usefully combined with subjects from the arts, languages or science disciplines. The broad range of transferable skills and techniques offered by the subject – such as the need to be able to research a topic, to display analytical skills, self-discipline and teamwork – pave the way for a wide range of university courses.
Lower School (GCSE)
The broadly-based Fourth Form course caters for pupils of diverse musical and academic abilities whilst offering a rounded introduction to musical history, analysis, composition and performance across a wide range of styles.
The GCSE course (Edexcel specification) builds on the techniques studied in the Fourth Form in a more detailed manner and the course is taught and examined in three distinct strands: Performing (a portfolio of solo and ensemble performances created during the course), Composing (the chance for pupils to create two original compositions) and Appraising (a written examination focusing on the identification of musical techniques, dictation and composition of short essays on musical works). The Composing and Appraising courses are based on four areas of study: Instrumental Music 1700-1820, Vocal Music, Music for Stage and Screen, and Fusions.
It is essential that pupils embarking on the GCSE course are able to play one or more instruments to at least the standard of ABRSM Grade 4 and it is of paramount importance that pupils following the course are keen to explore a wide variety of music, some of which will undoubtedly lie outside their personal tastes and experiences.
Upper School (AS and A Level)
AS/A Level Music attracts those who have taken GCSE Music and who have a strong grounding in practical music as well as a comprehensive awareness of musical styles and forms. Pupils who perform to a high level (Grades 6-8), and have a genuine interest in a wide variety of music and how it works, are likely to gain a great deal of enjoyment from the course and to score well.
The AQA AS/A Level courses are divided into three strands – performance, composition and a written examination. The performance element is externally assessed through coursework recordings of solo and/or ensemble pieces on an instrument or voice, or through music production (via technology). The composition component requires candidates to produce two pieces, which are also assessed externally; one to a brief set by the board and one free composition.
The written paper carries a slightly more substantial weighting than the two coursework elements (40%). It is designed to assess listening and analysis skills, as well as essay writing. Students study set works from one compulsory area of study (Western classical tradition 1650-1910) and a choice of one (AS) or two (A level) further study areas from the following list: Pop music, Music for Media, Music for Theatre, Jazz, Contemporary Traditional Music, Art Music since 1910.
Please visit our Events page for details of the extensive programme of extra-curricular musical activities and events on offer at Cranleigh.