Extra Curricular Music

Music Lessons

Music Lessons - application form

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 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.
    • Where the Music Teacher is employed by the School then the School charges for lessons. The charge will appear on the school bill.
    • 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.
    • 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. Discontinuation – A 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

Recent Events

Event Types

A CALENDAR OF EVENTS is published annually with the full listings of all the events coming up through the year. As well as our major concerts, the following activities also take place:

  • Informal Concerts
    There are one or two Informal Concerts every term, giving the opportunity for those new to performing to sing or play a piece to a small, friendly and encouraging audience. These are also intended for girls who want to try through exam pieces before the big day, or as a target performance for those who would prefer not to take regular Music Exams.
  • Festivals
    We regularly enter groups and individuals for Festivals and Competitions. As well as the Chamber Music for Schools Competition, we also enter girls for the Woking, Godalming and Farnham Festivals where the school has achieved many successes with both solo and ensemble performances. Alongside individual and choir trophies, the school has previously won the Jubilee Trophy in the Godalming Festival for significant achievement in both group and individual classes, and for supporting the Festival with the most groups entered by one organisation or school.
  • Masterclasses
    The Masterclass Series is central to the provision for our most gifted performers. In recent years Masterclasses have been given by Martin Outram, professor of viola at the Royal Academy of Music and a member of the Maggini Quartet, Andrew Sherwood from Trinity College of Music, internationally acclaimed pianists James Lisney and Simon Nicholls, the brass quartet Bella Tromba, choral workshops with Ken Burton and Joanna Forbes, and contemporary music workshops with tutors from the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford.
  • Trips
    We try to organise trips to concerts whenever possible. Hearing professional musicians or orchestras live is very exciting – especially when you are only a few feet away! Please speak to Miss Hayley for more information!
  • Tours
    One of the best things about being in a group such as a choir or an orchestra is the friendships you make with people who share your enthusiasm for music. Every two years the Senior Chamber Choir and Camerata have the opportunity of going on a tour. This is obviously good from a musical perspective, but it is also a great experience socially. We visit places of interest, and try to soak up the culture of a place in museums, cafes and piazzas! The following tours have taken place in recent years.
    2009 – Slovakia (Bratislava) and Austria (Vienna)
    2011 – Northern Italy (Padua, Verona, Venice and Lake Garda)
    2013 – Austria on a ‘Sound of Music’ tour (with performances in Salzburg Cathedral and other film locations)
    2015 – Sweden (Stockholm, including a performance in Uppsala Cathedral)
  • Musicals
    There have been many highly-successful collaborations with the Drama Department over the years. The last three productions were The Matchgirl, The Sound of Music and Return to the Forbidden Planet. Not only do girls sing, act and dance on stage, they also have opportunities to play in the orchestra or work on the technical side of the Musical. A great deal of fun is had by everyone in both rehearsals and performances.

Choirs & Ensembles


St. Catherine’s has a very strong and well-known choral tradition and boasts numerous choirs, so if you enjoy singing you could find yourself a member of one of the following…

U3 Choir

All girls in the U3 sing together as a choir every Monday lunchtime in the Autumn and Spring Terms. The U3 Choir performs in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert and the Carol Service in Guildford Cathedral.

Fourth Form Choir

Any girl in the L4 and U4 can join the Fourth Form Choir provided they are committed to attending rehearsals and concerts. The choir sings a variety of music in many different styles. The Fourth Form Choir performs in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert, the Carol Service in Guildford Cathedral and the Middle School Summer Concert.

Middle Chamber Choir

For those girls in the Middle School who really enjoy their choral singing, the Middle Chamber Choir is an auditioned choir of approximately 40 girls. Members of the Chamber Choir are also members of the U3 or Fourth Form Choirs. The choir regularly competes in the Godalming Festival to great acclaim. The Middle Chamber Choir also performs in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert, the Carol Service in Guildford Cathedral and the Middle School Summer Concert.

Middle Cantores

Like its big sister Cantores this is a small choir of 16 girls from the L4 and U4 with an auditioned membership, specialising in advanced and challenging repertoire. Members of Middle Cantores are also members of the Middle Chamber and Fourth Form Choirs and the choir performs in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert, the Carol Service in Guildford Cathedral and the Middle School Summer Concert.

Senior Choir

This is a large, un-auditioned choir which sings a variety of music in all styles, and is open to any girl from L5-U6. The Choir sings at many school concerts and other special occasions. In 2012 the Senior Choir made a recording with the Band of HM Royal Marines for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Senior Choir performs in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert, the Carol Service in Guildford Cathedral, the Association Concert and the Senior School Summer Concert.

Senior Chamber Choir

Another auditioned choir, this is the Senior equivalent of the Middle Chamber Choir. Membership is limited to 40 girls who are also members of the Senior or Chapel Choirs. Over the years, the choir has won competitions and has been invited to sing at many prestigious venues. The choir also tours abroad every two years – in 2009 to Bratislava and Vienna, 2011 to Padua, Verona and Venice, and 2013 a ‘Sound of Music’ tour to Austria. The Senior Chamber Choir also performs in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert, the Carol Service in Guildford Cathedral and the Senior School Summer Concert.


Cantores is an auditioned choir of the 16 best choral singers in the Senior School. The group tackles challenging repertoire of all styles and performs regularly at Cathedral Evensongs (recent services include Guildford, Chichester and Salisbury Cathedrals), internal and external concerts, and other prestigious events. Cantores performs in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert, the Carol Service in Guildford Cathedral and the Senior School Summer Concert.

Chapel Choir

Chapel Choir is for members of the boarding community throughout the school, and leads the worship at the regular Wednesday evening, Easter and Advent Chapel Services. The Chapel Choir is directed by the Organ Scholar or Choir Leader, and also sings in the Guildford Cathedral Carol Service.

Instrumental Ensembles

If you enjoy playing an instrument, there are many instrumental groups, orchestras and ensembles which cater for different levels of experience. They tend to be ability rather than age based.

Wind Band & String Orchestra

These are both training ensembles for Middle School musicians up to Grade 3/4 level and are excellent ways to learn how to play in a group. In past years girls have enjoyed playing the theme music to Harry Potter, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the James Bond Theme and various other pieces. The String Orchestra gives its members an opportunity to learn the basics of orchestral and ensemble playing, and to become familiar with both the pleasure and responsibility that comes from collective music-making. These two ensembles perform in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert and the Middle School Summer Concert.

Symphony Orchestra

This is for all orchestral instrumental players Grade 5/6 and above. In recent years Symphony Orchestra has performed symphonies by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert, Delius’ Sleigh Ride and Mendelssohn’s overture The Hebrides and Violin Concerto. There are also opportunities for senior pupils to perform concertos with the Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra performs in the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert and the Senior School Summer Concert. After the Summer Concert when the U5-U6 members are on Exam Study Leave, the remaining members are joined by advanced musicians from the Prep. School to form the Intermediate Orchestra. This performs in the Middle School Summer Concert.


This is the flagship string ensemble, comprising the most advanced and highly motivated string players in the school. It offers its members a chance to explore orchestral string music from the C17th to the present day, furthering their knowledge of performance practices and styles whilst honing their ensemble playing skills. Recent repertoire includes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Holst’s St Paul’s Suite and the Poulenc Organ Concerto with the school’s Organ Scholar as soloist. Camerata performs at the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert, the Association and Senior School Summer Concerts, and tours abroad every two years with the Senior Chamber Choir.

Dissonant Strings

This is a pop/rock/jazz string group where girls have a chance to explore styles and repertoires that are not usually associated with string instruments. The school has a set of electric string instruments for this purpose.

Chamber Groups

There are many Chamber Groups in the school, and anyone who wishes to take part in this aspect of music making will be well catered for! As well as several string quartets, string/piano trios and duos there is also a Harp Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble, piano duos and duets, Viola Club, a Cello Orchestra and some other less common ensembles. Some of these groups perform in the main concerts as well as the dedicated annual Chamber Concert which showcases this side of the Music Department.

Recorder Consorts

There are currently four Recorder Consorts which welcome all pupils interested in playing in a Recorder Group. There is also a Crumhorn Ensemble! As well in appearing in the main school concerts, Recorder Consort I goes busking in Guildford every Christmas to raise money for local charities.

Flute Choirs

There are two Flute Choirs, with instruments ranging from piccolo through alto flute to bass flute, which play exciting repertoire in a variety of moods and styles.

Concert Band

The Concert Band is for brass and wind players from Grade 5 upwards, as well as featuring a battery of percussionists. The repertoire is fun, including film music such as Pirates of the Caribbean. The Concert Band performs at the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert and the Senior School Summer Concert, as well as playing on Remembrance Day, Speech Day and other large-scale school events.

Jazz Band

Jazz Band, as its name suggests, is for saxophones, brass instruments, vocalists, lead guitar, bass guitar/double bass, drums and piano. The Band’s repertoire covers a wide range of styles of music from Glenn Miller through to Amy Winehouse and offers an invaluable way to learn basic jazz skills such as improvisation. The St Catherine’s Jazz Band has built up a very good reputation in recent years, and is in great demand to play at gigs inside and outside school. Within school, the Jazz Band will perform at the St Catherine’s Day Gala Concert and the Senior School Summer Concert, as well as playing on Speech Day and other large-scale school events.

Brass Ensemble

The St. Catherine’s School Brass Ensemble was formed in September 2005. This vibrant ensemble has gone from strength to strength, constantly playing a new and demanding repertoire. The aim of the group is to train brass players to play well in an ensemble, improve their sight reading and, most importantly, enjoy their playing. The Ensemble rehearses throughout the year, performing at all the main School concerts and playing at the Carol Service in Guildford Cathedral.