Confidence for life, thanks to Durham School

Here, the school explains how it inspires performers throughout their education

Despite the suggestion by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), that the uptake of arts subjects has seen a drastic decline in recent years, the arts programme at Durham School is going from strength to strength.

Durham School is a place where music, art and drama flourish, with all pupils taking part, and well over half the pupils learning an individual instrument or being involved with drama productions.

The unofficial motto ‘Confidence for Life’, allows pupils to succeed in all areas of school life. The confidence that the school instils in its pupils is one that comes from understanding themselves, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, make the right choices and learn from mistakes.

Two former pupils from recent years are now studying at two of the country’s leading drama schools, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and Arts ED, presided over by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber.

All students are encouraged to compose in their music lessons, and develop skills on keyboards, guitars and computers which enable them to work individually and as groups, to create music in a variety of styles and genres.  

Several students in recent years have been members of The National Youth Orchestra and National Youth Choir of Great Britain. The school currently has a violinist who studies at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music, and one recent school leaver has gone on to begin a successful recording career as a singer-songwriter. 

Director of Music Roger Muttitt said, “Musical activities explore the full range of abilities; as an all-Steinway school we have an excellent reputation for fine piano students and tuition, while also catering for a huge range of instrumental and vocal interests.”

“Every opportunity is taken to make music real to the students; be that performing regularly at chapel services and lunchtime concerts, at key venues such as Durham Cathedral or performing works by our own budding composers,” continued Roger. “Visiting music tutors provide warm support and expert musical knowledge to students and an insight into the professional musical world.”

Co-curricular drama is at the heart of school activity, with many students participating with enthusiasm in drama events, regardless of whether they have chosen to study drama as a GCSE or A-level option. 

The fully functioning, on-site theatre, The Luce, provides a true-to-life industry environment where students can study drama from age 11, up to A-level. This includes the facilities for pupils to pursue their interests in acting, directing, technical design and other behind the scenes roles. 

Many pupils at Durham School take an active interest in the full range of drama activity on offer; with the student technical and production team providing the lighting and sound for performance.

Pupils are also offered the opportunity to take private speech and drama lessons, and to be entered for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) examinations, where the school has an excellent record of results. 

Amy Brownlee, Head of Drama at Durham School, said, “Drama at Durham School inspires keen performers and provides them with the opportunities to develop their skills and showcase their incredible talents.”

“We aim to nurture pupils to succeed; with curricular and co-curricular opportunities designed for those who may wish to pursue a career in the theatre and for those who prefer to pursue it as an interest,” added Amy. “The Arts at Durham School fuels creativity, inspiring our next generation to go into the cultural industry and provides them with the confidence to do so.” 

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