King Edward’s School has been shortlisted for its performing arts programme in the inaugural Independent Schools of the Year 2018 awards, organised by the Independent School Parent Magazine. 100s of schools from across the country entered the awards, which seek to highlight the quality of pupil experience in independent schools.
A vibrant and inclusive performing arts department is at the heart of life at King Edward’s. The music department provides around 50 performance opportunities each year and approximately 450 instrumental or vocal lessons take place each week, alongside 28 different ensembles gathering to rehearse. The school’s vocal partnership with Bath Abbey also continues to thrive with KES providing the largest proportion of boy choristers to the Abbey.
The school’s unique side-by-side partnership with Bath Philharmonia is now in its fifth year and provides unrivalled opportunities for our instrumental musicians. The annual Gala Concert, which sees KES musicians perform alongside the professional orchestra is the undoubted highlight of the musical year, however, the year-long partnership programme also includes workshops, masterclasses and mentoring programmes designed to develop, stretch and inspire our musicians. As part of this partnership, 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, saxophonist, Jess Gillam visited KES earlier this year to undertake a series of workshops and masterclasses with KES musicians as well as outreach events with local Bath primary schools.
KES Drama is equally innovative in its ambitions for pupils. A flourishing LAMDA programme, led by Dani Tamblyn and Petra Schofield, has quadrupled in size since launch and in the 2017-2018 exams 69% of KES LAMDA students received a Distinction for their acting exam and 31% gained a Merit – quite outstanding results by our young actors. Over the summer the school made its second excursion to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to perform Hansel and Gretel – based on a Kneehigh Theatre adaptation of a Carl Grose script – and later this month our Junior School takes to the stage at the Egg Theatre, Bath to perform Romeo & Juliet, as part of the world’s largest youth drama festival organised by the Shakespeare Schools Foundation.
Last year saw one of our most ambitious drama projects to date, with the production of POP! The Musical. Not just content with starring in musicals, KES pupils and staff created one themselves (and recorded a soundtrack), using as their premise, a best-selling teen title written by one of our own English teachers, Catherine Bruton, who adapted her book into a musical exclusively for King Edward’s. Show director was Sarah Bird, head of drama and the school’s resident composer, Mark Boden, wrote the score. This unique project was further created in collaboration with pupils who were involved in song-writing, work-shopping, performing, editing, documenting, stage managing and starring in the show. Described as ‘Billy Elliott meets The X Factor via Shameless’, POP! The Musical tackled emotive issues, such as poverty, immigration and fragmented families, topped by a layered critique of the cynical world of reality TV.
External recognition of KES pupils’ prowess in performing arts continues, with KES actors, actresses and musicians regularly among the honours for Bath Young Musician of the Year and Bath Young Actor of the Year. Onward destinations for KES alumni include the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and the Central School of Speech & Drama in London, and at last count our Drama department know, or are in contact with roughly 150 Old Edwardians who are currently working or training in careers as diverse as acting, film and media, opera, film-making, stage design, directing, comedy and writing.