The Royal Belfast Academical Institution




Inst Choir and Orchestra performing at the Waterfront


Music Staff

Director of Music: ------------------------- Mr P. M. Bolton MBE

Assistant teachers: ------------------------ Mrs D. Harshaw

Mrs K. McClean

Peripatetic Staff: Strings/Piano --------- Mrs A. Reid

Brass --------------------- Mr J. Blakeman

Woodwind -------------- Mr C. Irvine

Mr B.Overton

Mr G. MacAtasney

Guitar -------------------- Mr M. Newman

Drums/Percussion----- Mr C. Robb

Jazz Band Director-----Mrs D. Harshaw


This school is rich in opportunities for young musicians. Whether they are singers, players, composers, or simply lovers of music, the Inst Music Department can offer them a wonderfully diverse and colourful experience.


It is the aim of this Department that all pupils should:

Enjoy making music

Have the opportunity to participate in musical performances of a high standard

Be able to play an instrument or sing sufficiently to participate in group music-making

Have the experience of playing several kinds of instruments

Collaborate with pupils of different age-groups

Be able to listen with discrimination

Have the opportunity to hear a wide range of music

Become acquainted with the concepts of form and architecture in sound

Have the experience of listening to extended pieces of music

Be equipped with the curiosity to explore further the world of music

Have the experience of creating their own music

Be able to express their own feelings and ideas through music

Have the opportunity to pursue musical studies to an advanced level.


Music Classes at Inst

Here is a brief synopsis of the learning and teaching activities in each year:


Years 8-10:

Pupils engage in a variety of listening, composing and performing activities to explore the following themes:

Year 8

Year 9

Year 10

Breathing and Singing

The Colour of Sound

Reading the Stave




Pentatonic Improvisation


The River (a cross-curricular creative project)

Classroom Orchestra

Singing and Playing

Group Rehearsal


Ternary Form

Classroom Orchestra



War (a cross-curricular creative project)







Years 11 and 12:

Pupils work towards a GCSE qualification in Music (CCEA).

A detailed syllabus may be viewed on CCEA’s own web-site (

Here is a brief synopsis:

Component 1 : Performing and Appraising (35%)

Candidates must present one solo and one ensemble performance

Component 2 : Composing (30%)

Candidates must create two contrasting compositions

Component 3 : Listening and Appraising (35%)

Candidates take an examination of aural perception based on familiar and unfamiliar music relating to four Areas of Study


Years 13 and 14:

Pupils work towards AS and A-level qualifications in Music

A detailed syllabus may be viewed on CCEA’s own web-site (

AS Unit 1 : Performing (32.5% of AS, 13% of A level)

  • Solo Performance
  • Viva Voce

Unit 2 : Composing (32.5% of AS, 13% of A level)

  • A: Composition Task or B: Composition with Technology Task
  • Written commentary

Unit 3 : Responding to Music (35% of AS, 14% of A level)

  • Test of Aural Perception (1 hour)
  • Written Examination (2 hours)

A-levelUnit 1 : Performing (19.5% of A level)

  • Solo Performance
  • Viva Voce

Unit 2 : Composing (19.5% of A level)

  • A: Composition Task or B: Composition with Technology Task
  • Written commentary

Unit 3 : Responding to Music (21% of A level)

  • Test of Aural Perception (1 hour)
  • Written Examination (2 hours)

Why Study Music?

At the more advanced level, a qualification in Music can lead to a number of musical careers:

Performing, arranging, conducting, composing, teaching (instrumental and academic), recording, sound-engineering, music therapy etc.

An A-level in Music can also be combined with other subjects to gain entry to non-musical courses such as Law or Accountancy.

But what career advantage is there for those who simply want to participate in music and enjoy it?

Well, consider the qualities which all musicians develop through practising their art:



Co-operation (with groups)


Improvisation (the ability to react quickly and make decisions)




The ability to communicate

Analytical thinking

Structural thinking


What employer would not value these qualities in an applicant?


Distinguished past pupils of RBAI’s Music Department include:

Courtney Lewis

Inst 1995-2002


With clear artistic vision, subtle musicality, and innovative programming, Courtney Lewis has established himself as one of his generation’s most talented conductors. Having graduated with a first in Music from Cambridge, Courtney is now based in America and is the Principal Conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He has also served as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and as a Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, making his debut in the Autumn of 2011.

A passionate advocate of music education, Courtney Lewis is the founder and music director of Boston’s acclaimed Discovery Ensemble, a chamber orchestra dedicated not only to giving concerts of contemporary and established repertoire at the highest level of musical and technical excellence, but also bringing live music into the least privileged parts of Boston with workshops in local schools.

Courtney made his major American orchestral debut in November 2008, with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, and has since appeared with the Atlanta Symphony, Washington National Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Naples Philharmonic, Alabama Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and Ulster Orchestra (for a series of BBC Radio 3 Invitation Concerts, as well as on subscription).

Sheridan Tongue

Inst 1977-1984


Sheridan Tongue is a BAFTA-nominated British television and film music composer. He has written and produced music for many television shows including the BBC's Wonders of the Universe and Wonders of the Solar System, Silent Witness (Series 9 - 13) and Spooks (Series 3), the score for which achieved a BAFTA Television Craft nomination for Best Original Television Music, he has also engineered records for artists such as Blur, Beverly Knight and The Verve.

After graduating in 1989 with a BMus in Music and Sound Recording from the Tonmeister course at the University of Surrey, Tongue spent several years working in many commercial studios around London as a programmer, engineer and songwriter for recording artists including Blur, Beverly Knight, The Verve and Jocelyn Brown before setting up as a freelance film and television composer.

For details of the school’s performing groups (Choir, Orchestra etc) please move to the “Clubs and Societies” page of the website.

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