A Level Music Technology Training

It was great to catch up with 35 teachers and Music Technology specialists in London a couple of days ago to discuss the 2017 A Level Music Technology course and how to effectively support our students, along with plenty of chance to share good practice. I’m convinced that this must set a record for the number of Music Technology teachers in one room together!

One of the things we talked about was how to link listening to theory and practice in NEA work – and the importance of a ‘wraparound’ approach to the course to help students understand how everything fits together for their final Component 3 and 4 papers to develop their AO4 skills.


James delivers training for a number of different INSET providers and is happy to visit schools and colleges across the country to support delivery of the course. Get in touch for more details! Please make sure you’ve got a copy of the notes from Keynote Educational if you haven’t received them yet.

Writing the music for ‘A Dark Tour of the Universe’

I have recently been involved in composing music and creating technology-based representations of astronomical data and images for an exciting new project, bridging music and science and working with ESO fellow Chris Harrison to contribute a show that was premiered at the British Science Festival on Friday 13th September 2019. Find out more below, and get in touch to find out more about how I can help with writing music for your project.

Chris led a project to design and produce an astronomical show aimed at people who are blind or visually impaired. A Dark Tour of the Universe offers a tactile experience of the Universe by using 3D models of astronomical images and sonification of real astronomical datasets. The show premieres at the British Science Festival on 13 September 2019.


Image Credit: ESO/M. Zamani , S. Brunier, TRAPPIST/ E. Jehin, EHT Collaboration, Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Millennium Simulation Project, NASA/ Goddard/ SDO, WMAP Science Team

The show starts with stars appearing as they are from the platform of ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, on the night of 13 September 2019. Using real data of position, magnitudes and colours of stars, a beautiful surround-sound effect is created, allowing the audience to listen to the stars appear.

Other highlights of the show include listening to variable stars or to galaxies merging and feeling 3D models of some of ESO’s best astronomical images, including the first picture of a black hole and the 360-degree panoramic image of the Milky Way, taken by our Photo Ambassador Serge Brunier. One of the datasets that has been sonified is related to the discovery of exoplanet NGTS-1b, using the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) instrument at ESO’s Paranal Observatory. NGTS-1b was the third gas giant to had been observed transiting an M-dwarf star.

People who have sight are also encouraged to attend the show. They will gain a lot from the experience, as they will be blindfolded.

The project, in collaboration with BMW, has been shortlisted for the prestigious industrial TCT awards, which are celebrating the innovators, technologies and collaborators behind the leading examples of Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing, Design and Engineering across the globe. The awards ceremony will take place on 25 September 2019.

The project was led by ESO Fellow Chris Harrison, who worked with various astronomers at ESO, including other fellows and students. Chris built upon his experience producing planetarium shows for the ESO Supernova as part of his fellow duties, while conducting research at ESO Headquarters in Garching near Munich.

The show was produced together with Nicolas Bonne, a visually impaired astronomer from the University of Portsmouth, who provided valuable insight into how visually impaired astronomers conduct their research. He has also turned images into 3D models and is the presenter of the show.

German company BMW printed 300 3D models for the show, while the international company Arup used their acoustic-consulting team and Sydney-based SoundLab to produce sonified astrophysics concepts and data and created a soundtrack using full surround sound (6.1). Arup’s UK Midlands office provided the technical support required for the premiere showing at the British Science Festival.

James Reevell, a UK musician and teacher, created all of the music and “composer’s impressions” for the show. He used an ESO-produced simulation movie of a black hole as inspiration for one of his compositions.

Introducing Das Flat Cap Brassen

Introducing Flat Cap Brass’s German sister ensemble. This group is perfect for Oktoberfest events or Bierkeller evenings. Playing classic German drinking songs such as Ein Prosit through to modern day classics such as Engels by Robert Von Wilheims. Complete with lederhosen (if wanted) this ensemble is the business to get your beer themed evening swaying!

#CarolForYorkshire – the update

Greenhead College Carol for Yorkshire.JPG


Over the past year, students at Greenhead College in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire have been working on a charity Christmas single to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. ‘What Would Jesus Say’ was written by 17-year old music student Louis Enright and was performed by approximately 125 singers from Greenhead College and three primary schools; Mount Pleasant Primary School, Spring Grove Primary School and Reinwood Junior School.

Louis’s carol was the winner of Greenhead College’s #CarolForYorkshire competition which ran in Summer 2018 and was supported by local music hub Musica Kirklees. Students from schools across the district were invited to compose their own charity Christmas carol, and the entries were judged by Thom Meredith, Principal of Musica Kirklees.

The project is in aid of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; a children’s charity who make the wishes of seriously ill children become reality. In the first two days, the carol received over 4000 views on YouTube, and has already been streamed hundreds of times across Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and Amazon Music.

The recording of the carol took place at Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield on 21st November and the official launch was held in college on Monday 3rd December. As well as raising money for this incredible fund, the aim of this festive endeavour is to bring together children of all backgrounds and experiences using music and the Christmas spirit.

Louis states he decided to enter because ‘[he likes] composing and it would [gave him] something to do in the 11-week long summer break.’ He added that he ‘was very excited to hear that I won the contest and was excited when [he] first heard the finished result.’

Simon Jacobs, Head of the Music Department at Greenhead College commented:

We are really excited about the Carol project and it is fantastic to have three local primary schools working alongside us. It was wonderful to see our sixth form students performing with younger students on a large scale project such as this one. The carol written by Greenhead student Louis Enright is a really challenging piece with some magical harmony, and it is great to have seen the project come together, with students making such an extensive contribution to its success.

The carol is available to stream and purchase on Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music and Spotify. You can donate to Make-A-Wish Foundation on the Greenhead College JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/carolforyorkshire. We have been tweeting about the carol using #CarolForYorkshire.

You can also donate using the text code GCOL55 followed by an amount e.g. £5 (so GCOL55 £5) to 70070.


Music Mark at Greenhead College


Greenhead College’s Music Department has recently been awarded a Music Mark in recognition of their ‘commitment to providing high quality music education for all children and young people’.

The department, consisting of three passionate musicians; Simon Jacobs (Head of Department), James Reevell and Brian Talbot, received their certificate following a nomination for the award by Musica Kirklees, a Music School based in Huddersfield who have had the Greenhead College Music Department on their list of ‘Outstanding Providers’ for over 5 years.

With the significant decline of music in schools and colleges nationally, Simon, James and Brian are more passionate than ever to keep music education alive. They go above and beyond to provide first class musical education, plus a whole host of enriching musical opportunities to Greenhead College students and beyond.

A recent addition to the Music Curriculum at Greenhead College is a BTEC in Music Performance. This course will commence in September 2019 alongside the existing music courses; A Level Music and A Level Music Technology, catering for an even wider variety of musical interests.

The enrichment opportunities the music department run include; College Choir, Chamber Choir, Subvert Your Ears, Big Band, Wind Band, String Ensemble, Brass Group, Grade 5 Theory, Advanced Theory and Record Label.

Their ensembles regularly have national success, performing in the National Festival and the Mrs Sunderland Festival plus at many other local concerts and events.

Students at Greenhead College have excellent things to say about the department including:

“The Greenhead music staff and facilities are top notch – there is a great relationship between students and staff that is really encouraging and productive. The opportunity to play or sing in the numerous ensembles and perform in the college concerts is also a great addition!”

“Studying Music at Greenhead was a great decision. I learnt an incredible amount in both Music and Music Technology. There is a fantastic dynamic between staff and students which facilitates everyone becoming their best musical selves. The rich extracurricular aspect of the department also means that anyone with a love for making music can get involved and perform in numerous concerts.”


Over the past few months, we’ve been working on our Carol For Yorkshire; an exciting new competition that was run by Greenhead College in collaboration with Musica Kirklees, which saw students from schools across the district compose their own Charity Christmas Carol.

The winner was to be released in aid of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; a children’s charity who make the wishes of seriously ill children become reality.

The winning carol, by Louis Enright was performed by approximately 125 singers from the Greenhead College Choir and three Huddersfield based primary schools; Mount Pleasant Primary School, Spring Grove Junior School and Reinwood Junior School, and will also feature in the Greenhead College annual Christmas Carol Service.

The carol will be released on Monday 3rd December 2018, and will be available as a YouTube video and stream/download on all online music services. Visit http://www.carolforyorkshire.com to find out more; please support us by donating to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.