music concert hall

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between.”

– Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart




  • Michael Harrison - (Head of Department)
  • Geraldine Cochrane - Music Teacher
  • Conor McCarthy


Peripatetic Staff

 Woodwind  Strings 

 Colin Irvine

 Erwin Shaw

 Cath Butler

 Nikki Johnston

 Dawn Wall

Sherry Robinson

 Traditional   Percussion
Ruairi Howell  John Gillen
 Brass  Voice

Philip Ferguson

 Jenny Bourke

 Nuala Murray


 Nuala Shaw

Rachel McGinley





Music Ensembles and Membership Numbers - 2020

 Senior Choir  60
 Junior Choir  30
 Senior Orchestra  52
 Senior Chamber Orchestra  38
 Junior Chamber Orchestra  44
 Jazz Group  16
 Chamber Choir  25
Traditional Group  16
African Drummers  10


Annual Concert in Ulster Hall

March 2020

waterfront concert 2

Review of AGS Annual Concert
February 2020 in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast

On Sunday 9th February, the audience in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast were treated to another feast of music from the girls of Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, Co. Down. This year the girls welcomed to the stage as special guests the widely-acclaimed vocal ensemble ‘The Priests’ who have delighted audiences around the world and presented music from their own highly successful repertoire as well as performing alongside choirs from the school in what proved to be a memorable experience for music enthusiasts of all ages.

Past achievements of the musicians from Assumption include performing last year at the Schools Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and in March 2020 the choir and traditional musicians planned to travel to New York where they had been invited to take part in the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with musicians and dancers in the parade before the choir lead the music in the St. Patrick’s Day service at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan.

The programme for the Belfast concert included a huge range of musical styles to accommodate all tastes from classical and jazz to popular and traditional music.

Department Overview

Music is studied throughout the school from Yr 8 to 14. At KS3 students develop their musical skills through a wide variety of activities incorporating listening, performing, composing and appraising. In Yr 11 students may opt for Music as a GCSE subject including a 'Fast Track' course which runs before school to facilitate timetable options and following this they may continue their studies at AS and A2 level.

In addition, students may decide to take up a musical instrument and to cater for this we have a large and growing peripatetic staff who provide individual and group tuition in voice, strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, piano and aural training. Students are prepared for graded examinations through Trinity College in both practical and theory. They may also take exams in Traditional Music through the London College of Music and Drums through the ‘Rockschool’ system.

The Music Department puts great emphasis on extra-curricular activities and students are encouraged to take part in these. There is an enormous variety of vocal and instrumental ensembles ranging from larger groups to smaller ad hoc ensembles. These are all listed above.


In line with the school’s aim, the Music department’s aim is to equip pupils with a range of opportunities to grow creatively and acquire knowledge and skills relevant to their personal development and future careers. The KS£ schenme of work is designed to ensure that pupils learning is driven by investigating and problem solving activities. Through this practical approach, they develop a keen awareness of the impact of music throughout modern culture and an increasing ability to appraise and appreciate the music that surrounds us in life. In addition to independent learning they will also engage in creative work, composing in groups to promote high skills in teamwork and co-operation.

KS3 projects are developed around four areas:

Listening: developing our aural awareness.
Skills, techniques and experimentation: developing skills and techniques in music-making.
Imagination: fostering & nurturing creativity.
Critical understanding: the knowledge and understanding of both art and popular musical styles.

The units of work undertaken are designed to reflect and fulfil the Northern Ireland Curriculum at Key Stage 3:

Year 8 students study: Building Bricks – the Elements of Music, Rhythm & Pulse, Exploring musical structures
Year 9 students study: African music, Jazz & Blues, Variations
Year 10 students study: Soundtracks – Music for Film, Minimalism, What Makes a Good Song?


The GCSE Music specification is for everyone who loves music: composing, playing an instrument, listening to music, or using music technology. It encourages students to develop their musical potential by focusing on performing, composing and listening.

Students can explore a range of music, including classical, pop, film, and traditional Irish music. This deepens their appreciation of the diverse heritage of music and promotes their personal, social, intellectual and cultural development.

Through the performance element of the course, students develop the skills they need to communicate effectively as musicians. This increases their self-confidence and enhances their presentation, communication and evaluation skills. The opportunity to write their own music allows them to be creative.

This qualification builds on the knowledge, understanding and skills developed through the Area of Learning ‘The Arts’ and the Cross-Curricular Skill of ‘Using ICT’.
The specification is a linear qualification: students take all the assessment at the end of the course.

The specification has three components:
Component 1: Performing and Appraising
Component 2: Composing
Component 3: Listening and Appraising.


The GCE AS/A2 Music specification allows students to create and perform music which expresses their own interests and style.
This specification is available at two levels: AS and A2. Students can take the AS units plus the A2 units for a full A level qualification. They can also choose to take the AS course as a stand-alone qualification.

In the AS units, they study music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods right through to popular musicals and sacred vocal styles. Students who continue to A2 will get to explore, in greater depth, the orchestral music of the twentieth century alongside secular and sacred vocal music spanning over 400 years. Students continue to develop their instrumental and vocal skills and have a free brief to compose music in a form and style of their choice.

The specification has three units at AS and three units at A2:

Unit AS/A2 1: Performing
Unit AS/A2 2: Composing
Unit AS/A2 3: Responding to Music.

The AS units make up 40% of the full qualification, and the A2 units make up 60%.


Careers with a degree in Music

Why study Music at university?

A degree in Music is both intellectually and musically demanding but immeasurably rewarding. It requires you to engage in a broad range of practical and intellectual activities including performance, composition, improvisation , analysis and research.

Studying Music at university also allows you to grow as a performing musician. You will experience a wealth of opportunities to develop your musical skills with leading professional performers and composers.

At the same time a music degree enables you to develop a high level of professional and transferable skills which, coupled with academic excellence, is greatly appreciated by a broad range of employers, helping you to succeed in your future career.

What would I study on a Music degree?

You can usually choose a Single Honours degree in Music or you can combine it with one or more subjects such as History, Creative Writing or a language. You may spend the first year learning a range of approaches to studying Music, both academic and practical, and be introduced to a wide variety of musical styles from the past and present. Then you can specialise and follow your interests in subsequent years.

Your first year may focus on the following areas:
Creative practices (performance studies and composition including notated, electroacoustic and sound art)
Musicology (the ways we study music history, world musics and music in a contemporary culture)
Music Theory skills (harmony, counterpoint, aural skills and analysis)

You will then have increasing freedom to specialise as you progress. In your final year you take a major specialist study, which may be a portfolio of compositions, a public performance or an extended piece of academic research in the form of a dissertation or project.

Some programmes also specialise in certain genres, such as Contemporary and Popular Music or Folk and Traditional Music courses.

How is music taught at university?

There is a broad range of approaches to studying Music and an array of musical topics you can study.

Most historical-cultural modules are based on lectures, often with set reading or listening assignments, and are assessed by examinations or assignments. They also include an element of seminar study, so that you can discuss issues, ask questions and work in groups to enhance your understanding.

These modules may range in topics from music in the Middle Ages through to contemporary popular and world musics, including Caribbean music, Jazz and Hip-Hop, alongside a range of musicological approaches including historical musicology, ethnomusicology and cultural theory.

Many technical and creative modules take the form of smaller group workshops and seminars of specialised study. These are usually assessed through some form of portfolio (of compositions or analyses for instance) or individual research projects. These modules focus on developing competence in an area of your choice, such as analysis, advanced harmony and counterpoint, various forms of composition and conducting.

Many students receive one-to-one lessons for performance modules at the start of their degrees and may continue performance through to the final stage. There will also be masterclasses and workshops throughout the year and encouragement to attend professional concerts. There may also be additional performance-based modules in which you work in creative groups, often alongside professional musicians covering areas such as rock music, Indian music, different styles of traditional music, world music, early music and free improvisation.

How would a Music degree prepare me for work?

Participating in music ensembles develops your capacity to work in a team and use your initiative to come up with ideas and solve problems on the spot. Your communication skills are honed through performing, making presentations and writing essays.

You will become used to performing under pressure and maintaining a high level of self-discipline and time management – all essential to attaining high technical standards and balancing the demands of study, practice and performance.

You’ll also develop the ability to analyse and reflect on issues, ideas and performances – meaning that you’ll be used to giving and receiving feedback, learning from mistakes and striving to improve.

A Music degree gives you a high level of cultural understanding and awareness, an appreciation of the arts, history and contemporary culture and a breadth of knowledge and skills – all highly appealing to employers.

What jobs can a Music degree lead to?

Graduates who want to use their Music degree in their work often progress to become self-employed musicians, performers, composers, teachers, academics, music therapists, studio-managers or sound engineers.

Other opportunities related to music include arts administration, music production, specialist magazine journalism, music librarianship or music publishing.

The wide range of transferable skills that you will have as a Music graduate, however, means that you can easily move into the career or training pathways that are open to graduates of any discipline such as law, education, management, marketing, journalism, events management and IT.

Many graduates go into teaching – allowing them to continue playing music while passing on their enthusiasm and knowledge to others.



Each year the department undertakes a full and challenging programme of recitals and concerts as well as performances at parents’ evenings, open nights and liturgical functions. The major event in our calendar is the Annual Concert which, this year will take place in the Ulster hall. This allows all of our young performers an outstanding opportunity to perform in a prestigious setting to an audience of nearly a thousand people. You can see one of our recent concerts illustrated above.

Our musicians also contribute regularly to many community and charity events and have broadcast on television and radio, both locally and abroad. Our most recent project, in conjunction with the Drama department, was 'The Wizard of Oz'. This is a major production with singers and musicians drawn exclusively from the student body. Casting is done in June, rehersals begin promptly in September and the show is staged over four nights in school during the final week of October.


Music Specialism

In 2009 we were delighted to hear that we had been successful in being awarded status as a ‘Specialist School’ in Music with PE as a Subsidiary subject, one of only two schools to achieve this distinction. This has been beneficial to the department both practically and academically, allowing us to expand our activities considerably and to set a range of challenging targets in the areas of academic achievement, uptake and community involvement. In February 2010, visiting inspectors from the Department of Education gave the department an excellent rating.


Music Accommodation

In September 2010 we moved into our new Music block which you can see below. This magnificent suite of rooms comprises:

  • 3 classrooms
  • 1 Music Technology room
  • 1 Recording Studio
  • 2 Ensemble rooms
  • 6 Peripatetic/Group rooms
  • 1 Staff Room

The block also includes an Instrument Store, toilet facilities and is built around the refurbished Gym which serves as a large venue for rehearsals and performances.

The classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards, 10 PCs for student use which have Sibelius 6 Music software installed. The Music Technology room has 10 keyboards for use in conjunction with ipads and the Recording Studio houses 2 mixing desks and all the additional equipment required for the high-quality recording of pupils’ compositions and performances.




 Pupil Intake  GCSE  A Level
 15  8
2017-18  18  7
2019-20  20 5
2020-21  14  9


music results 2020