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This is a school 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.     

Performing Music

There are enormous numbers of boys involved in musical activities at Inst.  The fact that these activities are voluntary gives ample testimony to the loyalty and commitment which the Music Department inspires. Spectacular performances, greeted by (the now customary) standing ovations, represent highlights of the school year, and of many pupils’ school career.


A voluntary choir of 130 voices would be huge for most schools, but for a Boys’ school it is unprecedented. The age-range is 12-18 (the younger boys providing the upper voices – Treble and Alto – for the older ones – Countertenor, Tenor and Bass). In this way, the juniors can perform alongside the seniors at all the major events of the year – wonderful experience for them!

The repertoire is as wide-ranging as is possible, from the great classics (in recent years: Faure’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb), to more contemporary styles (music by Radiohead, U2, Queen and others).

The two major concerts (the Charity Concert in November and the Spring Concert in March/April), along with the annual Carol Service,  are the Choir’s main showcase events. They have also performed many times in exciting venues such as the Waterfront and the Ulster Hall.

The standard is extremely high, and the Choir has made numerous television and radio appearances. They have also won many awards, including the UTV School Choir of the Year.



Inst Orchestra is another very large group (around 80 players) and combines junior and senior pupils. All the music is specially arranged to cater for different abilities, enabling the younger ones to perform alongside the older and more experienced ones, and to learn from them. In this way, we find that they develop more quickly as musicians (and as people). 
The group is much in demand during the school year, performing at the two main Concerts as well as at Prize-giving’s and the Carol Service. 
Their repertoire is probably wider than that of any other orchestra and, in recent years, has included material ranging from Handel, Beethoven and Stravinsky to Primal Scream, Led Zeppelin and The Who. 
They have performed in the Waterfront and the Ulster Hall and have won many trophies at Music Festivals over the years.

Jazz Band

The Jazz Band is a group of competent jazz musicians. It is a bright and exciting part of the music department and is always there to add some swing or pop to various events. The 2012/13 Jazz Band consists of 12 saxophones, 5 trombones, 7 trumpets, 2 guitarists, bassist, drummer and a pianist. The Jazz Band is fortunate to be conducted by one of Northern Ireland’s finest jazz musicians and former Inst pupil Mr David Howell. Thanks to Mr Howell and the faith he has in the band, we are able to play a wide variety of styles, such as Swing, Pop and Latin. We have performed world class music from Michael Bublé classics such as “Feeling Good” to Wilson Picket’s “In the Midnight Hour”. Each year we play in the RBAI Charity and Spring Concert. We also proudly represent the school at the RBAI Open Day and at the Inchmarlo Summer Fete. Due to the high standard of the band, we are also asked to perform at other events. Recently we have performed to 500 guests at the Gala Ball in the Europa Hotel, at the conference for Grammar School Principals in Galgorm Manor and every Year we feature in the Black Box at the Youth Jazz Showcase Concert. The RBAI Jazz Band provides young, aspiring and enthusiastic jazz musicians a chance to develop their love for music and have fun. It is a fantastic group to be a part of.


There are many other smaller ensembles in our thriving Music Department, including a String Group, Clarinet and Saxophone Quartets, Recorder Ensemble etc. 


The RBAI Recorder Ensemble, directed by Miss O’Hara, is one of the Music Department’s many smaller instrumental groups. Boys from all years can play in the group which usually consists of several descant, treble and tenor recorders. This year we are excited to add a bass recorder to the group for the first time.

Boys from the Recorder Ensemble perform at various events throughout the school year. Every December the ensemble ventures to venues such as Castle Court Shopping Centre andVictoria Squareto entertain Christmas shoppers and raise money for Action Cancer and in April a senior member of the group usually plays a technically demanding recorder sonata, accompanied by cello and harpsichord, at the Spring Concert.


When the Inst Drama Club hosts musical productions, instrumentalists from the Music Department are selected to play in the Band. The music is directed by Miss K. O’Hara. Recent shows have included Grease and Guys and Dolls.

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: 

  • Self-discipline
  • Perseverance
  • Co-operation (with groups) 
  • Creativity
  • Improvisation (the ability to react quickly and make decisions) 
  • Self-confidence 
  • Risk-taking 
  • Self-expression 
  • The ability to communicate
  • Analytical thinking
  • Structural thinking
  • Leadership
What employer would not value these qualities in an applicant?

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 StaveRounds



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   :   Composing and Appraising   (30%)
Candidates must create two contrasting compositions

Component 2   :   Performing and Appraising   (35%)
Candidates must present one solo and one ensemble performance

Component 3   :   Listening and Appraising   (35%)
Candidates take an examination of aural perception based on core and optional 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 (


Unit 1 :

  • Making and Appraising Music  (64% AS - 32% of A-level) 
  • Candidates select from the following options:
  • Core solo or ensemble performance + composition
  • Core solo or ensemble performance + multi-tracking
  • Core solo or ensemble performance + sequenced arrangement
  • Core composition + solo or ensemble performance

Unit 2 :

  • Responding to Music (36% AS  -   18% of A-level) 
  • Test of aural perception
  • Written examination


Unit 1 :

  • Making and Appraising Music  (30%)
  • Candidates select from the following options:
  • Core solo or ensemble performance + composition
  • Core solo or ensemble performance + multi-tracking
  • Core solo or ensemble performance + sequenced arrangement
  • Core composition + solo or ensemble performance

Unit 2 :

  • Responding to Music (20%)
  • Test of aural perception
  • Written examination.

Music Staff

Head of Department   :
  • Mr P.M.Bolton
Assistant teacher
  • Miss K. O’Hara

Peripatetic Staff   :  

  • Strings/Piano
    • Mrs A. Reid                     
    • Mr J.Simmance 
    • Mr G.Newman 
  • Brass
    • Mr J.Blakeman  
  • Woodwind
    • Mr C.Irvine    
    • Mr B.Overton       
    • Mr G.MacAtasney          
    • Mr P.McErlean                
  • Guitar   
    • Mr M.Newman         
  • Drums/Percussion
    • Mr C.Robb
Who do you want to be?


Courtney Lewis
Dates at Inchmarlo - 1988-1995
Dates at Inst - 1995-2002 
Courtney Left Cambridge with starred first class honours BA in Music and an MPhil in Musicology, before studying conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music with Sir Mark Elder.
2007-2009, Zander Fellow in Conducting with Boston Philharmonic Orchestra 2008-present, Founder and Music Director of Discovery Ensemble, Boston's acclaimed chamber orchestra 2009-present, Courtney has been a conductor of many orchestra’s over the years including; Minnesota Orchestra 2011-12, Ulster Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, National Symphony Orchestra Washington D.C.
‘Music at Inst provided me with many wonderful performing opportunities through the choir, jazz band, orchestra and smaller instrumental and vocal ensembles. Most important of all, though, was Philip Bolton's encouragement to listen widely to music, and to explore the repertoire myself: an essential habit for a conductor.’ 

Sheridan Tongue 
Dates at Inst; 1977 - 1984 
Sheridan Tongue is a BAFTA nominated TV and Film music composer who has scored the music for many high profile UK dramas and documentaries. After attending Inst, Tongue obtained an Honours degree at Surrey University in Music. Whilst a student he won the prestigious Jacques Levy prize for best electroacoustic composition and the prize for best final year Recording Portfolio. He also composed his first film score for an Angela Carter film called ‘The Kitchen Child’ He has since worked in many studios as a keyboard player, programmer, remixer and orchestral arranger working with artists like Beverly Knight, Jocelyn Brown, The Verve, Blur and Robert Plant. In more recent years Tongue has composed the music for the TV series ‘Spooks’, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA in 2006 and the ‘Silent Witness’ series.  
‘The music department at RBAI provided me with a very solid foundation in the theory and performance of music in concert band, orchestra and choir. These ensembles together with the music classes were the initial building blocks that inspired me and contributed to my career working in the music business.’    

Graeme Stewart
Dates at Inst- Sept 1994-June 2001
Studied Music at Queen's University- BMus (2001-2004)
Studied Film Music at the Royal College of Music, London-  MMus (2004-2005)
Currently working at BBC Northern Ireland in the classical music department and also as a freelance composer/music producer- Graeme Stewart has written original music for radio dramas (BBC Radio 3, 4 and Radio Ulster) and TV documentaries/ animations and also orchestral arrangements for Proms in the Park. Most recently he has written all the orchestral arrangements for the Great Northern Songbook (22nd May 2012) at the Ulster Hall.