The music department at Merchants' Academy in Bristol has been declared the best in the country.
The Academy took the national title at a glamorous ceremony in London's Knightsbridge, dubbed the Oscars of the music teaching world.
Almost 300 teachers, musicians and VIPs were at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence event, hosted by Classic FM’s Margherita Taylor and attended by celebrities including Julian Lloyd Webber and Fanny Waterman.
Merchants' Academy beat off competition from four other shortlisted schools in the Music Department of the Year category, which attracted a record number of entries this year. The category was sponsored by MMA, the professional association for music teachers.
Tom Hamill, Head of Performing Arts and Music at Merchants’ Academy, said the competition had been tough but the judges recognised the relentless determination of the Academy team to ensure students of all ages have the chance to experience and perform music in many different ways.
“Music has brought a step change in students' confidence and has given us all a huge sense of pride,” he said. “The development of music at the heart and soul of the Academy has led to many fantastic opportunities for the students.”
Primary students benefit from involvement in the Bristol Ensemble's Preludes programme, which offers them the chance to learn to read music, play instruments and perform. The primary choirs are outstanding and are asked to attend many events across Bristol and London.
The Academy's growing secondary orchestra and choir took part in a concert tour to Paris last year and are currently planning a similar tour in Cornwall. Students have also performed at prestigious events in Bristol at venues including St Georges, Colston Hall and Merchants' Hall.
Support from the Academy's sponsors, the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol, is vital. It means the Academy can offer subsidised music lessons and free instruments to orchestra members and music students can be mentored by undergraduates.
In lessons, students can study topics from classical composers to video game music and from song writing to music technology.
The Academy's unrivalled co-curricular programme offers students the chance to take part in sessions including flute choir, guitar group, African drums, musical theatre and music tech group as well as choir and orchestra. They have even developed an Academy song, which is sung at assemblies and other events.
As a result of the burgeoning music activity, the Academy was selected by Bristol Plays Music to host the new South Bristol Music Hub on Saturday mornings. The first of its kind in South Bristol, this provides further opportunities for students from Merchants' Academy and other schools to explore choir, orchestra and music technology.
Anne Burrell, Principal of Merchants' Academy, said: “We are incredibly proud to receive this award. The governors and I are very grateful to staff who give generously of their time and enthusiasm to make this possible. Our music department plays an essential role in helping our students to achieve more than they ever thought possible.”