Hello from wintry Oxford,
Yesterday we went to visit a school, we've been looking forward to visiting for weeks: Wells Cathedral School. Wells Cathedral is one of very few specialist music schools in the country. It's also one of the happiest schools we know!
To reduce Wells Cathedral to its amazing music would be a big mistake, however. Why that is, we'll explain here.
Cedar's Hall - Wells Cathedrals stunning new performance venue
We have to start with the music, however.
Wells Cathedral is renowned the world over for its excellence in music. Pupils can either participate in the normal music activities and classes (normal being relative here, of course!), or partake in the school's specialist music programmes. These specialist programmes are simply amazing, providing music aficionados with a world-class, in-depth music education. There are nine performance faculties on offer: brass, composition, choristers, jazz, keyboard, percussion, strings, vocals and woodwind.
Outside of class there are around-the-clock opportunities to get involved in music. From chamber orchestras to big band jazz combos, from rock bands to the Wells Orchestra, there is a multitude of opportunities to get involved. The central node for everything is the stunning Cedar's Hall, Wells Cathedral's new performance venue.
The corridor leading into musical Valhalla...
The music faculties, right and left - walking through it is magical!
We had the great pleasure of walking down the famous stone-cobbled corridor from the school proper towards Wells Cathedral. From right and left you hear music - flute recital here, percussion practice there. It is absolutely magical!
An important thing to mention here is that Wells Cathedral is inclusive about its music: you do not have to be a musical genius to come here! Lessons are provided from complete beginners to concert-grade pros.
Instrument storage - as messy as anywhere else ;-)
Lastly, Wells Cathedral does not feel like a hot-housey, pressured environment. Pupils work hard here, no doubt. They immerse themselves deeply in their music and often spend many hours a day doing so. And yet, the pupils seemed happy and surprisingly relaxed!
A dedicated mathematics programme.
But it ain't all about the music...
Ashley Deacon, Well's very likeable registrar told us about the school's innovative Specialist Maths Scheme. Pupils with the right talent can take intensive maths classes with further and pure maths syllabuses to challenge their rational and creative aptitudes in equal measure. So why maths? This programme came out of the school's experience with teaching a specialism (music!) and its applicability to other specialist subjects. The fact that mathematical and musical aptitudes in people are closely related was another important factor.
Unfortunately the specialist maths and music programmes are currently not on offer together. Pupils have to choose between either.
Stunning Wells Cathedral, a stone's throw from the school.
A happy school amid stunningly beautiful surroundings.
Another big selling point is the school's location. Wells Cathedral is 'baked into' the picturesque Sommerset town of Wells, right behind the breathtakingly beautiful Wells Cathedral. The legendary Glastonbury music festival - much attended by many of the older pupils, of course - is just down the road from here.
The charmingly shabby school dining hall
The school campus proper is maybe not the most attractive one we've seen ( a lot of prefab buildings!). But that doesn't matter. The music faculties close to the cathedral and the Cedar's Hall is where the action is at, and it is these facilities that give the school a gorgeously uplifting beauty.
One of the music faculty buildings
The boarding houses are normal, cozy Wells townhouses and are sprinkled around campus. Ben our friendly, smart and very enthusiastic tour guide praised the friendly, rather less formal houseparents and amazingly supportive house staff.
...another music faculty building - in the shadow of Wells Cathedral!
Wells Cathedral is an amazingly friendly school with second-to-none music provision. No doubt a must for every music or maths aficionado, but just as great for anyone who plays an instrument, looking for an amazing boarding experience. We love this school!
Some interesting facts about Wells Cathedral:
- 700 pupils in total, 350 boarders in a town of 11,000 inhabitants
- Wells is gorgeous and pupils really benefit from being at the heart of it
- 2 1/2 hours from London by train