How Music is Bringing Aiglonians Together
The benefits of music education are well established: researchers have found that learning music can have a positive influence on language, social, cognitive and academic abilities. It can also act as an outlet for emotions and feelings, something that’s especially important for young people.
But those benefits can only be felt when all children have an opportunity to participate. In many places now, that’s not a given. In the UK, for example, researchers have predicted that A-level music education in schools could disappear in the next decade.
Aiglon College is bucking that global trend, making music a core part of students’ lives. “We want music to be a part of the fabric of the school,” explains Tom Dobney, Head of Creative Arts Faculty and Head of Music.
Achieving that goal starts early. “In the Junior School, the children are immersed in music,” Mr Dobney points out. “Every student learns an orchestral instrument, and half of them learn another instrument as well.” In year five, students also start learning how to read music, acquiring the fundamentals of music elements — rhythm, chords, scales, pitch — that will help them grow into autonomous young musicians. “That part of our curriculum is unashamedly old school,” Mr Dobney says. “Music is one of the few subjects where some things don’t change; we want them to have that theoretical background and we want them to be able to play an instrument, because those two elements open so many doors further down the road.”
These traditional foundations are paired with the cutting edge. In the Junior School, for example, students are exposed to the latest music technology and get time in the recording studio. “Even our youngest students work in the recording studio, initially using GarageBand, moving on to LogicPro when they’re in Year 9; we have a dedicated sound engineer who teaches them about recording techniques,” Mr Dobney says.
By the time students start Senior School, curricular music becomes optional, but many choose to continue with their studies, in part because of how diverse the musical offering is at Aiglon. Recent years have seen students who are aspiring classical violinists and others who are DJs with tens of thousands of monthly listens on streaming platforms. “We’re trying to make sure that every child can do something spectacular in whatever the style of music is they’re interested in,” says Mr Dobney.
But importantly, those who choose not to continue with curricular studies still get access to all the music programme has to offer, including school trips and musical events ensuring that everyone finds something they can connect with. For example, recent school trips have included visits to the Swiss Museum and Center for Electronic Musical Instruments (SMEM), home to one of the largest collections of electronic music instruments in the world, and to Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s house.
And for those who decide to take up neither the curricular nor the non-curricular musical offerings, they still have a chance to feel the many benefits that music can bring to our lives, for example through regular, school-wide singing events. “We have big, Aiglon-wide events, like congregational singing, The Gathering or House Shout, so that every student in the school is engaged with music in some way or the other,” says Mr Dobney. “These big communal events are about joyfulness and togetherness, and just feeling like you belong.”
This role that music plays in creating a feeling of community has become even more important in a post-pandemic world. “Around the world, there’s been a rise in anxiety among young people, and we know that was made worse by the social isolation we all experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Jane Trainer, a music teacher at Aiglon. “We’ve seen the difference music can make, how it gives children a chance to just let loose. Having students who are studying intensely for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) come together and sing at the top of their voices — we know from what they tell us, it makes them feel good, it boosts their confidence. What can be more important than that?”
Download the 'Music at Aiglon' Brochure HERE.
- Creative Arts Faculty
- International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
- Tom Dobney,