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Alexandra College


1st Year

The aim of the 1st Year programme is to introduce students to the three important elements of music: composing, performing and listening.

To this end the programme that is offered includes:

  • Understanding music notation and basic rudiments of theory
  • Listening and responding to a wide variety of music from varying stylistic periods
  • Developing an aural awareness of stylistic differences across various genres
  • Performing as a class group through choral activities and classroom orchestra
  • Developing the skills necessary to allow students to continue their music education to Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate standards

2nd and 3rd Year - Junior Cycle

Music is offered as a choice subject at Junior Certificate level and the students select two out of a possible five subjects alongside their other core Junior Cert subjects.

There are five periods a week given to the music course for 2nd and 3rd Year students.

As stated in the Junior Certificate syllabus the music course is “designed to enable all students to acquire musical skills suited to their age, varying abilities and musical experience”.

The course is divided into three components that represent these musical activities and experiences:

  1. Performing
  2. Composing
  3. Listening

These three elements are not seen as separate or independent, but activities that support each other and work in tandem with each other.

Performing Skills

All students are expected to perform as part of their Junior Certificate examination and this is worth 25% of their overall exam.

This performance can be done through one or two musical activities and can be individual or group based. To encourage the development of performing skills all students are encouraged to take part in the many music-making activities that the College offers.

Composing Skills

Composing helps students to discover how musical decisions are made.

This includes decisions on tonality, rhythm, melodic curve and harmonic progression. Included in this section of the course are the understanding of triads, the introduction to melody writing and the understanding of harmonic progressions and adding backing chords to a given melody.

Listening Skills

As part of this skill area students learn how to identify and describe a variety of different musical features, to analyse and compare these features and to interpret and evaluate the music using formal descriptive language.

 The syllabus in this area includes a set of songs and orchestral works that students must study and be able to identify features aurally and through written stimuli. Included in this skill area is a section on Irish Music.


The practical assessment that takes place around Easter time each year is worth 25% of the overall marks.

The listening and the composing components are assessed in June and this written paper is worth 75% of the overall marks.

Transition Year

As part of the Transition Year programme every student takes part in a performance module.

Music Outreach Programme

The students undertake to do research, prepare and perform a musical programme in the wider community.

As part of the performance nights the students prepare for two public performances. The students in the music module are involved in the choice of music to be performed and they are expected to participate with enthusiasm and energy, ensuring a productive and enjoyable module for all.

The performance module consists of the following elements:

  • Development of Singing Skills
  • Development of Performing Skills
  • Development of Part Singing
  • Development of Stage Production Skills
  1. Music Technology is offered as part of the post performance modules/options

This module consists of the following elements:

  • Exploration of technology assisted composing
  • Adding soundtracks to other media
  • Introduction to sequencing
  • The programmes used are Sibelius and Garage band

Leaving Cert Programme

Music is offered as a choice subject at Leaving Certificate level.

The syllabus follows on directly on from the Junior Certificate where the three essential activities of performing, composing and listening are central to the structure of the syllabus. The syllabus is structured so that students can specialise in one of the three areas above by selecting one of them as a ‘higher elective’. Each section is worth 25%, and students then select one of the three activities to be worth 50% and do an extra course of work in this area.

Performing Skills

As with the Junior Certificate students can perform individually or as part of a group.

It is common practice for students to use existing groups within the College as part of their practical exam and many students use the choir or various orchestral groups for this. The genres that the students can present their practical through are very flexible and include traditional, rock, jazz and musicals. The content of the performance must show diversity in style and technique. Music technology can also be offered as part of the performance examination and students can elect to make a backing track or edit a music score through appropriate software.

Composing Skills

Students will learn the skills necessary to compose a 16 bar melody that includes a modulation to a related key and do a harmony exercise that demonstrates an understanding of chord progressions and cadences.

The composition paper totals 25% (100 marks), with 40 marks going for the melody writing question and 60 marks for the harmony question.

Listening Skills

The listening course contains prescribed works, Irish Music and Aural skill development through an unheard question.

The Listening paper is worth 25% and all Ordinary Level and Higher Level students must study all the four set works prescribed. They need to understand, identify and describe the musical features used, study style and historical context and analyse and describe patterns of repetition and change in the music. In the Irish Music section students will study the dances, instruments and players associated with Irish music and the traditional and non-traditional features of performances. Throughout the 5th Year and 6th Year cycle there is an emphasis in the classroom on the development of aural skills through unprepared listening exercises that cover all styles and genres.