May 2019

The School of Piano Studies

We are increasingly working in 'schools' within our Music Department. Different genres of music cannot be compared with the opportunities they offer, hence our schools.

The School of Piano Studies.

  • Performance is at the heart of the School of Piano Studies. Every musician in this school is a performer and we aim to inspire you and give you invaluable experience.

This is achieved through

  • Weekly one to one tuition
  • Regular performance classes, to build skills and confidence
  • Internal and external recitals
  • Masterclasses
  • Guidance on being an accompanist, if suitable
  • Joining a suitable ensemble when ready

We have 54 musicians who learn either the piano or keyboard. An amazing number for one school.

The piano can be an isolating instrument, if we do not work to ensure our pianists perform as much as possible. Many pianists love Popular Music, and are in ensembles and bands. Others simply love to play the piano and subsequently perform. Our piano recitals are very popular, as are the Library lunchtime concerts, mostly on Thursdays. These opportunities have developed the confidence of our pianists and helped raise the profile of the piano within school. We must not forget those who are in our ensembles - one of the toughest 'gigs' there is for the piano is at the heart of every group. The recent masterclass with Clare Hammond was an amazing opportunity to bring pianists together and help them move to the next level in their work - so much is about confidence. Learning the piano also makes it much easier to pick up another instrument and make fast progress. The musicianship skills are already there!

So, well done to all our pianists. They are a crucial part of Team Music and we are so proud of what they achieve.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music.

March 2019

Together we achieve amazing things.

This image says it all. Enjoyment, celebration, musical excellence.

This incredible group of musicians symbolise all that is amazing about Team Music. The sense of community, potential, opportunity, excellence and discovery.

We expect commitment from our musicians in return for amazing opportunities. That is who we are and we proud of our expectations that achieve such amazing music and results.

The message from this term that I have found is that where parents are engaged in supporting their musician at home, progress is up to 20% better than others. Research I read has confirmed this and it made me realise that this is so true of our work in Simon Balle Music. What is fabulous is that so many of our parents are engaged and are totally supportive. Thank you!

If you ever need advice with how to help your musician at home, please ask. If we need you to provide more support, we will ask you - that is what we should be doing and will do.

How did we achieve such amazing things last Saturday night at the Big Band evening? Simply by all working and supporting together. All the time, very hard.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music.

16th December 2018

Dear all.

'Music is my special place'.

That is what I am often told by parents and musicians about coming in to the music centre. I so often tell musicians to leave their worries at the door. Sometimes it works!

As we come to the end of a long term, with the Carol Service on the horizon, I am again reminded about how special music at Simon Balle is. The Music Centre holds special memories for so many musicians, past and present. I often say that magical things happen in music, and they do. From Year 2 and 3 right through to the diploma candidates in the sixth form.

One thing we must not forget is who makes this music. Your sons and daughters. The standard they achieve is so high and along the way we create some amazing memories. And have a flipping good laugh.

So, from me to you, thank you. The partnership we all have together is unique and amazing. One former student quite simply summed it up:


Merry Christmas.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music.

9th November 2018

Dear all.


That word. Causes issues in my house with my son and his trombone. 'If you don't practice, you won't get better and you will do the same thing in your lessons each week'.

Practice is essential. To improve, as we all know. Actually fitting it in, with hectic lives, is hard. Revision, homework, computers, phones and so on.

Perhaps create an environment at the same time each evening where 20 minutes can be completed. The TV is off, the house is quiet. You listen, you support. Create a living room concert once a week? It is hard I know for some.

Larch musicians should be establishing routines, showing that practice is important, meeting our expectations. Group lessons mean that if someone has not completed the work, they are behind. If they are away, catch up!

We are trying to support secondary musicians practice here in school. We are setting up supervised practice in the morning from 8.10am. Musicians can sign up and come in and practice. 30 minutes before school each day, job done, progress is made in between lessons, you are getting value for money. Help is here if needed. A senior musician will be on hand each morning to help, to set up, to support.

So, if homework and revision is making practice hard, or it is just too stressful, musicians should get in contact and sign up. 3 or 4 times a week. If we feel that they should be part of this, you and they will know!

Mark Taylor, Director of Music.

26th October 2018

Dear all.

Thank you.

When we work together, amazing things happen.

I am blown away by what our musicians are achieving at the moment. From Year 2 Cellos and Violins, Year 3 Flutes and clarinets blowing their first few notes through to other younger musicians in our secondary phase, our GCSE musicians and also our most senior musicians achieving such a high standard - so many grade 8s and beyond.

What we have with our musicians is something quite amazing. Something that few other schools can create in such this special way. Where will the fabulous Year 3 musicians be in, say 6 or 10 years time with their music? Where will the year 7 musicians be in 5 years time with all that work and dedication? What about all the others? How is every individual musician progressing with their work?

In so many ways we are one musical family in Team Music, within the wider school family. With the musicians we have our ups and downs, our tears and our difficult moments. When we work through them and support each other, we achieve amazing things.

You are so much part of our team. Joining the dots of support, talking to us, giving the same message.

So thank you to all. Amazing things are happening, every single day in our musical school. I am one of the most fortunate people to be able to hear most of them in action. Wow.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music.

22nd October 2018

Dear all.


We are in the middle of keyboard recitals at the moment, proving to be as good as ever. Other tea time recitals follow next half term. On Tuesday 13th November we have our Autumn Concert at the Spotlight Theatre in Broxbourne. 7pm start. Tickets are on sale. We have to go there simply as it is the biggest venue locally that can accommodate us with musicians watching. Our Larch musicians are not involved, as it is too late for them. Larch concerts will be set up soon.

Performing is so important in being a musician. It is the purpose for being a musician. It is the chance to celebrate what has been achieved. It is the chance to listen to what has been achieved. A performance cannot happen without an audience.

Now, to you. Don't leave it until the last minute to purchase tickets. To be honest, the theatre is not big enough and considering we filled the 750 seat Saffron Hall last summer...... When you come to the concert, please respect our performers. Turn your phones off, don't go in and out during a half of the performance, come and enjoy an evening's high quality music performed, don't forget, by your children.

I am so excited by what our musicians are achieving at the moment - they really are a superb group (! - over 150 of them!!) of people. The standard of music is very high as well.

All musicians are nervous at some point in their careers about performing. However, with performance comes confidence, success, pride and celebration.

Performance though is not limited to our concerts. You should be listening to practice, having a living room concert as it were. The more the musicians perform, the better they will be and the more we can all celebrate!

So, in the coming few weeks, celebrate performance. The amazing music that your kids create.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music.

26th September 2018

Dear all.

I must report that things are (touch wood) going very well. The musicians seem very motivated, Year 7 are settling in and our musicians are simply being fabulous. Fun, laughter and amazing music already. In the Larch, initial Year 3 woodwind noises are turning into musical sound and the Year 2 strings have started well. There is a real buzz around the school with music.

Some of what we do is posted on twitter. @simonballemusic. Do follow and see what goes on. Listen to what has been achieved by some ensembles in 3 rehearsals.

Something new is the Music Development Fund. We are all aware of school funding issues. The Music Development Fund has been set up to allow giving where people can. Parents, Grandparents, businesses and so on. I am so aware of the cost of music lessons and everything else. Therefore the fund is there to enable for people to give when they can. I have been asked about this many times in the past. We have chosen this particular method of donating so that in many cases we can claim gift aid - the magic something for not much. So, if you or someone in your family or someone you know or the business you work for can give, now or in the future, please do. All our musicians will directly or indirectly benefit, and donations will be carefully spent on the extra, not the core.

Click on this to donate. The link is also on the music home page.

This is not a hard beg for money, it is a fund for people to donate to as and when they can. Anything raised helps, but of course the more we have.... especially with gift aid. We will regularly promote it to remind people and please mention it to others when you can. Should you have any questions about this, please get in contact with me.

Finally, thank you for your support and staying in touch. Amazing musical things are happening day after day and without everyone in Team Music, we would be nothing. That includes you!

Happy music making

Mark Taylor, Director of Music.

Week of 17th September

Dear all.

Our musical year has started very well, with 380 lessons having started. All ensembles have started as well.

Year 7.

I met with all 70 musicians on Friday to explain about lessons and Team Music. For information regarding how to support them, click here. Other links are on the home page lower down. Two Year 8 musicians spoke to them about their experience in Year 7, and reminded Year 7 now to worry or be anxious and to ask if they had any questions.


I am so please with how our musicians have got back into the swing of things. The Big Band, Chamber Choir and Saxidentals are busy preparing for open morning next Saturday and others for concerts this term. Please click on the homepage to see dates for the year and especially our Broxbourne Concert in November.

All musicians will be on a musical pathway this year - where are they now and what do they want to achieve in the future. Then we can tell them what they need to do. I believe this will be a vital part of our understanding of what music means to the musicians.

A massive part of Team Music is our work inspiring our musicians. You are part of that. Please listen to practice at home, praise the work that goes on, nag when you need. Most importantly, stay in touch. I see all the emails you send in and work with all the team in school to ensure that we provide the very best opportunities. Nudge us politely when we get things wrong, tell us when we get it right (for that makes us smile!). Most importantly, when you embrace and are part of Team Music, wonderful things happen.

Do please follow us on twitter. Encourage family and friends to follow us on Twitter as well to be part of our amazing music.

Finally, I love the quote on the latest John Lewis advert.

When you're part of it, you put your heart in it.

If we can instil this in more of our musicians, even more magic will happen. I leave you with the picture of last summer. In July this year, 8000 people agreed that our music is amazing. I will never tire of this image.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music.

Week of 10th September

Another term, new starts.


  • Lessons start from this Monday, except for Mr Oates and Mr Hedley. Lesson times are being emailed by Mrs P in advance
  • Online timetables for most teachers are online, linked above. Students can also find them if they log into the school website and click on the music link. Please get musicians to understand how to find them. If they bookmark the page on their ipad or phone....
  • Year 7 parents. Welcome. There is a link on the front of this website with details of what to do, how to help. Mrs P will be around to help musicians find their teacher for the first lesson. Set an alarm reminder on the ipad!
  • Ensembles. Everyone is in something. Pianists in Choir. The list of ensembles and times is linked here. Ensembles start this week.
  • If you ever have questions, please ask. Email

Our ethos if of communication and getting involved, having fun, creating music. It is essential that everyone is part of that. With hard work, great things happen.

This year, every musician will be on a Musical Pathway. Here, they will set their objectives and aims for the year and beyond. The steps to achieving that will be discussed. They will have a picture of it to discuss with you, on their ipad. Year 7 will have their pathway discussions in a few weeks.

Here is the info about them:

Pathways 1.m4v

Music Tour - letters are available. The closing date is on Friday, to book the hostel before someone else!

As ever, if you have questions, get in touch.

More to come in future weeks.

Keep making the music and having fun!

Mark Taylor, Director of Music