Music Program

The Conservatorium High Music Program is not to be confused with the Music Syllabuses of the NSW Board of Studies and Teaching & Educational Standards [BOSTES].

The school’s Music Program comprises individual instrumental lessons (Major and Minor Study), composition, large and small ensembles, and choir. Simply put, this program transforms the Conservatorium High into a specialist music high school. The Music Program complements the Board’s Music 2 Syllabus and runs in tandem with it. Specially developed for the Conservatorium High, the Program is made possible thanks to a subvention from the State in the form of an annual allocation from the Non-Tertiary Music Education grant. This allocation does not fully cover the cost of the school’s music program. To defray the residual costs parents pay an annual fee calculated on a graded scale (see the Schedule at the end of this document).

Individual instrumental study

Conservatorium High School students receive tuition on their chosen instruments from tutors employed by the Open Academy, Faculty of Music, University of Sydney.  The standard semester entitlement for all students is 16 individual weekly lessons of one-hour’s duration* on their major instrument, and 16 individual weekly lessons of half-an-hour’s duration on their minor instrument.  Students who are permitted to undertake a double-major, i.e., receiving two hours a week of individual instrumental lessons, will be levied an additional annual surcharge as set out in the Schedule at the end of this document.

For the majority of students instrumental lessons commence around the beginning of the University’s first semester (late February – early March).  Lessons take place outside academic class hours, i.e., during lunchtime, before or after school or, for senior students, during study periods. In keeping with general university practice, *the phrase “one-hour’s duration” means, in reality, lessons lasting for no more than 50 minutes in order to give students time to make their way to their next class.

The terms of the School’s agreement with the University of Sydney stipulate that payment is to be made in advance. Instrumental lessons are by far the most expensive item in the school’s music program. It is well beyond the school’s financial wherewithal to carry the cost of instrumental tuition for any student whose parent(s) have not paid the year-appropriate program fee by the due date.  Parents are required to sign a document each year accepting these conditions and acknowledging that failure to pay the year-appropriate Music Program fee by the due date will result in the school’s notifying the Faculty of Music, University of Sydney, that their child is ineligible to receive instrumental tuition through the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Open Academy.

Student Diaries contain the Register of Attendance records for each semester.  Students and their instrumental tutors sign off on each lesson as a record of attendance.

Progress reports and practical examinations

Tutors provide two written end-of-semester progress reports on their students. Towards the end of the second semester students sit a practical examination entailing both technical work and repertoire. The standard of repertoire and associated technical work will be at a level commensurate with students’ assessed standard or level.  Due allowance is given to incoming students as they come to terms with new teacher, new school routine and the demands of the music program overall.

Functional piano

The Conservatorium High believes that all musicians should gain a command of the piano sufficient to enable them to use it as a study tool. Functional Keyboard does not concern itself with learning pieces from the solo piano repertoire. It concerns itself with developing valuable keyboard skills such as sight-reading accompaniments, transposing, realising figured bass, harmonisation of melodies. See documents Second Study Piano Minor Double Majors, Package Options 2015 onwards and Functional Piano Test – Exit Exam.

Composition lessons years 10-12

Composition is a mandatory component of the Music 2 Syllabus, Stage V (second year) and Stage VI. The school’s co-ordinator of composition studies, Dr Trevor Pearce, allocates tutors in consultation with the Head Teacher (Music) and determines the most suitable grouping and frequency of lessons, whether weekly or fortnightly, one-or-one or in groups.

Composers’ Day is a popular annual event and a longstanding tradition in the school. All students submit compositions; a selection of the best are performed, judged and commented on by a distinguished guest composer. Students sitting HSC music submit a two-minute composition as part of HSC requirements.

Classroom music studies

As with all academic subjects, progress in classroom music studies is reported on twice a year through the school’s academic reporting system. A mark is allocated for both coursework and exam results. Achievement against course outcomes is assessed and a teacher comment is provided.

The small cohort of the Conservatorium High School allows for regular parent/tutor contact throughout the school year, however, the annual Parent/Teacher evening gives parents a structured opportunity to meet at least one of their child’s class music teachers, to discuss progress face-to-face.

Con High Angel Place Subscription Series (CHAPSS)

The annual CHAPSS concerts presented by various professional ensembles and orchestra’s  at City Recital Hall, Angel Place are an integral part of the school’s classroom music program. Attendance is compulsory for all students. Parents are billed at the beginning of the year for the series of four concerts.

Performance workshop

Years 11 and 12 participate in this class for one hour every week.  Included are classes on all aspects of performance including such related topics as meditation, remedial posture work, performance anxiety etc.

Small performing ensembles

Students in Years 8–12 take part in either Junior or Senior Small Ensembles each week. Students who are assessed as being of an appropriate standard take part in the Senior Small Ensembles Program. All other students participate in the Junior Small Ensembles Program which focuses on the development of ensemble and rehearsal skills in the context of various groups performing varied genres such as Renaissance, Jazz, folk and art music.

Students are allocated to small ensembles of various types, and each ensemble is guided by an experienced tutor.  Most students attend for one 45-minute session. Some students undertake two 45-minute sessions.  The outcomes of this program are presented publicly in the school’s Chamber Music concerts.

Chamber music is an important part of the Year 12 music curriculum. Each Music Extension HSC student presents a chamber music piece as part of his/her performance program.

Large performing ensembles

All students take part in one of the large performing ensembles.  In 2014 the ensembles were Orchestral Tutorials and Wind Sinfonia. Orchestra tends to be the domain of the senior years. Strings often start in the orchestra in Year 9 as they are more numerous; the others (woodwind, brass etc.) often will start in Year 10 or more probably Year 11. The main performance opportunities occur at the four major school concerts – House Concerts, Term Concerts, and Annual Concert.


All music students sing. The School Choir involves the whole school and it rehearses every week. The main performance opportunities lie in the four annual all-school concerts which generally include a major choral work for large choir.

House concerts

Students are allocated to one of three houses: Bach, Beethoven or Brahms. At the annual House Concerts held at the very end of Term 4 the Houses compete for a trophy in one of the school’s most esteemed musical events. In Term 3 each year the newly-elected house captains, with their peers, begin to devise a 30-minute program that will meet the required criteria. Students are responsible for sourcing the music and obtaining permission to perform it. The criteria against which the performances are judged by professional guest adjudicators are outlined in detail in the House Concert printed programmes.

Rehearsals commence at the beginning of Term 4 usually during the large ensemble timeslot on Tuesday mornings and during choir and chamber music timeslots. Smaller ensembles rehearse outside classes in the students’ own time. Students organise the rehearsals and staging themselves; senior students conduct the performances. Extra rehearsal time is allocated closer to the concert.

Term concerts and annual concert

These concerts feature repertoire from noted Australian composers under the direction of guest conductors of national standing. They provide varied repertoire for orchestra and other ensembles, and the whole-school choir, as well as spotlight opportunities for outstanding individuals.

Soloists’ concerts

This is an initiative of the P&C designed to give all students the opportunity to perform solo. While not compulsory, students are encouraged to participate in these regularly scheduled concerts.

Board developed courses

Information about the music syllabus is available through the NSW Board of Studies online at htpp:// (Stages 4 & 5) or

Board of Studies HSC Syllabus

Functional Piano Test – Exit Exam

Piano Accompanists 2017

Solo Instrumental Performance Assessment (SIPA) Frequently Asked Questions

Solo Instrumental & Vocal Performance Assessment 2018