MUSIC THE SOURCE OF LOVE AT STOWE

Known for its stunning historical buildings, Stowe School isn’t afraid to move with the times too. They recently opened a Sixth Form Boarding House, which was a refurbishment of some former staff housing, and have started work on a new Science Centre, a £6.5m project that will be completed by September 2016. However, already unveiled is their fabulous Music School, a £5.7m project that opened in 2014, which Director of Admissions, Tori Roddy, tells us more about it

Stowe is such an historic site, so does that history play a key role in the look of any new additions to the school?

The architects we work with really understand our vision for Stowe, combining forward looking and innovative design techniques with the use of stone and other sympathetic materials that work well in our historic setting. Working closely with specialists we receive enthusiastic endorsement for our projects from our principal partners at Stowe, the National Trust and Stowe House Preservation Trust.

The Music School opened last year – what was the inspiration behind that?

Through the vision of architect Nick Cox (architect to Blenheim Palace, Winchester Cathedral and Wells Cathedral), a beautiful building was created; in many ways it is another Temple, this time dedicated to Apollo and music. The brief was to create a building entirely in keeping with the grandeur, beauty and aspiration that is the hallmark of Stowe.

pianist lang lang

A host of illustrious names from the world of music have graced Stowe, including acclaimed concert pianist Lang Lang

Has music always been important to Stowe?

Music has always been at the heart of Stowe, and some extraordinary talent has been nurtured here. Our alumni body has musicians of all kinds from composers Howard Goodall and Harry Gregson-Williams, to the famous jazz singer George Melly and rock superstars like Roger Hodgson of Supertramp fame.

What top of the range facilities can you now offer?

Some £5.7 million has been invested in order to provide a state-of-the-art music facility that is comparable to many university departments. There are more than 30 rooms dedicated to music making, all of which are spacious and open and take full advantage of the beauty intrinsic to Stowe’s setting. Its form is perfectly married to its function, and from the spacious entrance hall you are led to state-of-the-art classrooms, rehearsal studios, teaching studios, a recording suite with five studios, custom built and acoustically engineered rooms, and the centrepiece of the building, the magnificent 250 seat Ugland Auditorium, in which you will find a Steinway Model D Grand Piano. With its opening Stowe also became an All-Steinway School.

What, ultimately, does this now enable you to offer music students?

Every Stoic has the opportunity to develop their musical skills whatever their passions. For pop musicians, there are four band rooms, all with drum kits, recording facilities, amplifiers and keyboards. We have gifted faculty staff who can advise Stoics on how to develop their songwriting skills and produce professional quality recordings, either as demos or to release onto the various internet platforms. Classical and Jazz musicians have outstanding pianos to perform and practice on. Every room has a large flat-screen TV and high-quality speakers, as well as mirrors to enable pupils and teachers to look at posture, presentation and performance skills, through watching professionals, or through filming their own efforts and reviewing the film to hone their skills.

I believe you have launched a community appeal for the new science centre. What was the response like?

The response has been incredible, so much so that work on this £6.5 million project has now begun. We are looking forward to opening this outstanding facility in September 2016.

Why is this new facility needed?

We faced a crucial and increasingly urgent need within our Science Faculty at Stowe to improve the fabric and scale of our existing building and laboratories. The science building, which opened in 1972, was built for a school of 550, some 30% smaller than it is today. It has served its purpose well for 40 years, but is now bursting at the seams and simply doesn’t provide the space nor the facilities and infrastructure to which we aspire. Change and improvement was urgently needed if Stowe and Stoics are to compete and thrive in the future.

Can you give me an overview of what it will offer?

Our ambition is to create one of the finest scientific learning environments in the country. We will do so in three ways:

  • Expansion of the existing building: the creation of six new laboratories (two for each of the core subjects) along with a Sixth Form Study Centre that will provide a space for interaction, enrichment, exchange of ideas and discussion across all three sciences.
  • Refurbishment: an overhaul and upgrading of the twelve existing laboratories and lecture theatres.
  • Enhancement: a much-needed and substantial face-lift to the exterior of the building.

The building will be transformed into two storeys throughout, with a wide and well-lit entrance hall, exhibition space and a gallery – the whole building will become a space to promote the sciences. There will be dedicated laboratories for all three sciences, which will be enhanced by lecture and preparation rooms that will be fully modernised and equipped with the most up to date technology.

marble hall at stowe school

Marble Hall, just one example of the stunning architecture found at Stowe

Once completed, how does it tie in with what you aim to offer students at Stowe?

Scientific study provides the foundation for understanding the world: in discovery and innovation, in curing disease, in driving economic growth and prosperity. We know that science has increasing relevance and value to universities and employers, in a marketplace where there is a shortage of graduates demonstrating high-level scientific and technological skills. Not surprisingly, science at Stowe has soared in popularity in recent years. Along with all 450 girls and boys in the lower school, we now have the highest ever number of Stoics choosing to study chemistry, physics and biology in the Sixth Form – a growth of 94% in the last ten years – all crammed into the current science building. Our approach is to provide the most engaging and practical blend of traditional experimentation and technology-based learning possible. Alongside classroom lessons, our scientific clubs are growing too in popularity: the Biomedical and Quantum Societies provide terrific opportunities for the Stoics to enjoy their subjects and extend their discovery beyond the confines of the curriculum. The quality of teaching is superb, as is evident from the results achieved; last summer, 75% of A level results for the three sciences were at the top A*, A and B grades, within an overall pass rate of 97%. Every year since 2003, there has been at least one Stoic who has gained a place to read chemistry at Oxford. Similarly impressive are the science GSCE results which are amongst the best at Stowe. This new facility will be the hub that supports the excitement in our science learning and teaching.

Stowe School, Stowe, Buckingham MK18 5EH; 01280 818355; stowe.co.uk