Composition and Music Language


From September 2018 we will be offering Composition as a first study at the Centre for Advanced Training. You will work with our experienced tutors in creating a portfolio of work across a range of genres and for a variety of instruments, with performance and workshop opportunities being made available. We recommend composition students have a second study, ideally piano, but this is not compulsory. Please contact us on for more information.

Music Language

At CAT we have a broad philosophical approach to musical education. Rather than focusing on one methodology to the exclusion of others, we embrace a wide range of approaches and pedagogies in order to provide the best possible learning environment for each student. Our aims at CAT are to develop musical knowledge and skills and support instrumental and vocal studies in an enjoyable and exciting musical environment. We intend to provide education and qualifications which broaden musical horizons and enhance future study and career opportunities. Students are encouraged to view music in its historical, social and cultural perspectives and to explore the widest possible range of musical styles, including jazz, rock, pop, folk and non-western music.

CAT musicianship sessions are designed to support the development of each individual student, whatever their experiences and interest. Those who do not already hold ABRSM Grade 5 Music Theory are given teaching and support in order to do so; however this is underpinned by the development of a firm foundation in aural perception and musical awareness.

Students who hold Grade 5 ABRSM Music Theory and have reached a satisfactory level of aural ability will have the opportunity to undertake a programme of further musical study that includes a Carousel session and an Option session. These will develop knowledge and skills which will:

  • support instrumental and vocal studies
  • supplement GCSE and A-level studies
  • form the foundation of further ABRSM studies
  • provide an introduction to future musical opportunities

More detail on the individual sessions can be found in the downloads on the left, or by clicking here

All students will be given a small amount of homework from each class which is expected to be completed by the following week. This is mainly to help them review and revise their classroom learning, and they are therefore welcome to complete this work during their day at CAT, and they may wish to collaborate with their classmates to consolidate their understanding.

I was so impressed by the musicianship of the students and how they embraced the creative challenges of the workshop so positively and imaginatively. Not many students would be up for blending Ravel and Prokofiev. But they were, and it sounded great!
Jonathan James, Music Educator and Conductor

Aural training includes practice needed for aural tests taken as part of ABRSM Practical examinations. Assistance is also provided in the paperwork and aural training required as part of any performance diploma.

For further information on the Centre for Advanced Training, including on dates and content of auditions, please click on Information for Students

The Music Language Team

Emily Murray LRSM: Study Leader.
Emily Murray has had a varied career as a pianist, trumpeter and violinist as an army musician in the Band of the Welsh Guards and as an accompanist and teacher in London. Having returned to the North East, Emily is now Assistant Director of Music at Durham School and regularly performs as a chamber musician, accompanist and solo recitalist.

Paul Armstrong trained firstly as a classical pianist, then went on to study music at Newcastle Polytechnic where he began working in all aspects of community music. At the same time he began his performing career broadening his musical skills across many different musical genres including Latin, popular and jazz. He spent over twenty years as a full time professional musician in both the jazz and popular music world as a bass/double bass player. Paul has played numerous jazz festivals around Europe and worked for BBC, ITV and Channel 4. He has worked as a lecturer as part of the BMus team at Sage for many years specialising in teaching harmony, aural skills, composition and ensemble studies, and for the last two years has been part of the team at the Centre for Advanced Training, teaching classical and jazz theory, bass guitar and composition.

Kate Halsall DipRCM, ARCM
Kate grew up in the Eden Valley, Cumbria and trained at Royal College of Music with Kendall Taylor and Yonty Solomon. She has performed widely as a freelance pianist and with a number of ensembles, including for Aldeburgh Music, Banff Centre Canada, The Piano – Glasgow City of Music, Ockham’s Razor (Not Until We Are Lost), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Sonorities Festival Belfast, Michael Clark Dance Company (Oh My Goddess), Tête à Tête Opera Festival, Marte Festival Malaga, IUC Rome, Southbank Centre Imagine Children’s Festival, Multiple Piano Day BBC Proms and Ether Festival.
Kate is currently a Visiting Tutor at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and has been involved in many education projects both for schools and within higher education. Kate regularly works with composers, performing new work, and is a frequent collaborator for interdisciplinary projects with new technologies. She has recent releases on Metier, Squeaky Kate Music, NMC Recordings, Another Timbre.

Dr Christopher Randall BMus, MMus, Ph.D.
Christopher Randall received BMus from the University of Southern California, an MMus from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Newcastle. He has worked as a performer in a wide range of genres, including speed metal, latin-jazz, North Indian classical voice, and Western European orchestral and choral traditions. As a composer he has had the privilege to collaborate with a number of internationally renowned performers and ensembles, including the California E.A.R. Unit, the Northern Sinfonia, Hindustani vocalist Vijay Rajput, the Talujon percussion quartet, and the Pacific Rim Gamelan.

Sarah Robinson BMus LRSM
Sarah studied music at Manchester University before moving to London. After teaching piano and flute for some years she went to Hungary for two years to study music teaching at the Zoltán Kodály Pedagogical Institute of Music. At the Institute she completed the Advanced Level in musicianship studies, including ear training and theory, as well as studying piano pedagogy, lieder accompaniment and vocal conducting. On her return to the North East in 2007, Sarah gained an LRSM diploma in piano performance. Sarah currently works as an accompanist, freelance teacher of piano, teaches independent group musicianship classes locally, and is music director of Riding Mill Choral Society and Minims Junior Choir.

Alix Shepherd BMus (Hons)
Alix trained as a classical pianist from an early age, moving on to study in popular and contemporary styles, receiving an honours degree in Jazz, Popular and Commercial Music. He has extensive experience in writing and releasing original music, as well as performing at events and festivals across the country and internationally, across a wide variety of genres. He also works as a tutor on the Further Education programme in Popular Music and HND in Popular Music run at the Sage Gateshead, as well as at Gateshead College on their Foundation Degree programme, specialising in instrumental/ensemble tuition and jazz improvisation.