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The Department’s primary goal is to empower your son, in terms of musical literacy, technical ability, and stylistic and historical awareness.

We aim to demonstrate the social relevance of music education, performing a balance of historical and current forms of music. There are three equal integrated areas of delivery: academic, co-curricular and instrumental.

Academic music is at the core of departmental delivery: effective teaching and learning in the classroom facilitates co-curricular and instrumental music. In academic lessons, pupils are introduced to instruments, performance and theory, building up a set of skills that will tie in with both co-curricular and instrumental music-making.

Co-curricular music is concerned with two key facets of music making. Firstly, allowing as many pupils as possible to enjoy musical performance; secondly to nurture quality music-making, and musical excellence for gifted and talented musicians. We do this through small ensembles and ensuring pupils can practise in protected slots.

Instrumental music lessons facilitate co-curricular music, giving pupils a set of skills that can be brought to co-curricular groups. It is also an opportunity for them to be assessed outside the classroom in graded exams and theory lessons.


Stephen Dennis

Stephen Dennis

Director of Music

Mr Dennis coordinates all aspects of the Department's work, and conducts many of the choral and instrumental groups. He teaches piano as well as class music. He plays keyboards with his own band outside of the School.

Visiting Staff

Mrs R Banyuls-Bertomeu (Saxophone); Ms J Beeston (Viola); Ms L Bell (Clarinet and Saxophone); Ms M Bell (Oboe); Ms C Blain (Violin); Mr B Davidson (Piano); Mr B Donaldson (Piping); Mr G McDiarmid (Guitar and Bass Guitar); Dr S McGrattan (Brass); Mr C Macgregor (Drums and Percussion); Mr T Mitchell (Guitar); Mrs K Nicholls (Piano); Mrs J Pearce (Flute); Mr A Rankin (Percussion); Ms J Jablonska (Cello); Mr J Walker (Snare Drum)

Gordon Campbell

Master i/c Piping and Pipe Bands

Mr Campbell is in charge of piping tuition, and runs the Pipe Bands.


  • Memorial Hall (Bösendorfer grand piano, 3 manual pipe organ)
  • Robertson Hall (sound system, 3 drumkits, grand piano, smartboard)
  • Tutorial Room, (30 Classical guitars)
  • 2 Room studio (Pro-Tools, digi-design hardware, selection of condenser microphones)
  • 6 practice rooms (piano in each, drum kit in one)


J4/5 & I Forms: The aims of the curriculum are as follows:

  1. To introduce students to communal singing.
  2. To introduce students to the early stages of core instruments: strings woodwind and brass, keyboard, percussion and drum kit.
  3. Elements of theory and aural, through class exercises, covering elements of rhythm and pitch and elements of stylistic and historical music through an introduction to instruments of the orchestra.

II to IV Forms: The aims are as follows: “To give a child the best chance in life; therefore, it is essential that they acquire literacy, and that they begin learning at the earliest possible opportunity.”

  1. Theory workbooks have been written for pupils to improve musical literacy and to encourage a more differentiated approach within the classroom.
  2. Students will begin to perform on classroom instruments, drums, guitar, bass guitar, keyboard.
  3. Students will be encouraged to, and will be set tasks in order to develop compositions using Garageband, from structured melody writing and harmonic exercises, to free compositions.

The Department also offers GCSE and Sixth Form Music when applicable.


Co-curricular music supports, and is supported by, academic music and instrumental lessons, providing opportunities to develop performance at varying levels.

See the Co-curricular music page for more information.


We also have an internal recital programme, which gives pupils the opportunity to hear professional performers giving recitals. We are proud to have students performing solo recitals during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

One pupil has entered the UK Songwriters’ Competition, and this year submitted entries within two categories. He has also released an album of electronic music with another Merchiston student, and they are currently working on new singles, whilst studying for their final year exams.

Whilst at Merchiston, the group Bwani Junction was formed, which has since achieved prominence nationally. The classmates recorded their first demo in the School’s recording studio, and their single, Feel no more, has been played on Radio 1. After graduating from Merchiston, they have toured the UK and Europe, played in Africa and Asia, and won the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) award for Best Newcomer in 2012. They have performed Paul Simon’s Graceland, at Celtic Connections, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and have completed a tour of Scotland. 


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Choral & Instrumental Concert 2019

Our yearly Choral & Instrumental Concert showcases our School's musical talent from the Choral Society, Close Harmony Group, jazz band and many more.

Arts Programme: Tosca

As part of the Merchiston Arts Programme, some of our Sixth Form pupils were lucky enough to see the opera, Tosca.