My Woodhouse Music

Daisy Corder
Daisy Corder
Daisy Corder came to Woodhouse from Highbury Grove School and lives in Islington. She studied  music, mathematics and further mathematics at A level and graduated in 2018 with A*AA. She is currently at Cambridge University studying music.
She spoke to us during her second year of A levels at Woodhouse...
“Someone once said to me that there are the hardcore sciences, and there are humanities and arts – and music and maths sit somewhere in the middle. I think there’s some truth to that. There’s a similar kind of problem solving approach to study.
I’ve found the A level in music much more interesting and engaging than GCSE. I really like the longer essay questions where you compare two pieces of music. One, which may be new to you, is placed alongside music you have studied already and you have to make judgements based on social and cultural context and explain why they are different or similar – that’s one of my favorite exercises. But you’ll need to have a strong grounding in music theory and be able to listen to a piece and pick out stuff like the harmonic and melodic devices. It’s a bit of a jump. Especially without even seeing the score, that takes a lot of practice. And it is just practice, as with most things in music.
I’m a trumpet player and have been playing music since I was six or seven. I took part in creative composition ensembles when I was much younger. I’ve passed my grade 7 trumpet and hope to take grade 8 in December. I’ve also passed grade 5 on double bass and am around a grade 4 or 5 on piano. I play mostly jazz on the double bass, though it’s certainly not as easy to carry around as my trumpet, or as easy to play… But it’s a nice instrument and something you can pick up and join in with a band in a way that you can’t do so easily with a trumpet. I’m also part of a drumming ensemble. We use samba drums to play hip hop and dance beats which is really good fun, it’s really high energy.
When we put on the end-of-year college BEAT concert, I conducted a small spoken chorus, just six of us. I conducted a piece called Geographical Fugue by Ernst Toch, and that was really good fun. I’d always wanted to try some conducting and glad I got to try that out at Woodhouse.
The biggest difference to school is that you have responsibility for your own learning. Of course, there is plenty of help available, but you have seek it out if you are struggling. And it’s up to you to do the private study and independent work outside of the classroom. At first that was really scary for me, but actually, now I’m in the second year, I’m a lot more settled with it – it’s a really good system. It means I can feel proud of what I’ve done because I don’t feel I’ve been forced to do anything. Support? No problem. There’s always a teacher who is willing to help you and there’s lots of subject tutorials.
Woodhouse is relaxed and friendly but at the same time everyone’s working really hard. My work ethic and independent study skills have really improved – and so have my social skills. When you get thrown into a college where you don’t know anyone and there’s over a thousand people, you have to navigate it by making friends. Only two people from my school came here and one is my best friend, but we do completely different subjects and don’t see each other at college as much, so whilst it’s nice knowing she’s here, we’ve both found lots of new friends too.
I am part of the college council and a student governor. Last year we put on some events and were ambassadors at the annual open day. It’s a role I’ve really enjoyed and I’ve got to do quite a bit of public speaking and improve my skills.
I am also part of FEMSOC and leading it this year, with two other girls. FEMSOC is a totally student managed feminist society. We are hoping to make it more open this year by getting some students from outside of FEMSOC to lead sessions on different topics. We are hoping to collaborate with Spectrum – the LGBTQ society – on gender, and also run a joint session with the Islamic society.
As another extracurricular activity, I played volleyball, because I wanted to do some sport. I’m not very sporty but I enjoyed the game even though I’d never played before, and I got to meet new people. I also went on the trip to the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.
Before the summer, I was a student leader and brass tutor on a short residential course for around 150 11-15-year-olds who had only been playing their instrument for a year or so. I tutored and mentored three trumpet players. Last year, I taught at a Saturday music school as part of the same organization and took on the brass section. That was on a secondary school programme, and this year I’ll be teaching and leading the brass section on a primary school programme with much younger kids.
I’m currently waiting to hear the result of the first round of auditions for the National Youth Orchestra and I’m auditioning for the London Schools Symphony Orchestra and the English Schools Orchestra – and it was the music department that steered me toward those opportunities.
Music at Cambridge is my next step, or at least that’s the plan. Cambridge is a very traditional western-classical focused place, but it’s a strong grounding. The Cambridge experience is its own thing and I’m going just as much for that as my subject. But I’m also looking at Birmingham…
Beyond that? A music masters, possibly a PHD – then maybe teaching. I’ve always wanted to teach and have never really wanted to be a professional musician. I enjoy playing in bands and gigging, but being a professional is far too stressful – just trying to live from my playing would be a challenge I think.