Spotlight On: Hampton School’s ISSP Music Day

Posted on: 29 Nov 2023

Elizabeth Esser, head of academic music at Hampton School, reflects on the success of this year’s ISSP Music Day, an event that brings together more than 170 pupils from state and independent schools for a day of singing and music-making.

The aim of Hampton’s extensive Community Partnerships Programme is to work with local schools to offer pupils academic and co-curricular provision that they might not otherwise have access to. In the last 12 months, more than 1,000 local state school children have participated in over 500+ partnership activities. One of the key events of the year is the Independent and State Schools Partnership (ISSP) Music Day, hosted by Hampton and neighbouring independent school Lady Eleanor Holles (LEH).  

As a music department, we have worked hard for many years to foster and develop the role that we play in Hampton’s Community Partnerships Programme because music offers so many benefits to all the young people involved, whether they are from our state-maintained partner schools or pupils from Hampton and LEH. In 2023, the annual ISSP Music Day returned with a fanfare, taking its place among the co-curricular highlights of the school year.

From the outset, the music departments at Hampton and LEH were determined that the partnership day would build upon the success of previous occasions – an ambition enthusiastically met by our state partner schools who sent more than 90 pupils to take part in the day of music-making, spanning Year 7 to Year 13, and representing the whole gamut of musical interests and levels of experience and ability. An equal number of young musicians from Hampton and LEH participated. Bringing this diverse but eager group of young people together to give a concert with just a day to prepare was no mean feat, but all of us in the Hampton and LEH music departments were motivated by a common sense of purpose.

The format of ISSP Music Day consists of a day’s worth of rehearsals learning repertoire to perform in a concert that very same evening. The morning was spent in rehearsals split between the two independent schools in the partnership, with pupils forming small ensembles based on their instrument (String Group, Percussion Ensemble, Choir etc.). In the afternoon, the young musicians gathered at Hampton to rehearse as a full orchestra and choir.

We also somehow found time in the busy schedule for pupils to enjoy some time-out and be treated to a concert by String Fever, a professional electric string quartet. Hampton School’s Hammond Theatre was plunged into near-darkness as the group took pupils through a whistle-stop tour of music history, pausing only for some beatboxing and well-known themes from film and television! The cheers and applause spoke for themselves, and it was clear from speaking to pupils afterwards that this was a performance they wouldn’t be forgetting in a hurry. The inspiration that comes from exposure to such high-quality, professional music-making is an integral element of all our ISSP days and can have a lifelong impact on young people.

Rested and reinvigorated to create their own show-stopping performance, the young musicians gathered for their concert that evening, showcasing the results of the day’s rehearsals to a packed theatre of parents, friends, teachers, and supporters. The programme included several impressive solo and ensemble performances given by pupils from our partner schools, as well as pieces played by the various ensembles which had formed on the day. We ended with a rousing rendition of Verd’s Anvil Chorus (complete with a makeshift ‘anvil’) during which we had around 180 pupils on stage both singing and playing.

The opportunity for pupils to perform alongside a range of musicians, and to be exposed to different styles of music-making and teaching, is invaluable and mutually beneficial to all involved. The pace of the day was frenetic, but it’s no exaggeration to say that the school buzzed with musical activity. And it wasn’t only music that was made on ISSP Music Partnership Day; many lasting friendships were forged, too. We look forward to many more years of these inspirational partnership events. 

About Elizabeth Esser

Elizabeth Esser is head of academic music at Hampton School