BTEC Subsidiary Diploma in Music Performance (Jazz)

BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma
2 years
Curriculum Manager: 
Andy Light

What is the Jazz Music Performance course?

The Jazz Music Performance Course at Alton is nationally renowned; many who complete the course have gone on to become professional jazz stars.

You will join the Alton College Jazz Collective, our stunning jazz ensemble – possibly the best of its kind in the region, and perform regularly as part of your course. You will get to explore the music of jazz greats such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington and get to play music as diverse as swing, funk and salsa.

You will become ambassadors for Jazz in Hampshire and get to perform at professional Jazz festivals such as the Swanage Jazz Festival alongside leading international jazz musicians.

You will also be taught jazz composition and encouraged to write your own material to perform and have the opportunity to get your music played by our big band.

Is the Jazz Music Performance course suitable for me?

If you have an interest in Jazz or improvising, or perhaps you would like to develop your soloing – then the answer is yes!
You should already listen to some jazz and preferably play it too. A broad listening base is crucial to being successful on this course and after you finish at College.
It is highly recommended that you have some experience of playing jazz either at school or within a youth group as this will be a great help. You will be expected to be at least Grade 5 performance standard (although you may not have taken the grade itself). You should be broadminded in your attitude towards all music genres.
You should be a confident performer who is happy to experiment and try out new ideas.
Student who take this course will find it are encouraged to take A-Level Music as they compliment and overlap each other.

How will I learn?

Year One
Performing: You will join and rehearse with the AC Jazz Collective once a week. You will build up a repertoire of jazz standards ‘by ear’. You will be taught; how to respond to other jazz musicians; how to develop your solos; the fundamentals of being in a jazz group; and how to perform in public.
History & Jazz Theory: Through practical lessons, you will learn about the history of jazz and how jazz harmony has developed from Dixieland to Swing to Funk to the present day. You will get to perform regularly and develop strategies and knowledge to help you solo and perform on various types of jazz.

Year Two
Alongside your weekly AC Jazz Collective rehearsals you will study:
Original Project: You will put together an event which will include selecting (possibly writing) jazz music, promotion of the event and running the event in a professional venue
Jazz Orchestra: You will become a leading member of the AC Jazz Orchestra and play large-scale tunes from leading contemporary jazz composers. You will rehearse each week and perform at professional venues.
Jazz Composition: You will learn how to write and arrange idiomatically for a jazz ensemble, writing first for the AC Jazz Collective then moving on to writing for the AC Jazz Orchestra.

Alongside Specialist Jazz Course classes and the AC Jazz Collective, you may also choose to join;
The AC Big Band who perform classic jazz from Frank Sinatra to Duke Ellington
The AC Jazz Orchestra who concentrate on modern jazz composition.
Composers’ Ensemble that allows students the chance to have their music played by real musicians (not just on Sibelius!)

How will I be assessed?

The BTEC Subsidiary Diploma is 100% coursework assessed and may include portfolio work - there are no exams. Projects are submitted for marking on a regular basis throughout the course. They are assessed internally by your teachers and then moderated by the board. Work is graded and written feedback provided enabling students to gauge how well they are doing on the course. Feedback will help you to see the strengths of your work, as well as allowing you to reflect on areas which can be developed further.

Your work will be graded pass, merit or distinction. The BTEC Subsidiary Diploma is equivalent to one A Level and carries a maximum of 56 UCAS points. The BTEC Certificate, awarded after successful completion of one year, carries a maximum of 28 UCAS points.

Students must complete and pass the first year to be awarded a BTEC Certificate and the full 2 years of the course to receive the full BTEC Subsidiary Diploma.

We are aware that Edexcel is currently evaluating the assessment process and there may be the introduction of an examined unit. Further information is unavailable at the current time.


Students who have taken this course have gone onto to study at Music Conservatoires and leading Universities.
Many have gone onto becoming leading stars on the UK Jazz scene including:
• Trumpeter and composer, Laura Jurd.
• Bassist, Tom Mason.
• Members of the band,World Service Project.
• Singer, Gwyneth Herbert

Entry requirements

Students should normally have achieved an A*- C grade profile at GCSE. For GCSE English and Maths where a new grading system has been introduced a Grade 4 is equivalent to a Grade C. Alternatively if you have studied at level 2 you should have achieved a merit or above. Vocational courses are an ideal qualification for students who prefer coursework. 

Applicants for this course will be asked to attend and perform at a short consultation interview. Whilst this will be structured like an audition, its purpose will be to help applicants prepare for the start of the course and not to be a ‘yes/no’ audition.

Course costs

The department organizes a number of wide ranging trips throughout the year. Whilst it is difficult to put a price on these, students ought to set aside between £40 and £50 a year for these optional visits.
All students studying a performance course will be provided with one weekly free of charge instrumental lesson on their main instrument.
If the costs of equipment, materials and trips may cause you financial hardship, you may wish to read through details of our financial support scheme on our website.