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My music teacher at the Salesian College in Battersea, in the sixties, was Father Tom Carroll. Apart from his inspirational teaching (I can never listen to Jupiter from Holst's Planets without hearing him singing Ho-Ho-Ho Ho-Ho-Ho Ho-Ho-Ho along with The Bringer of Jollity!), he recognised early on that my newly-broken voice had potential. When I was 15 he put on an Eastertide performance of Messiah and entrusted me with the bass solos. In subsequent years we did Elijah and Gerontius, as I grew in confidence. I honestly believe I wouldn't have had the international opera career I've had if it hadn't been for his encouragement. Many years later, the year he died, I dedicated a performance I was giving at the Royal Festival Hall of Elijah to him - I'd made a point of alerting the school that I was doing this, and was very moved by the number of his ex-pupils who turned up to share a celebratory glass of wine after the concert. He obviously inspired many of us to become professional musicians - several of my contemporaries have held positions in one or other of the London orchestras, for example.
Ivor Cutler - Fox School, Notting Hill Gate. I was completely in awe of Ivor and he got me. I was the naughtiest girl in the school but in Ivor's lessons I was transfixed by his songs. I loved the way he could bring us together and entertain us in our music lessons. This love of music has stayed with me my whole life. What a gift it is to be able to give children the same opportunities that I had. I used to run a music dept & now a trustee of a music trust.
I revere the memory of my piano teacher Dorothy Ward in Dover, from 1973 to 1977 when we moved away. Her ability was astonishing, she could sight-read anything, but she admired my 'ear' and encouraged my musicianship by paying herself for me to enter a couple of these exams, and allowing me to learn the pieces and play them from memory, making me read a bit but not making my inability to read well an obstacle to learning and enjoying playing the piano. |She kept her prices ridiculously cheap, perhaps even cutting them (and, I believe, offering to teach me for nothing) as my mother was a poor single parent, and insisted on feeding us all lunch after the theory exams down the road from her house in the church hall.|I remain a confident, happy busker playing instruments by ear to this day.
Two music teachers transformed the quality of my life. The first, chronologically, was Mr. Jarman, the organist and choirmaster of Newchurch Parish Church in Culcheth (then in Lancashire) when I was 9 years old. He trained me to sing and took the trouble to teach me to read music, giving me a little booklet that explained note values, the staves, keys and key signatures, intervals...all the basics. He said I had a true boy soprano voice. The second, whom I loved, was Norman Baker, my music teacher in grammar school, who continued my choral training but also introduced me to the whole world of classical music. The first piece he ever played us was the slow movement of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. Then on to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and 5th. Symphony.... and the flood-gates were opened. Sadly he left my school when I was in the 4th. form and moved to Lymm Grammar School (where I believe one of his pupils was a talented young pianist called Stephen Hough). These two music teachers massively enriched my whole life.
My music teacher was Suzanne Hamilton. If it wasn't for her I would never have continued my musical path. We didn't have a lot of money growing up but I was always fascinated by music and singing. I sang at primary school in our weekly lessons with Mrs Collinson, I took in as much as I could. When I got to high school I met Mrs Hamilton. Never has anyone encouraged and inspired me so much to continue in music. She saw a spark, an ability that no one else tried to grow. When it came to my choices for gcse I was encouraged to take history. She called me in for a meeting and told me I had too much talent and ability to not continue music. She convinced me and I went on to study at GCSE and did very well. I went on to A levels, then a degree in music. My high school years were not the most pleasant for me, I struggled with bullying and my self esteem was very low. The music department was a safe haven for me. I buried myself in every musical activity available to me. Choir! Salsa band! Rock school! The school musical! The Christmas and summer concerts! Mrs Hamilton got me to sing my first solo in front of a large audience, years later it would become my profession. Now I continue her legacy, as I recently became a music teacher in secondary myself. I strive to be half the teacher she was.
I had two. The first at my prep school went out of her way to take me to a Prom. I was about 8.It included Beethoven 5 which was pretty new to me. We were sitting right up at the top of the Albert Hasll. In the interval before the 5th she took me round the boxes on one level opening the doors to find an empty one. An usher asked what we were doing and she said ""looking for the BBC box"". She at last found an empty box an announced to the usher she had found it! As we sat down the opening of the 5th blew me away.|The second was at my public school and was the John Steane a critic and author also expert on the voice. He used to take English lessons and announce it was a poetry day and play a record. One day it was Brittens Serenade for Tenor Horn and Strings. He encouraged us to criticise the piece saying the descending phrase round ""burrowing like a mole"" was a bit obvious. This taught me to be less passive in my listening. He also ran the music library of records and would encourage one to listen to a wide range of music all of which I sucked up.|Later I joined the BBC and as a producer John Steane and I would meet and make programmes. |These two music teachers changed my life and inspired me in my work trying to pass on what music can mean to others. Thank you.
I was fortunate enough to have three amazing music teachers at secondary school in Melbourne. Elva, Trevor and John were each inspiring in their own ways, and all nurtured a love for music that has been with me as I too have played and taught. Hopefully inspiring my pupils in the same way. They introduced me to a world which I continue to learn and discover from on a daily basis.
Thank you so much.
Robert Thompson, Music teacher at Wallace High School Lisburn - taught me choral singing 101, not what you would get in most Northern Irish Grammar Schools. How to sing Anglican chant, perform in Cathedral weeks and get your head around the basics of polyphony. It's turned me into a head of music at a West London prep school and a member of the Early Music vocal ensemble, Stile Antico. Thank you Robert.
Miss Daphne Mihill, later Mrs Baker, came to Clarendon House Grammar School for Girls, Ramsgate, in 1962, the same year I arrived as an 11-year-old. She ran a senior choir, a junior choir, a madrigal group, an orchestra, recorder groups. She entered us in all the Thanet Competitive and Non-Competitive Festivals. She arranged hymns every week so that the orchestra could play for assembly. She introduced us to music of all kinds within and outside the curriculum. She got me involved in four-part choral works in the school holidays. She made the school choir enter the BBC competition Let the People Sing, and we came second in our class. On that occasion, 60 years ago, we took part with all the other finalists in a broadcast performance of Jerusalem in Studio 1, Maida Vale, where many years later I sang often in my 23-year career with the BBC Symphony Chorus. She was magnificent, and unforgettable to me and many of my peers. Every year I write to tell her how grateful I am to her for my life in amateur music. Your pro forma doesn't like my age or location.
I was a twelve year old pupil of modest musical ability having attempted (and failed) to master the recorder when my school offered classical guitar lessons from Norman Quinney one of the foremost teachers of classical guitar then in Scotland. The classical guitar in the late 60s was very much the poor relation of classical instruments, certainly in my school, but Norman's dedication and patience in his teaching, his sheer encouragement of his pupils has allowed me to enjoy this pursuit for 55 years and counting. I couldn't imagine life without my guitar.
I put my life-long enthusiasm for music, both playing and listening, largely down to Dick Telfer a music teacher at George Watson's College, Edinburgh. He nurtured his protégés through his own interests also as a director of the then new Scottish Opera by providing tickets to their classic productions. On a school orchestra trip to Paris in the early 1969s he took some of us to see Gounod's Faust at the Paris Opera - what an experience! I am only an enthusiastic amateur clarinettist, but found that playing and latterly conducting amateur music groups to be a most appropriate release from the pressures of a demanding day-job. I would not have missed it for the world!
My inspiration in music came from a history teacher who took us to Norwich Theatre Royal for D'Oly Carte and Sadlers Wells on tour sparking a lifelong love of opera of all sorts. He got his reward when many years later when he was long retired at the start of a Proms season I was delighted to see him putting the wreath on Sir Henry Wood . So three cheers for Sir Henry and another three for Dickie Bawden.
I learnt to play music in the 2nd Edgware Scout Group Band in north London. My teacher was the bandmaster, Sam Wade. I began on side drum, learning the rudiments and committing the marches required for the monthly church parades to memory. I progressed onto cornet at about the age of 9. My formal musical education consisted of learning to produce a sound from the instrument, followed by the valve combinations required to produce a scale of C major. And that was about the extent of my musical education. The first tune I learnt to play was God Save the Queen, in G major, where I was confused to find that the first space F had now inexplicably turned into an F sharp, requiring a different valve. Thereafter, I was assigned to the melody line of the music we played and did as best I could. A year or two later, Sam announced, ""we need a euphonium player. Alec, play this euphonium."" In doing so, Sam did me an enormous favour. Until then, I had not really been reading the music in front of me properly, just playing parrot-fashion what other, older band members around me were playing. Now though, I found myself having to actually decipher the notes on the page, as I had no idea how any of the euphonium were supposed to sound. As a result, my musical literacy improved no end, as did my confidence and my desire for self-improvement. This all happened in the 1960s. Since then, as an amateur musician, I have enjoyed a lifetime of music-making, playing in some very fine bands and enjoying concert tours in a number of countries.|Sam may not have been the greatest music teacher in the world, but without him music would be a foreign land to me. And, of course, he did this for hundreds of other youngsters over a period of almost 50 years, for which, being in Scouting, he never took a penny. Sam died in 2000. I will always be deeply grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to make music.
My family is not musical, so all my training and musical knowledge was in gained at school from Miss Clarke, and in church choir. ||Miss Clarke: I remember the awful behaviour she had to deal with, from kids about to drop music at the end of S2. At the start of S3, about 30 of us began 'O' Grade Music, as an additional subject. It was a challenging course, and an excellent start to musical education. We sat Grade 5 Theory as an end of year exam in S3 - it's the only Associated Board qualification I have! ||Miss Clarke took us for our 30 minute Dictation lesson each week. I credit her with my ability to pitch just about any interval a composer needs. Crucial, as I sing alto, and will be singing Bach's B Minor Mass next week with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Richard Egarr. ||I've been privileged to do so much, and get so much enjoyment from music, professionally and personally. One of the people who made it all possible is Miss Clarke. I owe her profound thanks.
Not quite the first experience that attracted me to classical music, but I should mention that I have fond memories from around 1960 of the Edinburgh Rehearsal Orchestra. Having already had bassoon lessons at school, I was introduced to this by a flute player I had met during National Service. The idea was that amateur players like myself, or music students, gathered during the Edinburgh Festival to make up an orchestra during the day, under the direction of one Harry Legge, and practise a selection of works being performed at the Festival itself, and then enjoyed hearing the same works in the evening concerts. Since that time, I have spent many years playing in local amateur orchestras, until I had to give up due to old age.
I remember my Music Teacher, Miss Brown. Her Music Room was the place I went at lunchtimes and after school for rehearsals. I remember her music lessons, her choirs, her concerts, her productions, the music she played in assemblies and that I really wanted to be her when I grew up. It didn't happen straight away but now I am a music teacher myself and hope that I am inspiring the children I teach to love music and make it a part of their life in the same way that Miss Brown inspired me.
My inspirational music teacher was Sandra Brown. She had a phenomenal technique and could have been a concert pianist if she had wanted to, but she was a born teacher and in the two short years I studied with her she transformed the way I thought about the piano. My scores from those days are littered with the word Cantab(ile) and she gradually persuaded me that the piano, after all, was a singing instrument. Later she became a distinguished music therapist and academic, teaching several generations of Nordoff Robbins students in London. Many years later I became a music therapist myself, and the last time I saw her not long before her premature death from cancer was at the Nordoff Robbins Centre in London shortly before I started my training. I think of her pretty much every time I play the piano and am forever grateful that I had the chance to study with her; warm, practical, fizzing with ideas, hilariously funny, dear Sandra!
Absolutely lovely article Richard. Yes - I had an amazing musical mentor. I wanted to have piano lessons, like my big brother, but the best tutor in the area was the church choir master who had a boys only treble section. He said he'd only teach me piano if I joined the choir. It was just before my 6th birthday. |I was a bit of a troublemaker generally but the choirmaster had a way of allowing me to be myself, so long as I was 'on' for the services and practice.|I was the only person that took A level music at my school and people laughed. Especially as the music at my school was pretty poor, but I did it all outside of school. I graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire and have been a professional singer for my entire career - firstly in opera, then as part of Tenors UnLimited. I'm currently giving back by teaching singing and conducting choirs for children and parents at my son's school. My mentor - Richard Mason. I'm still in contact with to this day.
My inspirational music teacher was Ken Lovatt, father of trumpet virtuoso Mike Lovatt. Having been a professional musician for over 40 years it is fair to say that I would not have had such an interesting musical life had I not begun piano lessons with Ken when I was nine years old. Ken taught music at the secondary school in Cheadle, Staffs, conducted the local choral society, played the church organ and organised many concerts, but perhaps his greatest achievement was running a youth orchestra for many years which encouraged hundreds of children to develop an interest in music, some of whom have gone on to great things just like his son Mike.
I'm not sure if she was inspirational, but she was certainly memorable. Madame Goodman (all women music teachers seemed to be called madam in those days), otherwise known as Mabel, was an extremely large lady, and when she, the grand piano and I were in the room there was no space for anything else.||I was a skinny boy, perched at one end of a double music stool while Mabel filled up the rest of it. I wasn't brilliant and I didn't practise enough, and eventually she hit on an idea to interest me. ""Here"" she said "" is a pile of sheet music - pick out what you think you will enjoy playing and we will go through it, piece by piece. And so we did - Clementi, Mendelsohn, the now fashionable (but then hardly remembered) Coleridge-Taylor and others. Playing what I enjoyed was hardly a systematic way of being taught, but it kept me at it, and I have been grateful to her ever since - her unsystematic teaching was in a sense, indeed, inspirational.
My fantastic music teacher at Primary School, Mr Wirdnam, inspired us all and got the whole school singing whilst he played the accordion. The songs he taught us are ingrained in my brain to the point I've written a theatre show which I have been touring around the UK, singing all the school assembly songs with reflections on life at school. It has sparked a reignited love of school assembly classics around the nation and I talk about the impact of our wonderful music teachers.
My first music teacher, Mr Nightingale in Northumberland, was everything when I was a kid. I wanted desperately to play any and every instrument, but having lots of siblings meant money was tight! Mr Nightingale encouraged me to sing in the choir,, after I was given the 'five gold rings section' of Twelve Days of Xmas and he realised the quiet one in the corner had a voice. Singing allowed my voice to be heard, and was my vehicle for expression. I later took singing lessons ( when I was old enough to get a job and pay for them) with Mr Spowart in Widdrington, he was an eccentric who was very 'old school' but I loved his passion energy and direction I started singing in competitions all over the country and started to understand different voice types and how to communicate more effectively through song. Gillian Brunton in Ledbury was recommended by my A'level music teacher ( Malcolm at Northumberland College) as I was learning that music was something I could explore further. I found out I needed a second instrument and needed grades, so completed my Grade 5, 7&8 Abrsm singing exams and passed Grade 3 piano so I could reach my dream of studying music in an academy. It was the toughest time in my life due to Halle Hing circumstances at home, and although I didn't get accepted on the degree course as a result I did get to study at Diploma level at Royal Conservatoire Glasgow. To show how capable I was and prove the doubters wrong, I did extra teaching endorsements and got higher results in many of my classes( often higher then a lot of my degree friends) I Loved singing but also developed my piano skills with an amazing pianist.. Later I met an amazing lady called Joan who tan Ravenswood Opera in the North East, and I discovered my love for opera. Joan built my self confidence enough to sing solos in great venues across the N. East, and challenged me to study further.Today, somehow, after years of teaching in many schools in Northumberland, Leicester and Hitchin, I work as an Assistand HeD for Leicestershire Music and Lead Brass and Steel Pan Teams. Music was the gift given me to navigate the hardest parts of life and opened doors to the most wonderful people including Foster carers who are the most amazing people on the planet and helped me to see that I do have something worth sharing with others. My daughters are both in the industry ( one on the West end , the other an amazing teacher across school in London, and performer who has sung all over the world What opportunities we've all had, because a wonderful ginger haired teacher from Hadston, cared enough to spend time and energy on getting the best out of his learners and creating opportunities for them to shine. I will forever advocate the power of music ( and in particular singing) as I have witnessed first hand how transformational musical experiences can be.
Ron Jennings was my music teacher at Hastings Grammar School in the 1970s. He and his wife encouraged me to follow my musical talents despite the headmaster not seeing it as an academic subject. He had his quirks not least pretending to be the creatures in Saint Saens Carnival of the animals.
My lifetime in choral and church music was inspired at age 10 by the head of music at St Mary's RC college in Southampton, John Rowntree. His commitment to teaching all children to sing, to read music and to play whatever instrument they chose, was undimmed by constant battles with the sports dept and, I suspect, a sceptical head.||He encouraged me to join his church choir, and then at age 12 to attend summer school at Westminster Cathedral, London, under Colin Mawby. My love of cathedral choral music continues, 60 years later, singing in the Anglo-Catholic tradition in Northampton.
I was told I couldn't study both Music and German for GCSE because of timetabling. My music teacher, Geoff Walters, came to the rescue by offering to teach me after school. Thanks to his kindness I was able to carry on to take Music A-level, which has informed and influenced my love of music ever since.
From 1967, between the ages of 7 and 12, I attended a Junior (later, Middle) School, Hucklow Road in Sheffield. We had an inspirational Headmaster called Vincent Bradley, and Deputy Head, Mr Howe. Mr Bradley insisted that every child in the school should play an instrument and be part of the school orchestra. Most of us began with recorders, then moved onto other instruments as we learned to read music until we had full woodwind (including recorders), brass, string and percussion sections. Mr Bradley took orchestral pieces, (sometimes transposing the key so it was easier for us to manage) and distributed his hand-written scores (always in pencil) to each player. Mr Howe accompanied us on the piano and we had rigorous rehearsals, gave concerts for parents and one year, we were invited to give a concert at Coventry Cathedral. When we studied the Elizabethan period, he acquired a harpsichord from somewhere so we could hear how the music of the time would have sounded. Now when I hear Smetana's Vltava, Strauss' Emperor Waltz, Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary to name but a few, I am straight back in that school hall, with Vincent tapping his baton on the music stand and a hundred kids playing our hearts out and assuming, wrongly, that this was normal and happened in every school. A posthumous thankyou for everything you taught us, sir.