Story submitted, August 2012.
Some background information
- So that I can compare responses between countries and across generations, please give me the following background information on when and where you went to school.
- British -
The country in which you went to school:
- England -
- 50 -
The year in which you left school:
- 1978 -
- I also need some information on your formal music education (if you had one), so please give details below of any lessons or qualifications in music that you have taken. You will have chance to expand on these answers later, so brief details are fine at this stage.
Years of classroom music in school (e.g. aged 5-14):
- 1 -
School exams in music (e.g. O Level, GCSE):
- None -
Instrumental / vocal lessons (e.g. piano from aged 9 to 15):
- Piano from aged 12 to 14 and 19 to 23. Vocal lessons from aged 17 to 28. -
Instrumental / vocal exams (e.g. Grade 5 trumpet aged 14):
- Singing Grade 8, Piano Grade 7, Theory Grade 7. -
Music at college / university (e.g. music degree at York):
- Music as main subject in Humanities degree. -
Other musical study (give details):
- Postgraduate private study with voice and piano teachers. -
- Please give a brief description of your current involvement in music:
- I teach singing, piano and music theory.I conduct several choirs, and accompany singer and instrumentalists for examinations and other performances. -
- Please tell me where you heard about this research project:
- Directly from Dr Pitts. -
Thank you for those details. The rest of the questionnaire is more open-ended: there are five prompts about home background, school experiences, influential people, highlights and regrets, and you can use those to tell your story in whatever way makes sense to you.
Please answer in as much detail as you feel able to, focusing on those questions which are most relevant to you, and giving specific memories and examples whenever you can.
Life history prompts
- What kind of music was going on in your home as a child? How influential do you think this was in your development?
- Very little music was played at home. I remember the radio occasionally being on, always on a popular music channel, so I heard the music in the charts at the time, and some of the music my parents would have listened to during their younger years. I don't think this was very influential at all, as I was always more interested in classical music, although I quite liked some of the sixties bands. -
- What are your memories of school music? (These might include people, activities, opportunities…)
- At primary school I played the recorder. I learnt to read before I went to school and taught myself to play recorder from a book that I nagged my mum to buy for me. She didn't read music but was happy to help me learn to read etc, as it kept me out of mischief. -
- I was disappointed to learn that recorder wasn't studied formally in the infants, but very excited when I got to junior school, as orchestral instruments were offered to those who reached a certain standard on the recorder. I was taught to play the cornet, graduating to the trumpet when I had grown a little. I also tried the trombone, tenor horn and later, the euphonium. The school had a band and this helped my sight reading and general musicianship. -
- Individual brass lessons were provided (at no charge) by the school teachers during lunch hours, and instruments were also lent to us, free of charge. I feel very lucky to have had these opportunities as there was little music at home. At secondary school there were few opportunities for music, but I continued to play in bands outside school. -
- Who has been influential on your musical behaviour at various stages of your life?
- My brass teachers at primary school were very encouraging and the band leaders in school bands and brass bands outside school were also helpful in my musical development. My mother was not at all musical, but was supportive, as far as she could be at the time. -
- My grandmother played the piano and helped me to learn to read piano music, and gave me the chance to practise on her piano at weekends. We didn't manage to get a piano at home until I was 11, so this was most useful. Also my best friend's mother used to let me practise on her piano during the week, and would help me if I was struggling with a piece of music. I wasn't able to have lessons until I was 12, so again, this support was all invaluable. I was also encouraged to play in church by the organist and my Sunday School teachers. -
- Eventually I had piano lessons with the organist, who was a very friendly and supportive presence in my musical life. My best friend at secondary school and I taught ourselves to play guitar, and having someone to sing with was important to me at the time. During our teens we practised a lot together and went around entertaining people in the local care homes etc. -
- During one of our primary school band concerts the local G & S society performed a few extracts from the shows, and I was smitten. As a result of this encounter I taught myself to sing and play my way through a number of the scores. My guitarist friend eventually hear me doing this and made me perform the Act 1 Finale of the Mikado to her mother, who was a jazz singer. She said 'I know you think you're being funny, but actually you have a good voice and should have lessons.' As soon as I could get a Saturday job I got myself some singing lessons and joined the G & S Society. -
- My first singing teacher was a good technician and I appreciated her thoroughness as well as her encouragement. My second teacher was more laid back but helped to build my confidence as a performer. Both teachers helped me to find opportunities to perform and, later, to teach some of their students. -
- In the G & S Society I was quickly successful in auditions, and several performers, and the accompanist there, gave me a substantial amount of support and encouragement. Later I was encouraged to play the piano at some of the rehearsals, which led to work as an accompanist with other societies. -
- Instrumental and vocal teachers at University also (and afterwards) gave me a great deal of support and encouragement over the years. My University voice teacher made sure that she taught me how to teach as she recognised that singing careers don't last forever, and I am very grateful for ther recognition of this, and of the skills she gave me. My postgraduate teachers similarly helped me to add to my skills as a performer and teacher, and encouraged me to teach as well as perform so that I always had an income. All of these people have not only been influential in my musical behaviour and development, but also helped me to become a musician in a way that could not have happened if I had relied on support from home. -
- What have been the highlights of your musical life history so far?
- The highlights of my musical life history have been many and varied. Some have been significant to me because of the opportunities they have provided for travel, such as my contracts to sing abroad, and some for more mundane reasons, such as seeing my students excel in their performances in the theatre or in concerts. -
- In my early life, my first highlight was probably being finally allowed to have a piano at home, and later (as a teenager) getting my first role in an adult amateur show, particularly since I had seen my 'competition' perform when I was younger and had been quite in awe of them. As an adult musician I have enjoyed seeing my students and choirs develop, especially when they manage to achieve something that surprises them. -
- Hearing my own arrangements being brought to life for the first time can be quite exciting. I would also describe some of my experiences as a musical director for amateur shows as exciting, especially when a show has been a challenge for some of the performers and they manage to excel in a way they perhaps didn't expect. -
- Do you have any regrets about missed opportunities in music?
- Definitely. I regret the lack of musical opportunities due to my home situation during my early life. I loved the piano from the moment I encountered one, and somehow knew that I wanted (needed!) to be a musician of some kind, but obtaining lessons and an instrument was a challenge. -
- During my teenage years my home situation became even more difficult due to my mother's death, and at that point I lost my main source of support, both musically and in general. -
- I feel that becoming a musician was rather a battle and that I could have achieved more if my family circumstances had been more favourable. However, I have had a good life as a musician, despite my early difficulties and I do appreciate the opportunities I've had, as well as the fact that lots of people have helped and encouraged me along the way. -
- Please add any final comments below on the process of telling your musical life history, or any other details that you feel you've missed out of your account so far.
- Completing this exercise has been very useful in helping me to review my musical journey and to remind me of some of the people and opportunities that have made my music-making possible. -