Eileen Cawthorne's Story


Story submitted, August 2012.


Some background information

  1. 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.

    Your nationality:

    - British -

    The country in which you went to school:

    - Scotland, then England, then Scotland again. -

    Your age:

    - 65 -

    The year in which you left school:

    - 1965 -

  2. 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):

    - aged 5-18-

    School exams in music (e.g. O Level, GCSE):

    - SCE Higher Music -

    Instrumental / vocal lessons (e.g. piano from aged 9 to 15):

    - Piano from age 11-18. Sang in choirs from age 9-18. -

    Instrumental / vocal exams (e.g. Grade 5 trumpet aged 14):

    - Grade 6 piano aged 16. -

    Music at college / university (e.g. music degree at York):

    - DRSAMD at Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. -

  3. Please give a brief description of your current involvement in music:

    - I have now retired from a career during which I taught music in Secondary Schools, involved in both class music teaching and presentation of pupils for SCE exams. At various times I also taught music in Primary schools as a peripatetic teacher, and for many years was an Instrumental teacher in both Primary and Secondary schools, teaching solo singing and 'cello. Latterly most of my work was as a private piano teacher. Throughout all of this I have played the organ in various churches, and have taken part in choirs as soloist, chorister and conductor.. -

  4. Please tell me where you heard about this research project:

    - From one of my first, and best ever, pupils.... Jo Miller. -

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

  1. What kind of music was going on in your home as a child? How influential do you think this was in your development?

    - Both of my parents sang to and with me, from infancy. Both sets of grandparents sang, were in choirs, and had pianos which I was encouraged to play, by ear, for many years. We sang during car journeys, with father providing impromptu harmony to three female voices. On the radio, we listened to Scottish Country Dance music, and sometimes to the Third Programme (Now Radio 3!). -

    - We had a record player from probably about 1956, and a small collection of LPs.Beethoven's 'Pastoral' symphony, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto were huge favourites. And I pre-empted karaoke by several decades by singing along with Kathleen Ferrier! Then there were "Childrens' Favourites' on the radio which I enjoyed regularly. -

    - All of the above shaped and influenced my love of music, and were the solid foundation of future lessons and study. -

  2. What are your memories of school music? (These might include people, activities, opportunities…)

    - Radio broadcasts of 'Time and Tune' and 'Rhythm and Melody' seemed to play a large part in Primary school music, with only very occasional visits from a music teacher. However, one class teacher who was exceptionally musical, and from a very musical family, formed a school choir which achieved very high standards and won awards at Festivals, and trained some of us for 'promotion' to a regional choir drawn from many schools. The quality of tuition and opportunity was as good as in any specialist choir or cathedral school. -

    - At Grammar School in England, I continued to sing in the choir, while having private piano lessons, and regularly attended the "Ernest Reed' series of concerts in London., where we were introduced to some of the best music-making available. (Fifty years on, I still have the programmes!). -

    - Returning to Scotland, aged 15, I was privileged to attend a school with a very gifted an enlightened music teacher whose philosophy was that nothing was too difficult, musically, for us to tackle. An inspiring woman, and a great 'enabler' In choirs and groups, we covered the whole musical spectrum, from Byrd to Maxwell Davies . Inter-house music competitions gave opportunities for conducting, composing, arranging, and we did all of these. -

  3. Who has been influential on your musical behaviour at various stages of your life?

    - Undoubtedly my parents,from earliest days through to providing lessons and encouragement all through school. -

    - The Primary teacher who started the choir, and her father , the very distinguished gentleman who led the Regional choir. These people were contemporaries and colleagues of some of Britain's finest musicians of that era...not that we realised that , being children. Their influence , however, remains. -

    - My Harmony teacher at college, George McPhee, introduced me to organ playing of the highest calibre, and to glories of choral music beyond my imagining. -

  4. 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. -

  5. Do you have any regrets about missed opportunities in music?

    - No. -

  6. 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.

    - With a little encouragement, and a kinder piano teacher at College, I would have spent much more time on studying singing, and much less time practising the piano. -