Friday was a busy day – back-to-back meetings in the morning ending with an exciting meeting with Ann Bryant and Steve Dummer. We met over a bowl of warming soup and finalized our forthcoming Christmas concert. Steve had been busy sorting out the music and we sat listening to some snippets of his arrangements. The concert will kick off with Delius’ Sleigh Ride and as it played it was like a button had been pressed and I was transported back about 32 years.
I used to play in The Bury Schools Youth Orchestra, the Concert band and the Wind Ensemble. Friday evenings and Saturday mornings were always spent at The Music Centre with my mates having fun and making some seriously good music. I had no idea then just how many memories I was making and how music would be such an enormous part of my life.
Anyway, way back then we’d played the Sleigh Ride. I can’t remember when or where but it didn’t half bring back some memories. Memories of my teenage years, playing in an orchestra creating wonderful music with my friends, boyfriends (!) the buzz of performing to an audience, making my parents proud, how I wish I could turn back the clocks. Just one short piece of music and I was awash in a sea of memories.
At the end of the meeting, Steve, whose one of many jobs is to conduct the Horsham Symphony Orchestra, happened to mention his concert on Sunday at Stowe School and again I was transported back in time when he mentioned that they were performing the Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto.
I have some very big memories that are triggered by this music. We toured France playing the Rachmaninov (Peter Seivewright was the pianist) and I played the clarinet solo in the 2nd movement. A fabulous 2-week holiday staying with French host families, making lifetime friends, becoming just that bit more independent, an introduction to the French culture, lots of concerts, (including one to virtually no audience because they’d advertised the concert on the wrong day!)
So, yesterday we drove to Stowe – a 250 mile round trip. Hardly local, Stowe School is in a breath taking beautiful setting and the concert was in the amazing chapel. The programme – Beethoven’s 9th, Paul Harris’ Buckingham Concerto number 5 and of course the Rachmaninov, were all accompanied by the Horsham Symphony Orchestra. It was the first time I had heard it played live since that tour of France so I was excited to be sitting amongst all the proud parents and grand parents of the scholars involved in the concert. How proud must they have been feeling? My head was full of allsorts. The music, the memories, the surroundings, the business opportunities, the cold (!) and a brief conversation with the family sitting in front of us. They had 2 children at Stowe and 1 at Harrow. I couldn’t get it out of my head what an amazing opportunity they were giving their children. It made me sad to think that money buys you opportunities.
There are pockets of free musical opportunities throughout this country but these are mainly in inner cities. Every child has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument in key stage 2 in state schools. This is only for a year and then it’s up to the parents whether this continues. It’s not an easy decision because it involves a lot of cost. Tunbridge Wells is seen as an affluent area but how many can afford to buy a musical instrument and pay for ongoing lessons? Actually, what I will also ask is even if they can afford it how many parents realize the importance of music, playing an instrument, playing in ensembles etc.
There is so much research now about the benefits of music and playing an instrument and yet it is still only available to those who can afford it.
“Music has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young.” Aristotle.
It is our mission to change the way that children are exposed to music. We will strive to seek corporate funding that will allow every child to have access to music, learning an instrument and playing in an ensemble. It is an up hill struggle but we wont give up.
One day my parents bought me a clarinet. That day changed my life. It allowed me to be part of an orchestra, which enabled me to make friends, travel, and experience culture. I developed skills other than academic that enabled me to make a career change that in turn allows me to make a difference.