I AM 25. I am so not 25, you can add a couple of decades to that number. However, this month I celebrate 25 years of teaching music. At the end of August 1995, I went for a job interview for a teaching assistant post at primary school in Torquay. The headteacher told me that she didn’t really need another teaching assistant, but she had noticed from my CV that I sang and played the piano. None of her staff were musical, so would I mind taking on a teaching assistant role with responsibility for music? Well that was my “year out” job and the rest as they say, is history.
Nothing about my journey into music education has been normal. In fact everything about my journey is backwards from the traditional route. I went down the route of singing and piano grades as a child but due to various problems at my school, I didn’t take GCSE or A Level music, I went on to do a Theology degree, graduated and thought “I think I might do a music degree, I want to be in music”. I didn’t actually believe that I would get onto a music degree course, but 3 years later I started studying at Middlesex University and I did graduate! Traditionally, you need grade 8 on a instrument to go on to study music at degree level. I didn’t have that, I had grade 6 singing, grade 5 piano and grade 5 music theory, I’d been performing since I was 3 years old and teaching since I was 18. Sometimes experience opens more doors than qualifications. I often share this story with my students to encourage them; life can be messy and far from perfect but we somehow find a route through to where we are supposed to be.
It seems to be an odd time to be celebrating a musical milestone when the performing arts industry is in chaos, however, this milestone only happens once in a lifetime. The pandemic has changed the landscape of music teaching, but it hasn’t stopped teaching taking place. I am lucky that I have managed to keep teaching online and yes, it is different from teaching face to face, but I still get to help people develop their skills and find joy in making music. It seems pertinent to mark this anniversary as one era ends and a new era starts.
One of the challenges I have faced is the ability to keep going when life is broken. Resilience needs to be at the heart of any business, and on top of that, I have needed a high amount of personal resilience through the difficulties I’ve faced. One reason I feel that I am beginning a new era, is that I wanted to put right some of the things that had failed or not materialised in the past. Some of you know that I survived long term domestic abuse, and the devastating effect that it had on my life. To be fair, this blog isn’t the place to discuss the abuse that I suffered for years, however, one area of my life that was deeply affected was music. It was constantly taken away from me in attempt to hurt and control. I should have undertaken my teaching diploma 15 years ago, but I was never able to and it grieved me for years. Every time I tried to apply for the course, I was stopped and the opportunity was deliberately taken away. The more I fought back, the harder life would become. The pandemic really pushed me to look at how I wanted to end this year. Did I want to leave this chapter of my life having not completed something that affirms and consolidates the experience and skills of the job I have undertaken for 25 years? The short answer is no, I just couldn’t leave this season with unfinished business, so this month I have finally started my teaching diploma!
I really want to encourage you to mark the anniversaries in your life, however small, and celebrate your achievements, resilience and persistence. You showed up, did the work, learnt from the mistakes, gained experience and eventually reached the goal. Just because other people have the same achievements doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate them; your own personal journey is special and precious. It doesn’t matter how many years you have been plodding away at something, long or short. My teaching journey has lead me to meet hundreds of amazing people through individual tuition, arts centres, further education colleges, churches, theatre schools, adult and children’s choirs, and music therapy with community groups. So this month I AM 25. Here’s to the next 25 years…
December marks a milestone for my blog- it will reach its 5 year anniversary
2020 has been a difficult year, but yet still has its highlights- I was able to catch performing arts at Charlotte’s Blumenthal this year. I saw the Broadway Tour of Come From Away and Carolina Opera’s, La Bohème- they came in January. Just have to wait even longer to see the musicals I wanted to see that got postponed- Anastasia and Frozen.
Was still able to go downtown- Charlotte has a big Black Lives Matter mural, and there were globes related to climate change. There was a moment when my family was literally right in front of Belk Theater- that was a bit bittersweet knowing just how empty that theater is, but at least Blumenthal promised Charlotte they will return.
Spend time as a weekly volunteer at my church’s food pantry. Walking on Charlotte’s Greenway is one of my favorite things to do. Was able to eat a restaurant and buy books from bookstores. My family did go on vacation over the summer. Some of the usual things are still happening, but not all. Musical theatre is really the main thing that is missing.
Congratulations on your blog anniversary! Yes I am missing going to the theatre and also to concerts. I’ve never had a year without performing either. Quite strange.
While I spend time in the audience, it is weird not being able to go. It was a bittersweet when my family was downtown- that was when we were literally in front of Belk Theater (the main Blumenthal Theater).
The next musical I was supposed to see at Belk was Frozen. Now my eyes are on Hadestown- coming to Blumenthal October of 2021. That might be enough time for theater to open.
2020 did consist of seeing shows- both of those shows came in January. Come From Away and La Bohème.
Just don’t want 2021 to have zero musicals- if Hadestown isn’t coming till that October, there might be a good enough chance it will not get postponed