Monthly Archives: April 2012

It’s that time again…

One of the few things I do catch up with on iPlayer is the bi-annual BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. Probably 2010 was one of the few years I missed the whole competition, since it began in 1978. I think that may have been the year it was shifted to BBC 4, and I just didn’t register it had happened – no matter, I’m back on track with it this year.

Back in the beginning, it was what kept me inspired to keep practising, kept me believing I could get better – though, well aware that as a late-starter, comparatively, as a musician, I was never going to get to the required standard (if memory serves me correctly, at that time, it was Grade 8 with Distinction. The current rules state Grade 8 with no mention of classification.) to even think about entering the competition, let alone be that good! However I’ve since passed Grade 8 on all my three instruments as an adult, and am getting back to where I was after a enforced few years without access to a piano, and when I first left uni, I earned my way as a music teacher, church organist, school pianist and accompanist for non-piano playing teachers for their exam candidates. I used the competition as inspiration for my own pupils, and on at least two occasions, organised trips to concerts where past winners were playing locally. No, none of my pupils ever got to that kind of stage either, but they learned a lot!

In the intervening years, I watched out of interest, I was always pleased to note I rarely got it wrong as to who was going through to the next round in the various categories, though not always correct as to the over all winner. I had occasional wistful moments of wondering what my life would’ve been like if I’d stayed as a working musician, though no regrets. I continued to play for church, and occasionally for schools if they needed a pianist.

Most recently, I’ve been working with teenagers of the opposite end of the spectrum. I think I may have deliberately missed out on 2010 as the contrast between those I work with and those who appear in the competition was much too strong… My students struggle with basic numeracy and literacy, with social skills, with basic day to day living.

However, this year, as I’ve been much more relaxed about many things, I’ve not been hiding the musical side of myself at work. It began last year, when I was timetabled into a room with a piano in it! (For an English lesson… ) With two students who were drawn to it like a magnet. Like many, they’d taught themselves to pick out tunes they knew, but had neither access to piano lessons, or a supportive home life. We struck a deal. If they completed their English work, I would start to teach them a little more, and would play for them occasionally as they worked at their English.

This year, I have different students, but for whom music has also been very important. It’s been the best way of helping them learn to respect other people’s ideas, tastes, views – and that they might like something new! It’s helped two young men to articulate ideas, it’s helped calm others. We’ve introduced each other to music that we like, learnt to listen to the choices of others, and it’s been great. Far more importantly, they are all just beginning to realise there is so much more to them as people than the “failures” they have been throughout their school lives, and that they don’t have to be limited to education as defined by their skills in numeracy and literacy.

So, I’m watching to see who wins the BBC  Young Musician of the Year this year – and will be showing some of it to my own students during the next few weeks. No, none of us will ever be there, but we will enjoy it! I will also be saying to my students at the end of this year that they have worked just as hard, and achieved just as much in their own ways as these young musicians., and I’m every bit as proud of them for it. If not more so!

Back to the sofa

It’s the only sensible place to be on a wet, miserable Bank Holiday Monday. As a result, I’ve finally done something I’d been wanting to do for a while – watch the last two Harry Potter films as a whole. I do enjoy the books more than the films, but have enjoyed most of the films, with one exception, in their own right. Also, providing I’ve not read the books recently and have the details in my mind again.

Happy Easter, by the way, to those who are celebrating, and hope Holy Week is going well for those still going through it.

Holy Week was a good experience, on the whole. The bits I was less convinced by were matters of personal preference, rather than incompetence, so I’m not going to dwell on them. Though, I’ve made a note to myself for next year that I am a Dawn Vigil and Eucharist kind of person, not Vigil on Saturday night, and Eucharist the next day.  I’ve probably caused confusion by turning up to most services during the week (I was one of four or five who did so) and am now on smiling/saying “Hello” terms with a few more members of the congregation. I’m happy to leave it that way, though will try going to coffee after the service. I think three months of avoiding it is long enough! Or not… I shall see.

Tomorrow, regardless of the weather, I’m taking myself off out! Not sure where yet, but out. Not having been anywhere but home or church for the last ten days, apart from a supermarket trip, cabin fever is just beginning to set in!

So, how’s it all going?

You know, getting pregnant and giving birth would’ve been quicker than the process of getting this sitting room decorated!!

What started out nine months ago as a “Keep Japes Occupied” exercise over the summer when work dropped to half time hours until the new academic year began,  looks like being completed tomorrow. If I’d not decided yesterday to re-do the ceiling, it could’ve been finished today, but all I’ve got to do tomorrow are the skirting board, the door frames and the meter cupboards.Yes, for some bizarre reason, both gas and electricity meters have their own little cupboards in a room that is, ooooh, 11 feet by 12 feet at most. They do add to the awkwardness of this room!

Still, I remind myself that there has been major structural work done in this room and it’s a much nicer place to be, as a result. I also remind myself I am away from home for long hours, and work in what can be a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding job, and I’ve done a much better job of the decorating as a result of insisting I only do it when I’m home on weekdays, rather than wearing myself out by working on it every Saturday.

It’s also been good to have the discipline of knowing I’ve been going out to the  Holy Week Eucharists at church every evening, so I’ve had to stop and get cleared up, when I might’ve been tempted to keep going… and again, do a poor job because I was rushing.

So, tomorrow should see this job completed, and the ground floor of my home restored to order, just in time for the Triduum. Which was the plan.