Have you seen the film Sliding Doors?
It’s two versions of a story. In the first version Helen, played by Gwyneth Paltrow gets fired and catches the train home only to find her husband is being unfaithul to her. In the second version she just misses the train by a whisker and an alternative story unravels.
I find it fascinating to think of all the tiny moments like this in our lives. Where something happens by accident that changes the course of our lives.
This week I am going to continue telling my musical backstory – the choices that I made and the inspirational encounters that happened as a result
MAKING CHOICES – WHERE TO STUDY?
I can remember making the decision in my teens not to try and become a solo concert pianist. Being quite a sociable person the hours and hours and hours of piano practice that would have been required just wasn’t appealing. I loved being a musician in a broader sense, which meant leaving enough time to play in an orchestra and sing in a choir as well as having a life!
So I chose not to study at one of the big London colleges but instead headed off to the Colchester Institute. At the time it was one of the very few places where you could develop both your academic and practical skills side by side. There I was fortunate to encounter some fabulous teachers; the likes of Alan Bullard taught me all I know about harmony (thanks Alan!) whilst my piano playing was utterly transformed by Mr Harold Parker.
Some highlights of my time there included being a member of the orchestra accompanying John Lill playing Rach. 2, continuing to sing as a member of the College Chamber Choir and playing the piano in the stage band for Menotti’s The Telephone. And the crowning glory came when I won the annual solo piano competition, despite not being on the performer’s course!
MAKING CHOICES – WHAT NEXT?
From quite an early age I had mapped out my life until the point of leaving college. After graduating though there had always been a large black hole in my thinking. I had the opportunity to train as a class music teacher but somehow that wasn’t appealing enough for me to choose that route. In fact a very well-meaning teacher had said to me when I was 17, ‘Sally you would make a lovely primary-school teacher’ which of course put me right off the idea. It’s interesting how such small, casual comments really go quite deep and have long-lasting impact. It took me at least 15 years to realise that they had been right.
I was certain however that the piano would continue to be an important part of my life and that I wanted to live in London. So that’s where I headed and soon I had my very first piano pupils – more on that choice next week! In the meantime I got involved in as much music-making as I possibly could. I played lots of chamber music with friends, joined a symphony orchestra, and became a member of the London Symphony Chorus (LSC).
Looking back I can recognise that this particular choice was so important to my continuing musical development. As a member of the LSC I was being exposed to the musical ideas and disciplines of the world’s top conductors; Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn and Michael Tilson Thomas to name just a few. The experience both expanded and refined me as a musician and was highly inspirational!
MAKING CHOICES – WHAT DID YOU CHOOSE?
We’d love to hear about the choices that you made when you finished school.
- What did you choose to study and why?
- Did you have any inspirational musical encounters?
- Were there any chance meetings with individuals that proved pivotal?
Tell us your stories below.
To read more musical backstories we recommend Chances and Choices: exploring the impact of music education by Stephanie Pitts. CLICK HERE
What’s more you could add your story to the growing database CLICK HERE
This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, Co-Founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers