PAM WEDGWOOD: AT LEAST 10 THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT THIS POPULAR COMPOSER

Sharon, Director & Co-Founder of The Curious Piano Teachers, writes:

Jazzin’ About. After Hours. It’s Never Too Late. Up-Grade! 

If you’ve used these piano repertoire series with your piano pupils, then the name Pam Wedgwood will definitely ring a bell! This week, Sally and I have taken a break from blog-writing. Meanwhile, Pam has taken a bit of time out from writing music – just long enough to write this blog post for YOU!

You’ll also see that she’s been digging around in her old photo box (I’m loving the Dancer Pam photo!) If you have pupils learning Pam’s piano pieces this term – this is perfect for sharing with them as it provides an insight into the composer’s life.

Here is Pam’s story – enjoy!

Pam writes:

Hello! It’s been great fun poking around for old photos. It’s also been great to reflect on my journey to becoming a successful composer of educational music (something that didn’t happen overnight – as you’ll discover below!)

This week, as I’ve thought back over my musical pathways, I’ve been aware of the crucial contribution of others in my development as a musician and as a composer. (And in the comments below, I’d love you to share with me how others have impacted upon your development as a piano teacher).

PARENTS WHO ENCOURAGE – THEY’RE WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN GOLD

Encouragement from parents is a key factor for a successful musical education. Children coming from affluent backgrounds may not appreciate the amount of time and expense invested until much later, perhaps when their own children are embarking on their musical education. My father worked long hours at his job but didn’t earn a lot of money; with four daughters all learning instruments, my parents must have sacrificed such a lot in order for us to take lessons.

My parents must have sacrificed such a lot in order for me and my 3 sisters to take lessons - Pam Wedgwood
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In my experience, it is not always advisable to start formal lessons until a child is fully co-ordinated with established reading skills and showing a real desire to learn. Encouragement from an early age can only be good news and there are many fun ways of introducing musical experiences without the need for formal lessons. I used to take both of my boys to as much suitable live music as possible – this had a profound effect on them, shaping their musical ideas from an early age.

When the time comes, finding the right teacher is crucial and can make or break progress. About the age of 11, I started to tinker on the piano and found that I could play a lot of well-known tunes by ear. Before long I was sent to the local piano teacher for a more constructive approach. However, unfortunately, I hit on the wrong teacher! My parents soon recognised the problem and swiftly found another teacher who proved to be totally inspirational for me. He was able to guide me along my musical journey into my professional life and I have always been thankful to him for that.

SCHOOL DAYS

My early musical influences were brought about by geographical circumstances. In the north of England there is a particularly strong tradition of brass band playing. Many large industries sponsored their own brass bands and numerous talented musicians have evolved through this tradition. I went to school with a very strong brass band tradition, where I was given a tenor horn to practice. This instrument is in the shape of a very small tuba and I really loved it. There was no formal tuition – I was just told to sit next to a more experienced player and copy! How things have changed – for the better, I think.

MY VERY FIRST COMPOSITIONS

At this time I was also drawn to composing and began to write pieces for the school band. I was heavily influenced by Bach and Handel, so most of my writing must have sounded like very bad baroque music! I remember writing out scores and then having to produce hand-written parts – if only we could have used modern technology, life would have been much easier! That said, there is something really pleasurable about a hand-written score and it did force me to learn a skill that many of today’s music students have totally missed out on.

Nowadays I use all available technology and am much more experimental in my musical offerings – writing for many instruments and ensembles in various genres. For instance, I have recently written a horn concerto and several pieces for large orchestra.

After a few years of playing in the band, I knew I wanted to become a professional musician and play in an orchestra. My music teacher advised me to study an orchestral brass instrument. The French horn was a natural choice: having heard Denis Brain playing the Mozart horn concertos, I had come to love the sound and the range it could produce. I also relished the challenge it presented – though admittedly I had little idea how difficult it would be at that stage. At about the same time, I was offered the opportunity to study the cello, an instrument I had often thought about playing. I began lessons with a very good local teacher and loved it.

CAN YOU GUESS WHAT MY FIRST JOB WAS?

In 1963, at the age of 16, my musical career began. I entered Trinity College of Music in London, studying piano, horn, cello and composition. I worked very hard during these four years of study. As there were very few horn players at the time, I was fortunate to be involved in every type of performance: from huge orchestral works to small brass and chamber groups. I loved performing and enjoyed every challenge that was put my way.

In 1967 I started to look for a performing job and attended many auditions as a horn player. I was lucky enough to secure a co-principal position with the Royal Ballet Touring Orchestra. From this time onwards I found plenty of performing work with many different ensembles and venues including The Royal Opera House, the BBC Concert Orchestra and many West End shows.

FAMILY LIFE

In 1968 I married Denis Wedgwood, a fine trumpeter and principal cornet player at The Royal Opera House. We have two sons, Oliver and Sam, who are both successful professional musicians. Sam is a full-time composer of film and TV music and Olly writes lots of graded music for his new website where you can download free pieces in many different styles including duets and backing tracks. Click HERE to check it out!

When the boys were growing up, I became involved in teaching and coaching youth orchestras and began to revisit my interest in composition. During this time I wrote many pieces for my pupils and decided to try to get something published.

Embarking on this project was much more demanding than I could ever have imagined and I almost gave up after four and a half years of approaching various publishers. However, in 1983 Studio Music gave me my break when Brass Routes, a trumpet tutor for beginners, was published.

JAZZIN’ ABOUT – FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1985!

In 1985 Faber Music finally accepted an instrumental series I had written – and so Jazzin’ About was born. Since then I have never looked back and have maintained a really good working relationship with my publisher Faber Music. It’s a great company to work for and I really feel part of the Faber dynasty! I owe a huge thanks to them for their support and encouragement over the past 30 years.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY OF LE SHUTTLE – from my Easy Jazzin’ About piano duet book. You’ll also get a sneak peek into one of six videos that are inside The Curious Piano Teachers’ September Curiosity Box.

I recently published – and really enjoyed writing – a new book of piano music that is part of the After Hours series. It’s called On My Travels and contains 13 descriptive pieces based on the places and people who have influenced me throughout my lucky life. The pieces in this book are approximately graded from 5-7.

Faber Music are giving away FIVE free copies of this book. To be in with a chance of winning one, simply share with me – in the comments below – how others have impacted upon your development as a piano teacher. I look forward to reading your comments and, if you’re one of the lucky winners, do take a photo of yourself with your new book and send to info@curiouspiano.org!

AT THE MOMENT I’M WORKING ON…

… an exciting new book entitled It’s Never Too Late To Improvise, which will become available in 2016. The aim of this publication is to introduce the basics of simple improvisation in an easy-to-understand way and encourage teachers and pupils alike to jump out of the secure box of reading the dots! I’ll keep you posted, via The Curious Piano Teachers’ blog, so make sure you subscribe to stay informed.

JOIN THE COMMUNITY OF THE CURIOUS PIANO TEACHERS

As a member of The Curious Piano Teachers’ team of experts, I get to see right inside the forum, exclusively for members. It’s great to be involved with such a creative idea and I am very impressed with the input that many members are contributing inside The Curiosity Lounge (the private forum for members).

Piano teaching can be a very lonely and isolating profession and when you join The Community of The Curious Piano Teachers you get access to an amazing group of supportive teachers in addition to monthly bundles of teaching resources every single month, including videos, teacher and pupil workbooks and webinars.

When you click HERE to download your copy of my piano duet, you’ll also get access to a 15-minute video from the September bundle of resources for a limited time. Enjoy!

WRITE TO ME BELOW

Share with me how others have impacted upon your development as a piano teacher and I look forward to reading your comments below!

Click HERE to explore Pam’s publications.

This post was written by Pam Wedgwood | Musician, composer & a member of The Team of Experts at The Curious Piano Teachers

10 thoughts on “PAM WEDGWOOD: AT LEAST 10 THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT THIS POPULAR COMPOSER

  1. Rhoda

    That was very interesting to read about your life history! It is interesting because my kids and I have just started going to the local brass band, mainly to give my son some drum practice, but I think we’re all going to end up learning some brass instruments too which will be great fun. One of my students just went and bought one of your jazz books and I had so much fun with it that I played through the whole book in one evening!

    Reply
  2. Ashleen

    I have found that all experiences I have had with different people, whether positive or negative, have worked together to shape me into the teacher I am today.

    I would say that the person I owe a lot to is Sharon, as she was my piano teacher from the age of 14. I was so inspired that I knew that after I finished school I wanted to pursue my studies in piano teaching. This was and continues to be an amazing experience, but I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn!!

    Reply
  3. Pam Wedgwood

    Hi Donal,
    It took me many years of doing “something else” before I settled into composing as a full time occupation. Even now 30 years later I am still filling my life with other musical activities. It’s great to have the variety and I think it keeps the mind fresh.
    I do hope you go on with your teaching and try and keep all the other things going alongside. It will always be worth the effort.
    All best wishes, Pam W

    Reply
  4. Donal G

    I had always wanted to be a composer, however after finishing university I felt like it was too much of a challenging career path for me (hats off to you Pam!), so I went and did several other things for a number of years. Eventually I was missing making music terribly, so not being able to find the right group for me, I started taking singing lessons, which I fell in love with. It led to a friend asking if I’d work on a children’s panto for him as MD. Not having much of a clue as to how to teach harmonies and keep youngsters on track vocally, I registered on a local Kodaly Summer School. For a week I had the pleasure of working with David Vinden, who completely transformed the way I thought and felt about music education, leaving me with the desire to learn more and teach. Not long after I had my first piano student. It’s been an awesome experience and a big thanks goes to David for his inspirational teaching!

    Reply
  5. Angie T

    Hi Pam, I’m so inspired to read about your ‘journey’… I’d love to share my own pivotal moments in becoming a piano teacher today.
    I too, am very fortunate to having a very supportive set of parents who played a wide variety of beautiful music to me (I slept as a baby, with the turntable playing waltzes from Strauss to Ravel’s Bolero…). They never had the opportunity to learn music but my siblings and I grew up with a Petrof upright in our front room from birth.
    I remember my first piano teacher who taught me from the age of 5, with so much love and introduced to me how I could ‘tell a story’ through playing a piece of music. (I now recognise these techniques as ‘visualisation’, ‘playing with expression and dynamics’ and ‘communicating with audience’!). I remembered that my ambition at the age of 12 was to be a musician or an educator in music… but life took me on a different path.
    Fast forward 20+ years, I decided to come back to music – and I am so thankful that I discovered and enrolled in the EPTA PTC. The tutors and cohort of teachers just propelled my piano teaching. I have to mention Sally – at one point, I’m sure she felt that I was ‘tailing’ her to all the events she was running (I was feeling the PTC withdrawal big time). I love this CPT community – (thank you Sally and Sharon!). Thank you Pam, for encouraging me to re-live my ‘messy’ path to being a piano teacher. No doubt I will (and hope to) have even more ‘messy’ musical journey ahead!
    PS: I am enjoying your ‘After Hours’ series, Pam… (for my own playing pleasure!)

    Reply
    1. Pam Wedgwood

      Hi Angie,
      How wonderful that you came back to your roots, teaching and inspiring is not always a clear path, but it’s always worth the effort to give someone young or old a chance to experience the musical journey.
      Keep going onwards and upwards!!!
      All best wishes, Pam W

      Reply
  6. Lizbeth a

    When I moved to Columbus, OH about 8 years ago, I was a bit burned out and ready for a change. I joined several teaching groups, including MTNA and National Federation. I tried to meet as many teachers as I could and rebuild my studio, having left a thriving studio of 40 students behind. It was a tough road ahead. Many teachers were very helpful and kind, but one in particular took me under her wing and has never stopped nurturing me along all of these 8 years. She has always picked up the phone when I had a question. She has always suggested a workshop for me to attend or recommended me for a position on a board. She was my mentor in helping me achieve my national certification through MTNA and helped me become the state teacher of the year for this current year. Now, my looking back, starting over again would have been so much more of a challenge without her. I currently have a full studio and students still contacting me. She picks up the phone whenever I need her, even when she is out of town and is always ready with the best advice, whether I like it or not (this is the best kind!) A true mentor and friend. I am a better teacher because of her and I hope that I can be this person for someone else in the future.

    Reply
    1. Pam Wedgwood

      Hi Lizbeth,
      There is always an inspirational person on the journey through life, just think, you could be the one who inspires your pupils to go on to a successful musical career.
      Singing is also so important to the rounded musician and I’m very glad that you have embraced this in your musical life.
      Keep trying new things and more than anything else -ENJOY!
      All best wishes, Pam W

      Reply
  7. Rachel Yuile

    I have learnt such a lot from my students. For example, one young lad was obviously a very gifted improviser and I felt that I lacked the skills he needed me to have in developing this. So one summer, he and I both went on the Fife Jazz Course. Under the exceptionally capable guidance of the course leader, Richard Michael and his friendly team of tutors, we both discovered that we love playing jazz and improvising. My student is now living and working in London, appearing in West End shows and teaching singing and piano, so music is central to his life. I feel privileged to have been part of his musical development and I still love playing jazz and improvising!

    Reply
    1. Pam Wedgwood

      Hi Rachel,
      What a great story and well done you for jumping out of your safe box and delving into the world of improvising and jazz.Giving your pupils this skill for life is one of the most valuable things you can ever do -so just keep exploring, inspiring and enjoying your musical experience. All best wishes.Pam W

      Reply

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