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!
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 WedgwoodTweet quote
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.