What’s your musical ‘backstory’?
Sharon and I were chatting recently about the various events in our childhood and beyond that brought us, ultimately, to start teaching the piano.
It can be fascinating for us to recollect our first encounters with music.
It’s also inspiring for others to read about the influences, the opportunities, the choices and the chance encounters that we have made along the way. Sometimes there are similarities, other times big differences.
We’d love you to share some of your key memories of your musical backstory. Here’s my memories of the pivotal moments and people in my early musical life.
‘SALLY SINGS LOUDLY!‘
“You know Sally sings very loudly in assembly. We can always hear her sing the hymn above everybody else. Have you thought about her learning an instrument?”
These few words, spoken to my parents when I was just eight, were to change the course of my life.
Fairly soon after this conversation a piano arrived in our house and lessons were begun with Mrs May, a piano teacher at school. She was warm, kind and encouraging and very well qualified and experienced. I wanted to do my very best for her. I really loved going for my lessons, which by now were happening at her house and playing on her grand piano. If I close my eyes I can still remember the room and sitting on the piano bench feeling quite safe and cared for.
Mind you I always had my head in a book as a child and would ‘forget’ to go and practice. Luckily I had a mum who was very good at reminding me every day. If it hadn’t been for her persistence I’m not sure I would be where I am today.
Back at school things were less rosy as I was the only musician in the place – and that included the teachers! As I made quite rapid progress at the piano within 2-3 years I found myself adopting the role of ‘school pianist’. Playing the hymn for assembly every morning did wonders for my sight-reading!
Music lessons though were limited to ‘music appreciation’ with Mrs English playing a record of a famous piece for discussion. Can I remember any of the music we heard? I’m afraid not!
EXTRA CURRICULAR MUSIC
As there was nothing going on in school additional musical activity had to be found elsewhere. Luckily I lived in Coventry which had an active and healthy music service and just down the road was the fabulous Coventry School of Music headed up by John Dowding. It was there that my musical education really took shape with inspirational teachers and mind-expanding encounters on a regular basis.
Joining the local Youth Orchestra (and yes I played the violin as well) meant that for the first time I had a group of peers with whom I could enthuse about all things musical. My A level studies at the school also gave me my very first experience of singing in a choir. I still get goosebumps remembering the sheer thrill of opening my mouth to sing those first few choral bars of Handel’s Zadok the Priest!
CHANCES AND CHOICES
Maybe I was fortunate to have the right set of circumstances and people fall into place. Someone who took the care to mention that I seemed to like singing; a warm and nurturing early teacher who knew what she was doing; a mum who was prepared to act as my time manager and some inspiring musical encounters.
All of us though have these sort of chance encounters along the way although we might not always recognise them as such.
WHAT’S YOUR MUSICAL BACKSTORY?
Here’s some questions to get you thinking back – we’d love to hear your musical backstory and some of your early memories and stories.
- Think back to the supportive musical environments that you encountered and describe what characterised them, based on your experiences.
- What extracurricular music making were you involved in as a child and as a teenager?
- Did you teach yourself anything at all?
- What are your memories of classroom music?
- What do you remember about your own piano teacher(s)? What were their teaching approaches? What impact did their teaching have on you?
- What role did your parents play when you were learning the piano. Was it your mother or father who was most involved?
- Have siblings, extended family, friends or spouse played a role in your musical development throughout the years?
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