I recently read about how a school in Essex had cut music from its timetable for children aged 11- 13. This combined with an article I read back in March about how music could be “extinct” in secondary schools, made me think back to my schooling and how important music was for me- and how the things I learned back then help me now. I know this post is a bit different to things I normally talk about but I think its something I need to say so I’m going to say it.
A fair few people know that I was bullied in both primary and secondary school. I was the fat kid who was not only fat, often with greasy hair, i also had a name which could be used as ammo. I was the fat girl often known as ” Anal a pussy”.
It was music and english lessons that helped me escape all of that. Both lessons I could be creative in. I could be in a new world through it all. Maybe another day I’ll talk more about the english lessons but today I want to focus on the music.
I started learning the clarinet just before my 8th birthday in 2005. I would leave my normal classes to go to another room in the school, and I would learn the clarinet with a woodwind teacher. A year or so later, after persuasion from my clarinet teacher ( a different one from my first teacher) at the time, I joined a wind band. It was a place that I felt accepted in. I didn’t feel out of my depth like I often felt, I wasn’t bullied like I was in school. I had something that I was good at, that I enjoyed, and I made friends in a place where we all had music in common.
I would have lessons once a week with my clarinet teacher, then on a saturday morning, we would have the Beginners Concert Band or whatever we were called. Don’t get me wrong, the whole learning to read music and play clarinet, and have to play WITH other people whilst trying to learn how to stay in time with the conductor – it was hard work for a 8/9 year old, BUT IT WAS FUN.
We would perform in concerts, and I would perform in assembly’s at my school – and my confidence improved, and my love for music grew.
I’ve always loved music, even before this. I remember being fascinated by musical instruments, and listening to music and the different types of sounds that could be produced. Cher has always been a love of mine- seriously, ask my parents and my godfather. I asked for a Cher CD when I was about 2, My godfather brought me it- it was “Believe”, and I STILL Have it today.
ANYWAY I DIGRESS.
I found something that I loved doing.
Years passed and I did all kinds of cool things involving music, I did day courses which ended in a performance or two, I left beginner group and went in to the junior one, I did a whole load of performances, AND I ALSO JOINED THE CHOIR! (which was even cooler! turns out I loved to sing too!)
I had a clarinet teacher who I loved but then sadly left- and was replaced by someone who although was lovely- just wasnt the right type of teacher for me. In this ones defence she was my third clarinet teacher at this point and the one she had replaced was bloody amazing- tough boots to fill.
I had a keyboard at home at this point too and had started to learn ( mainly self taught). I could read music fluently and would muck about and write my own stuff too – mainly to play on the clarinet or keyboard, nothing with lyrics.
I then had to choose a secondary school. I didn’t get in to My first choice, and a V E R Y long story short, I ended up having to decide between two different schools.
One school, all of my friends were going to, another school I didnt know people.
I went to look through the school I had never looked round before & I didnt know anyone who was going to (it turns out I did know some people in the school but at this stage I didn’t know this!).
I Looked around and it all seemed so big and scary, until the deputy head who showed us around , asked me what I enjoyed doing… When I responded music, she took me upstairs and we walked in to the music department and I honestly fell in love with it all.
I saw pictures from their concerts, and the staff that spoke to me that day were so lovely ( and they are lovely people who I will never forget!) – and then I noticed a piece of paper on their notice board… which said “woodwind lessons”… and the name underneath it was The clarinet teacher that i had before, that was in my eyes the best (no offence to my other clarinet teachers but she was the best!), and I was so happy and I knew it in my head and my heart that this school would be amazing for me, because good lord look at their music department… AND I COULD STILL HAVE CLARINET LESSONS.
I made a decision to go to that school. Now, I had a few problems at the school don’t get me wrong, but this post isn’t going to be a post about the whole school, just the music department.
I loved that department.
I played my clarinet, I did well in my music lessons, and I joined the Junior Choir where we did songs in the pop concerts.
I was still bullied in secondary school , but in the music department I could be myself. I could play my clarinet, and I could sing, I could play the piano/keyboards, and I could be me without fear of judgment or bullying.
I didn’t join the main choir until the end of year 8, but when I did join The Choir? I loved it and I had so many amazing moments being a part of it. We sang in competitions, in projects with the BBC, we did all sorts- and to this day I am still proud of what we did back then (and still to this moment I can remember all the words to the songs we would sing- and the dance moves/actions to the two we had moves for).
Music was what kept me from giving in to the bullies. It was what kept me grounded, what kept me sane.
I began composing and arranging more music as my time at ICC went on. It was something I would do to relax.
Music was, is and always will be something that I find enjoyable and something that I love.
It is important to me, and I know its important to a lot of people, especially younger people.
Music lessons weren’t just about playing a tune, it was about the history of music, culture, the building blocks that make each song, the ways that music can be used for different things.
It wasnt a “doss about” subject like other departments seemed to think, and it wasnt always easy, even for someone who spent most days involved with some sort of musical project. It was hard work, but so worth it.
My mum often says its sad I didnt take my music further, But the thing is I never saw myself in the music career. Music was my release. BUT i’m always thankful I took it as a subject at GCSE as it challenged me in all the right ways.
Music is important. its a part of our every day lives. Go to a shop, and 9 times out of 10 they play music.
Get in a car, turn on the radio- music.
Turn on the tv, theres music.
So why do people think its ok to deny the next generations of a music filled education?
Music as a subject isnt just about learning to play an instrument or sing, its about culture, its about history, science (breathing techniques), Design technology (the designs of the instruments and how they actually work), languages, its an art, its everything rolled in to one.
Music for me is important not just in my education and hobbies.
When I became ill, music was what helped me through it.
I became too ill to continue my education. But I would sit in my bedroom and compose music, page after page it would all flow out and It would give me something to do at 3 in the morning when the pain was too much and I felt like I was drowning in the never ending shit that was my life.
Things I learned physically helped me too. Breathing techniques that were taught to me by my teachers and choral directors/conductors help with an array of things such as relocating a subluxed rib, coping with the pain of my daily dislocations and my chronic pain, the aftermath of a seizure and often get me through panic attacks.
Fun Fact for you – When I had a panic attack in a mri tunnel recently, I layed there and sang Fiela. (a song we used to sing in choir) – IT CALMED ME DOWN, but I have no idea why that song popped in to my head.
When my best friend Natalie died in 2013 – it was music that got me through the first stages of grief. The day she went in to a coma, I came home and played on the keyboard. Music was kind of our thing too. we would sit and listen to music together, and sing, and she’d laugh as I danced around her living room. I wrote her song after song, one was specifically for when she had died, and its still on youtube now.
Then when Faith died this year, music helped me through that too. We had many songs that we used to sing to each other to distract each other when things got tough. She had written a few letters to me for when she had died, and one was just a list of songs. When i’m upset or I really miss her I listen to our playlists.
I did a favour for a company recently that were doing a charity concert. They needed someone to rearrange some music (basically do arrangments for them in various parts etc). I did it for them- and they sent me a beautiful thank you gift of an conductors baton. I always ALWAYS wanted to be a conductor. Don’t think itll happen now but we shall see.
My life is beyond unpredictable, and I as a person have changed massively and I’m so glad I still have things that I enjoy, and things I’m passionate about, and I’m glad that I still have bits of the old me that haven’t left me completely.