We Will Remember Them

We Will Remember Them for flute and piano by David Barton, LichfieldCatalogue Number: WWS291
Flute & Piano
Publisher: BRS Music Inc.
Difficulty Level: 4-6
Year of Publication: 2009
Duration: 6 minutes
Availability: In Print

Printed Copy: RRP $10.00
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Contents:
1. Elegy for a Lost Friend
2. Drifting Memories
3. Fading Recollections

Whilst making poignant concert solos, these three reflective pieces also make good instrumental interludes in worship. Whether we like it or not, our lives are continually shaped by memories; those which we remember fondly, and maybe those which we would rather forget. Whilst the title of this set of pieces comes from the well known poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon, they are not exclusively related to remembrance. These peaceful, occasionally sentimental and nostalgic, but overall evocative pieces are designed for reflection. The way in which we respond to them will be affected by our own experiences of the world around us. They are suitable for flautists of around Grades 4-6 standard, and will prove a useful addition to the somewhat less-virtuosic side of the repertoire.

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Teaching, Competition, Festival, Exam, Remembrance, Church, Worship

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Four Pictures from Scotland

Four Pictures from Scotland for Clarinet & Piano by David BartonCatalogue Number: WWS292
Clarinet & Piano
Publisher: BRS Music Inc.
Difficulty Level: 4-6
Year of Publication: 2009
Duration: 7 minutes
Availability: In Print

Printed Copy: RRP $10.00
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Contents:
1. Sleeper to Inverness
2. Loch Maree
3. 28th September, 1879
4. Stirling Castle

From the persistent chugging of the Sleeper to Inverness to the peaceful serenity of Loch Marie; and from the despondant 28th September, 1879 to the uplifting and strident Stirling Castle, this publication provides a diverse selection of musical scenes from Scotland.

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Teaching, Competition, Festival, Exam

Imagination

ImaginationCatalogue Number: DBM1502
Flute & Piano
Publisher: David Barton Music
Difficulty Level: 6-7
Year of Publication: 2011
Duration: 5 minutes
Availability: In Stock

PDF download: £3.00
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We all know how easy it is for the mind to play tricks on us. This piece started out as being titled ‘The Power of Imagination’; now just shortened to ‘Imagination’, the flute and piano weave mysteriously in and out of each other, never quite being sure what’s real and what isn’t. But this isn’t a sinister piece, rather a representation in music of images conjured up by the power of our imaginations.

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Teaching, Competition, Festival, Exam

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Sutton Park Suite

Sutton Park SuiteCatalogue Number: DBM1505
Clarinet & Piano
Publisher: David Barton Music
Difficulty Level: 5-7
Year of Publication: 2011
Duration: 9 minutes
Availability: In Stock

PDF download: £6.00
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Contents:
1. Prelude: Royal Oak Gate
2. Pastorale: Longmoor Pool
3. Danza: Jamboree
4. Epilogue: Ancient Woodlands

Sutton Park Suite paints a musical picture of the many faces of this much-loved beauty spot near Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands. Covering some 2,400 acres it is one of the largest urban parks in Europe, and the largest outside of a capital city. The pieces include sketches of Longmoor Pool (II. Pastorale) which dates from the 18th century, and Royal Oak Gate (I. Prelude), and both aim to encompass the wide variety of scenes which the area provides. Also mentioned are the park’s ancient woodlands (IV. Epilogue) and the jamboree celebrating the 50th anniversary of Scouting (III. Danza).

Whilst designed to be played as a complete set, the second and third movements work very well individually.

Reviews

‘Up and coming composer David Barton lives in Staffordshire and these four very different movements are based on features in and around Sutton Park, just over the West Midlands border, near Sutton Coldfield. ‘Royal Oak Gate’ is a short prelude, fairly stately. ‘Longmoor Pool’ is a pastoral evocation of the 18th century. ‘Jamboree’, a dance, represents the 50th anniversary of scouting and is a tricky but effective number in 5/4. After the excitement of the celebrativo direction, the final epilogue ‘Ancient Woodlands’ is a slow, gentle number with a request to produce a sound ‘almost like a chant’. This is not a dazzling finish but a sombre end, mezzo piano throughout, simple rhythms over sustained chords. The whole work is roughly nine minutes long and probably works best with all four movements although ‘Jamboree’ may work well as a separate movement.’

Stephanie Reeve in Clarinet & Saxophone

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Teaching, Competition, Festival, Exam

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Getting the most out of exams

Getting the most out of exams
Girl playing the fluteAt some time or another, most of the pupils I teach (including adults) want to get an independent assessment of their progress – an exam. With another session of exams just round the corner, what can you do to get the most out of the experience?

Preparation

Firstly, find out in plenty of time when the session and closing dates are and work towards these. Exams usually take place three times a year in February/March, June/July and November/December. The closing dates for entries are usually about six weeks before the  first exam in the session. It’s worth remembering that the sessions come round quite quickly. With my own flute, piano and singing pupils here in Lichfield, we’re already thinking about exams in the summer – the closing date is just after Easter which leaves only about 10 lessons.

Secondly, be very clear what the requirements are. Either get a copy of the syllabus (the requirements are printed inside the cover of some exam books too) or make a bullet point list – stick it up somewhere prominent. Keep an eye on it as you prepare, particularly if you don’t have a teacher or if you’re not having regular lessons. Set some targets too – if, for example, there are a lot of scales then divide them up early on to learn.

In most exams there are likely to be three pieces (four for Grades 6-8 Singing), scales and arpeggios (an unaccompanied traditional song if you’re a singer), sight-reading/singing and aural tests. Make sure that you don’t leave some elements until the last minute. It’s easy to think “oh, aural’s only worth 18 marks..” but so often, it is the scores in the supporting tests which can tip the balance between a pass and a merit, or a merit and a distinction. If you have a weakness in one of the aural tests for example, identify it early on.

Do try wherever possible to play or sing your pieces to other people in the run-up to the exam itself. This might be to friends or family, or at small informal performances or concerts. In my experience, it’s not good to go into an exam situation having never played them to anyone other than your teacher. You can also record or even video your performances which gives a surprisingly realistic simulation of exam conditions.

The exam itself

Above all, enjoy it! I know that’s easy to say, but overall, taking an exam should be a positive experience (even if you’re a nervous wreck on the day!). There are a few things you can do to make sure that the exam itself is as stress-free as possible.

Don’t leave things until the last minute; I know that when you start your preparations, the exam probably seems an age away, but it’ll be here before you know it. Know where the venue is and how to get there – if you’re not sure, it’s worth making a dummy run before the day to check out routes and parking etc. Leave plenty of time to get to the venue too – there’s nothing more stressful than sitting in a traffic jam watching the minutes tick away.

The night before the exam, get together any books or instruments you need. Generally, I suggest to my pupils not to practise the night before or on the day of the exam – to put it bluntly, if you don’t know it by then, it’s a bit late (and there’s nothing worse than a bad ‘dress rehearsal’ the night before’!) Try and warm up before you go to the exam – this is particularly important for singers, but for other instrumentalists too. Not all exam venues have a warm-up room and you definitely wouldn’t want to go into the exam ‘cold’.

Also remember that hard as it might seem, the examiner does want you to pass (it’s in the Board’s interest because you’re likely to enter for the next exam, pay the higher fee etc. etc…sorry…I’m very cynical!). The examiner is human too – I go to great lengths to remind my pupils to say “Hello” on the way in and “Goodbye” on the way out!  Once you’re in there, all you can do is your best. If you make a mistake, keep going – contrary to popular belief, going back and correcting the mistake doesn’t cancel out the original one. Just keep going and keep focussed – someone who goes back to correct mistakes will always get lower marks than someone who keeps going.

After the exam

Once it’s done, it’s done and you can’t do anything about it. When you come out, you’ll probably be thinking about all the things which went wrong rather than the majority which went right – this is perfectly normal. Try to avoid lengthy post-mortems – what’s done is done. Just sit back, keep playing, and inevitably, wait for the result to come!

Above all, the result and the comments are only a snapshot of your playing. They are not a reflection on your enjoyment of playing the instrument which should never change whatever the result.

Difficulty Level

Instrumental and vocal music is assigned a rough difficulty level as follows:

Beginner, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Advanced

These levels roughly correspond with ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall and LCM examination levels in the UK. This does not imply that the piece has been set on any of these syllabi, and the difficulty level is given as rough indication only.

Choral music is assigned a rough difficulty level as follows:

Easy, Medium, Difficult

You are advised to view the sample sheet music and listen to the corresponding audio recordings to check whether the pieces meet your needs. If in doubt, please contact the composer who’ll be pleased to provide further information.

Top Tips for Nervous Performers

Top Tips for Nervous Performers
Do you suffer with bad performance nerves? Are they affecting your enjoyment of your music? If so, here are some top tips to help!

1. Accept them…

It’s OK to be nervous – accept it. As a teacher and accompanist, I’m often far more worried about the pupils who aren’t nervous than the ones who are. Being a little bit nervous is a good thing – accept that you will never, and should never want to get rid of your performance nerves completely.

2. They won’t just ‘get better’ on their own…

In my experience, nervous performers usually get better over time, but this comes from hard work developing strategies and practising these – your nerves are unlikely to get better without some form of pro-active intervention.

3. Be prepared…

The first thing to say is to make sure you are as prepared as possible for your performance. Not only should you practice your pieces, but also how you get on the stage, how you take the applause, where to put the music etc. etc. If you’re taking an exam, make sure you have some idea what the venue will be like. Practise the performance, not just the pieces. If you feel unsure about any aspect of your performance, this will inevitably affect your nerves.

4. Take it slowly…

In my experience, the best way to combat performance nerves is by performing – sounds ridiculous, but it does seem to work. Make sure though that you approach this in small stages. Start with small informal performances, playing things you know well – as a teacher, I run a series of termly Platform Performance sessions: an opportunity for a small number of pupils to perform to each other. You can also build performance skills by playing duets or taking part in ensembles, where you can ‘spread’ the load. Each positive experience will you give you another boost.

5. Talk to other performers…

Once you’ve accepted that you’re going to be nervous, accept that everyone else will be too. Try to meet with other performers to share experiences – the Platform Performance sessions I mentioned above have proved a good way to do this. It’s important to feel that everyone is in the same ‘boat’. These discussions are however best done with the supervision of a teacher (especially adults!) as it’s easy for the nervous energy to rub off on others; such discussions can also become a competition (“I’m more nervous than you…” etc.)

6. Play to anyone who’ll listen…

Every time you get the opportunity to play to someone else, take it. It doesn’t matter who it is – I taught one lady the piano for nearly eight years, and she played every time the window cleaner came. I don’t think he listened, but the point was that she played with someone else within earshot. Children are usually happy to play something quickly for friends or family (but please don’t turn them into performing monkeys!) while adults tend to prefer playing to strangers.

7. Record yourself…

A good way of simulating the pressure of performance, is to record yourself. As soon as your press the ‘Record’ button, you’ll feel as if your performance has started!

8. Don’t overstretch yourself…

When you feel ready to play to others, whether that be informally, in an exam or in a concert, don’t overstretch yourself. The temptation is to play something ‘showy’, but this often isn’t necessary. Pick something which, most importantly, you enjoy and which you feel comfortable with. Don’t pile on more pressure than is necessary.

9. Don’t expect to go it alone…

If you are suffering from nerves which are affecting your performance, don’t suffer in silence. If you have a teacher, they should be ready and willing to encourage, support and help you develop strategies to deal with them (and if they’re not, and if they say “it’ll just get better…”, it might be time to move on…) If you’re going to take exams or perform at any time, your teacher should be teaching you ‘how to perform’. As mentioned above, do try to get support from fellow learners too.

10. There are plenty of other things to try…

It’s worth mentioning that there are lots of things out there which purport to help with performance nerves. Some people find eating a banana before the performance is useful, while others swear by Rescue Remedy. I’ve taught people who’ve tried hypnotherapy, and I’ve taught people whose GP has prescribed them beta-blockers…do any of these things work? I think that ultimately, it’s impossible to say. My feeling is that treatments such as hypnotherapy are useful in helping you understand your nerves, but I still feel that in the end, your hypnotherapist is not going to do the performance for you – for the pupils that tried this, they didn’t find much of an improvement long-term. Likewise, beta-blockers might help, but they won’t remove the underlying problem. If you are still stuck for ideas and solutions and your a professional musician or teacher, contact BAPAM for advice (they produce a useful advice sheet here available to anyone). Greg and Ally Daubney have also produced a very helpful guide in conjunction with the ISM, and that’s freely available here.

Above all, there is no ‘quick fix’. I firmly believe that on balance, practising performing is the best way to combat nerves, but I also believe that this should be done under manageable and supportive conditions.

If you have any other tips, feel free to leave them below.

Top Tips for Teaching Diplomas

If you’re a vocal or instrumental teacher and you’re thinking of taking one of the teaching diplomas offered by ABRSM, Trinity or LCM, here are my top tips to get the most out of the experience.

1. Get some support and advice

As you prepare to take your diploma, get some help along the way. This might be from your own teacher, from someone you know who’s already sat a diploma, or from someone like myself who provides specialist diploma mentoring. Although you might have many years of teaching experience, knowing how to best approach the inevitably artificial situation of a diploma exam is a skill in itself.

2. Take time to choose which diploma suits you best

The diplomas offered by each board are quite different in their emphases. For example the DipABRSM is largely focussed on a viva voce exam, whilst the ATCL is focussed more on reflecting on your own and others’ teaching. Think about your own strengths, and think about what you want to get out of taking a diploma, then decide which of these qualifications would fit best with that. I am always happy to advice on which might be best-suited, and indeed, you can find a blog post about that very subject here.

3. Get some teaching experience

This may sound really obvious, and indeed, at the first level of diploma, the exam boards don’t necessarily require any evidence of teaching, but I believe you’ll get far more out of the exam if you’ve got some experience to draw on. It means that you can test out your ideas and methods before hand, and in the exam you can make reference to specific situations. If you’re not already teaching, try and take the opportunity to observe other teachers in action; some may even be willing to let you do some ‘work experience’ with them.

4. Be clear about your teaching philosophy

What matters most to you about your teaching? What do you see as the main reason for teaching? What do you most want your pupils to get out of their lessons? These are fundamental things which begin to define your own teaching style. Whilst at the first level of diploma you don’t need to be absolutely clear about this, it’s a useful thing to be able to demonstrate. It shows that you’ve reflected on how you see your teaching, and it contributes to an overall opinion of you as a ‘professional’.

5. Be prepared to discuss your teaching approach

All the teaching diplomas have an element of discussion (often referred to as the ‘viva voce’). One of the most common misunderstandings is that people expect this to be a question and answer session. A discussion, or ‘viva’ is very different. You are likely to be asked relatively broad questions and you’ll be expected not only to answer these, but to extend the discussion further. Part of the assessment is in your ability to communicate your ideas – a candidate who provides short answers to the examiners’ questions is unlikely, in my experience, to do as well as one who can demonstrate real leadership of the conversation.

6. Be prepared to defend what you say

You need, as far as is possible, to be able to defend what you say in the discussion element. Sometimes, you can draw on specific examples from your own experience, and sometimes you might be able to refer to resources you’ve brought with you. Occasionally, you may be able to refer to a theory or piece of academic research too. The candidates who come away most disappointed are often those who feel that they haven’t had the chance to get their point across. They usually feel this is because the examiners have talked too much, but often, the reverse is the case: they’ve talked too little. There is a subtle difference.

7. Remember, the examiners aren’t trying to catch you out

Contrary to popular opinion, the examiners want you to pass! They aren’t trying to catch you out in their questioning, rather they’re trying to establish what you know and whether you can explain and defend it confidently. If you give very short answers, the examiners are likely to have to ask more questions, quite often to help you clarify what you’ve said. That’s why it’s vitally important that you take some responsibility for leading the discussions. The questioning can be challenging, but your ability to respond with confidence is an important skill.

8. Play to your strengths

Whatever questions the examiners ask, play to your strengths. If the examiner asks “Would this piece be good for developing good breathing habits?” you are free to answer “yes” or “no”, but make sure you extend this. If you say “no”, then follow this by saying not only why you don’t think so, but go on to highlight another piece which you think would be more suitable. This is a good way of showing that you’re able to think quickly on your toes – an enormous advantage for any teacher!

9. Be enthusiastic

I know it’s hard in an exam, but make sure you’re enthusiastic about your teaching. There’s a lot to be said for giving the impression that you are a committed, knowledgeable and enthusiastic teacher. If you can show that you take a professional a business-like approach, this is a big advantage.

10. “Is there anything else you want to say?”

Nearly all the diplomas conclude by the examiners asking this question. Sadly, a good number of candidates just say “no”, but this is your golden opportunity to say something you haven’t said already. Tell them that little extra bit of information which will make you stand out from the crowd. When I sat the DipABRSM I wanted to highlight the value of organising performances for pupils – I only had a minute at the end, but a quick explanation, a link back to something I’d said earlier, and a couple of programmes and photos was all that was needed. Surprisingly, it got a very big ‘thumbs up’ in the comments, despite it being such a tiny part of the overall discussion. Don’t waste this opportunity to leave your mark.

Above all, enjoy the experience. We are ready and waiting to help you too! Always make sure you thoroughly read the syllabus to start with – if necessary make some bullet point checklists to get you started.

If you have any queries, or would like to find out more about the teaching diploma mentoring which I offer, please send me a message.

Other useful blog posts

DipABRSM: Where to start with the Written Submission

Teaching Diplomas: How long does it take to prepare?


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Why a Grade 1 Pass is a Superb Result!

We’re very focussed these days on results. I am conscious that when I send my own pupils for flute, piano or singing exams here in Lichfield, it is the result rather than the experience which is at the forefront of their minds. Children are driven to succeed at school, and adults the same at work; there are targets to be met every step of the way.

Whilst when I was having lessons as a child, I and most of my friends would have been happy to pass an exam, more and more people are now hunting for that elusive merit or distinction mark. There is a lot of talk from parents, particularly online, about exam results; there can be an inevitable competitive edge. It can be disheartening for pupils who’ve worked very hard for their exam to be made to feel that they have somehow fallen short of the standard by not achieving either a merit or distinction. But let’s stand back and look at the wider perspective.

If we think about most HE level exams and assessments, the pass mark is often 40%. For graded music exams, the pass mark is normally around 65%. This means that any candidate achieving even just the pass mark has ensured that well over half the material presented was commendable.

In 2009, ABRSM reported that just under 29,000 candidates had achieved a Grade 1 pass (higher than both the proportion getting merits or distinctions). This means that with your Grade 1 pass, you are in the majority rather than the minority.

But why should a pass at Grade 1 be such an achievement? For many people, it’s their first experience of music exams. For children, it’ll often be their first experience of exams at all (bar the odd SAT!). Even for teenagers who are so often assessed by a variety for means for their GCSE and A-Level exams, sitting an exam which is entirely dependent on the performance on the day, is often a new experience. When sitting their first exam, whilst teachers will have prepared candidates, they are unlikely to have any real idea what it’s going to be like until they get there on the day. For many, particularly adults, the very act of going to an unfamiliar place and performing in front of an unfamiliar person is an achievement in itself, whatever the outcome of the exam.

Finally, it’s worth saying that a pass at Grade 1 doesn’t necessarily mean a pass at all the other grades. The reverse is often true. Many candidates who achieve passes in the early grades go on to achieve merits and distinctions in the higher grades (this was certainly my own experience as a learner). There’s certainly everything to play for. This is particularly the case when candidates have got used to the whole exam situation.

So, let us celebrate everyone’s achievements – not just those who achieve merits and distinctions, but all those (the vast majority) who do enough to pass. Working as a flute, piano and singing teacher here in Lichfield, my concern has always been that pupils should be allowed to reach their full potential. For some, that will be a scraped pass at Grade 1, and for others that will be a distinction at Grade 8. Everybody’s result is valued, and every one of them is an achievement.


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Why Learn An Instrument?

Why Learn An Instrument?
Piano lesson in progressOver my 11 years teaching, over 125 pupils have passed through my doors and each and every one of them has a slightly different reason for wanting to learn an instrument (or to sing). I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at some of these reasons – do any of them resonate with you (or did you think you were the only one who thought that?!).

I’ve been teaching myself, but now I’m not sure where to go next…

Since musical instruments became more affordable and available, and since the advent of the internet, many people have taken up an instrument where they have then taught themselves. A lot of people in this category get to a certain point before they decide they need to help from ‘outside’. Stef had taught herself the flute, but felt she needed some teacher input to improve her tone, and she also wanted to take Grade 5 as an ‘outside’ measure of her progress. Max was a mainly self-taught pianist but was realising that his playing was ahead of his technique and wanted these to be on a more level playing field. Henry had taught himself piano and had started working on Grade 1 repertoire, but had realised it was hard without a teacher. Roger had been given a flute, and had had a go at making a sound, but wasn’t really sure where to start.

I’m doing GCSE/A Level Music and I need to improve my playing/singing…

I have, over the past 11 years, taught many young people who’ve been studying for GCSE, AS and A Level music. Most had already played, but few had had formal lessons. Dina had always enjoyed singing, hadn’t got on very well with the peripatetic teacher at school, but needed to improve her skills for GCSE Music. She also went on to become an accomplished composer passing the DipVCM during her A-Level year. Catherine had played the piano, but hadn’t had any lessons. Although she had passed GCSE Music with singing as her ‘instrument’ the school stated she should have a second instrument for A-Level, hence taking up the piano. Abi had had a few singing lessons at school, but again, not got on very well with the teacher. She wanted to use singing for the performance element of AS and A-Level Music. She went on to get her Grade 8, and earlier this year graduated with a BA(Hons) in Music from Oxford Brookes University. Soon she’ll be on the other side of the fence as she’s studying for a PGCE in Music!

A mixture of adult and child pupils at one of David's Platform Performances - an informal opportunity to perform to other pupils in a supportive environmentI’m not a very confident person, and I’d like to improve…

One of the things which virtually every pupil would agree with is that learning an instrument does improve your confidence. Several pupils have been testament to the fact that it doesn’t just improve your confidence as a musician, but in all walks of life. Sue had an accident at home which really knocked her confidence. She had always enjoyed piano and thought it would be a good way to improve her lack of confidence; she went on to take several exams and take part in performances. Deborah had always enjoyed singing, particularly at the karaoke, but really wanted to improve her confidence. Singing was a good way of saying ‘I can do this’. Maddy had sung in choirs all her life, studied saxophone and graduated with a BMus from Kings College London. A continuing illness meant that her confidence was on low ebb. She wanted to improve her confidence through learning to sing. She went on to sit Grade 8 and to give a public recital in a city church. Laura described herself as ‘not the most confident person’ and she was keen to find a way to change this. She enjoyed singing and felt this would be a good ‘way in’. She went on to sit an exam and to perform in public.

I’m already working in the music industry, but I want to hone my skills…

I get quite a lot of enquiries from people who already work in music; it’s hard when you work in the industry to admit to there being things you can’t do, so it takes a lot of courage to ask for help. James was already working as a DJ and music producer, but he felt limited in the type of work he could take on as he didn’t have sufficient working theory knowledge. He worked through the LCM Popular Music Theory course and also took up the piano. Jennie was already accomplished on several other instruments, had several music degrees and a PhD in Music Education. She had taught both privately and peripatetically for several years and had also been involved in running several music service ensembles. She wanted to hone her singing skills and sit her Grade 8 so that she felt more confident to work with singers and choirs. Alison already sung gigs with her own band, and whilst she’d always enjoyed singing, she was worried that without proper training, her voice would be damaged. She worked hard to undo a lot of bad habits and went on to take several exams and perform several solo jazz recitals. Martin performed gigs with his guitar but was worried his voice lacked power. He worked to improve his technique, and went on to produce a very accomplished CD of folk-songs.

A Gala Evening - performance by David Barton and pupilsI’ve always sung in church, but I’d like to support it with some basic technical skills…

A common scenario, particularly for adults, is that they’ve always sung in church congregations or choirs, but haven’t had any technical training. Sue had sung in her small church and had begun to be asked to sing solos. A chronic illness meant she needed to improve her breathing in particular and she wanted, overall, to be able to sing more securely when asked. Liz probably sung whilst still a babe in arms, and had sung with a church choir and also a local choral society. She’d had a few lessons, but really wanted to improve her solo technique. She went on to sit Grade 5 and to sing several solo recitals. Amy had always enjoyed singing in church and to the radio, but lacked confidence. She wanted to boost the power of her voice and generally improve confidence. Jan had always enjoyed singing as a child, but was curious to see in her 40s whether she still could. She worked very hard eventually reaching Grade 8 level, and also singing several solo recitals.

My confidence collapses at auditions…

This is a very common problem, and many people will sympathise with the feeling of ‘nothing coming out’ at an audition. Lou had always enjoyed singing, particularly in the chorus of her operatic and dramatic group. She wanted to try for some solo parts but hadn’t got any because nerves took over the audition. She wanted to learn how to both manage the effect nerves had on her singing, and to give a convincing performance to an audition panel.

Girl playing the fluteI played when I was younger, and now I’d like to start again…

Learning an instrument used to be something which children did. It’s only in recent years that it’s become more accepted that even adults can take up a new hobby/challenge later on in life. Stella had piano lessons as a child, at the time when the strict teacher rapped you over the knuckles if you made a mistake. Whilst the lessons didn’t last very long, over 60 years later, she was still playing for her own enjoyment, but was curious to see whether, at the age of 67 whether she could still learn something new. She went on to progress through several graded exams, and also to perform in public (she still aims to get to Grade 8 one day!). Michael had played at school, and having been away at university wanted to take up the piano again. He very quickly got back into it sitting Grade 5 and then working on theory. Elizabeth didn’t have a very good experience of learning the piano as a child, but she did enjoy it and felt that approaching retirement, it would be a good thing to take up again. She progressed through several exams, learned to perform in public, and struck up some long-standing duet relationships.

I want to audition for dance schools and I need to sing a solo…

There must be more dance schools around now than ever before. Many youngsters now attend these from toddlers right though the age of 18, and many want to go on to study dance, performing arts or music theatre at university or college. Although a lot will have sung in shows and for their own enjoyment, many are surprised to find that most of these colleges require them to perform a solo song at auditions. Katie was a very accomplished dancer, but needed to improve her singing ready for auditions. She quickly found that she very much enjoyed the singing too, and went on to sing several solos in public, and to sit Grade 5. Emma presented a similar story, and was also surprised at how much she enjoyed the singing as a subject in itself, again progressing to Grade 5.

These profiles really only present a snapshot of why people choose to learn an instrument. I’m sure that as you’ve read them, some of them will have resonated with you. It may have given you the confidence to realise that it’s not just you who feels like that, and maybe now’s the time to give it a go – remember, I provide flute, piano and singing lessons here in Lichfield. People also travel from Tamworth, Alrewas, Yoxall, Rugeley, Stone, Walsall, Whittington, Burntwood and Sutton Coldfield too.

As I’ve been writing this post, it’s struck me once again as to how powerful music can be. Many of the stories told don’t just highlight the enjoyment of the music itself, but of the effect it has on the much wider sphere of people’s lives.