I have so much to thank music for. Not just the obvious things like appreciating its power to relax me, change my mood and to conjure up life memories etc. Those things are important and powerful of course, and one should never underestimate the power of music, but for me, it was so much more.
I could probably say that music played a huge part in carving who I am. Because I was fortunate to have been encouraged by my parents and school to play an instrument…or two. Music gave me an identity, punctuated my week with exciting experiences, introduced me to friends, shaped my teenage social life, gave me a career, and even found me a husband.
This is probably why I feel so passionately about sharing this experience with others. I have written a lot of music, and I can honestly say that the aim behind most of it has been to make playing music enjoyable, accessible and inspiring. Some of the young people who have played my music may have only played three notes, but I wanted them to really enjoy playing them, and remember the experience.
Because of the “Wider opportunities” and “First Access” schemes many Hubs, music services and schools are now able to provide class instrumental lessons. This is wonderful, but the challenge has always been “How are we going to get these young instrumentalists to keep playing?”.
Often music comes to life when you play it with other people. Research has shown that those who join bands, orchestras ensembles and groups at a young age are more likely to continue playing their instrument. With this in mind, it’s really important that we as music educators offer these opportunities in the very early stages of learning.
My “Easy band book” and “Band in a book” have been very popular as a “grass roots” ensemble resources, but I wanted to do something better. It’s very difficult to write something for a beginner ensemble that is suitable for everyone. This is mainly because the instruments are often in different keys, and most teachers just don’t have time to arrange things specially.
I have recently written a new book called “Five note Philharmonic” where despite the “key issue”, each part only uses five notes. Where possible I have made sure that these are five of the easiest notes on the instrument. It’s wonderful offering an “Ensemble experience”, but it’s important to make sure that it’s a comfortable one that will build confidence rather than deflate it.
The book has ten short pieces in varying styles, all have a piano or CD accompaniment. I have also written an extra B flat part for a slightly more advanced player so that the melody line be played with a B flat or C instrument.
One of the strongest desires I have for anything I write, is for it to be useful as a resource for teachers. It is also very important to me that my music can provide the same “musical excitement” for somebody that gave me the inspiration to write it in the first place.