It’s been a while…

…since I wrote anything for my blog but today I had a little nudge in the form of an email from a former cello pupil, Rachel Argyle, whom I haven’t seen for – I don’t know – probably – well, she took Grade 8 in 1989. I think she was 11 years old at the time, might just have been 12, and then she moved on to find another teacher, which never really worked out. Now she has children of her own nearing that age and she herself is a cardiologist. She still plays her cello though.

When I look at my list of 19 cello pupils who took Grade 8 with me, there’s such a mixture of careers – an accountant, two in the army, one singing teacher, a solicitor, one who sells guitars in London, one primary school teacher – even a rocket scientist. They all have one thing in common. They still play their cellos – maybe not often, but that love is still there.

I once wrote that one of the main talents of a good teacher was knowing when to let go – shooing them off to somebody with a fresh approach, a teacher who could take them further, or even just to taking a break from playing for a while. I have to say there is nothing more gratifying than  having one of those former pupils getting in touch again whether like Rachel, just to say hello or like Annie, who gave up aged 14 (as they do!) but contacted me a couple of years ago, now a wife and a mother in her mid thirties, wanting to come back for lessons.

Maybe I’m not as scary as I once thought!


Published in: on January 30, 2020 at 4:18 pm  Comments (1)  

I Told You Not To Ask “What Next?”

It had to come.

I know I say I can’t play clash cymbals but that’s because

  • my hands won’t hold them
  • my arms are too short
  • my bust is too big!

But you really can’t go around telling people you’ve got grade 8 percussion when you haven’t played timps. So I had a session with Roger, my teacher, a few months ago. Then over the Christmas period I had an invitation to play with the Redditch Orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony in February. I used to live in Redditch and played regularly with that orchestra but I left there 32 years ago so there would be lots of faces I knew and names I couldn’t remember!

The invitation came from a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen for years and who had only just heard that I had started playing percussion. There would be two people in the section – the other person had lots of percussion experience playing in bands but no orchestral experience. I have lots of orchestral experience but not on percussion!

Then he dropped out.

The conductor decided I should try playing timps and they would find somebody to bang the bass drum etc if they could. So I had one more lesson and persuaded Roger to lend me himself and his timps for the day. (Nobody had let on to me that the conductor is a timpanist!)


Meanwhile I came to an arrangement with New College Worcester to lease their set of timps. That gave them more room in their music suite and allowed me to bring them home to practise (another story altogether – they wouldn’t go through the front door, nor the back door). I used to have lots of room in my conservatory!


Saturday 25th February arrived and off we went to Redditch. If you don’t know  that symphony, do go and listen. When I met first encountered it, I was 35 and I couldn’t believe I had wasted 35 years not knowing it; gorgeous soaring melodies, particularly gorgeous ‘cello tunes (which these days break my heart because I won’t ever play them in an orchestra again), a cheeky boisterous second movement, luscious lie-back-on-the-hot-sand-under-the palm-trees-and-feel-the-gentle-waves-lapping-over-you third movement… aaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!

I had a whale of a time!


Published in: on March 4, 2017 at 11:21 am  Comments (1)  

The results are in!

Twelve months after I bought my snare drum and glockenspiel and had my first lesson, and 10 months after my parents bought my xylophone for me, I have the results of the grade 8 exam which I took on November 28th.


Well, yes, I am pretty pleased with myself. Sorry! But I worked SO hard for it. Strangely I achieved the equal highest mark I have ever had – 136 (out of 150). The last time I did that was my very first exam, Grade 1 piano back in December 1964.

1964!!! Crikey!

So now I have eight Grade 8s!



Please don’t ask what I’m going to do next – I dread to imagine.

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment