I was thinking the other day….. and this was how my thinking went.

As a child, you often have 6 or 7 ‘grade’ teachers in your primary schooling life. Some you love, some not so much. And maybe one of them is a bit not-so-inspiring when it comes to something like maths. And so, for that year, maths doesn’t really turn you on much. But then the next year, you might get a teacher who is a great maths teacher, and so you get all inspired again. I’m sure you can all relate to this – because a good teacher can inspire you, whatever your ability.

But often, in primary schools, there’s one music teacher. (And one art teacher too.) And so if you are grumpy, or not-inspiring, kids disengage from the subject. And this is for their whole primary school life, which would then often translate into their high school life, and possibly even longer – for their whole life.

“I don’t like music” a lot of grown-ups tell me. And then they go on to talk about the music teachers that made them not sing in choir, or hit them with rulers in a piano lesson, or shouted at them in class.

My thinking continued….. In many of the lives of the little people I see, I am the music person. That’s it. My job is to make them like music, in some way. Because most people do, you know. They like to drum, or play, or sing, if it’s presented in the right way. I can count on one hand the number of children I see amongst the nearly 600 kids I see regularly who don’t engage in music lessons.

It’s my job to infect them to be open to music. To allow music to flow into them. To make them smile. Or give them solace. Or happiness. It’s important. And if you think about it too much, a bit daunting. So now I’ve told you my thinking, I’m going to stop thinking it. But it’s so important, you know.

I was having dinner with a dear friend the other day….

“What did you do this week, Rachel?” they asked.

I wondered how do I respond without talking for a looooong time and boring everyone at the dinner table? How do I tell her about the Zoom music classes and all the set-up, and how draining it is, but how wonderful at the same time? How do I summarise all the classes at school where I see lots of faces, and do such different things – saying rhymes with kindergarten, playing djembes with year 6, teaching note-reading and percussion pieces?

“I made lots of little people smile.” I said. “They mostly smiled with some kind of instrument in their hand.”

She smiled back. “You know, that’s the best present you can give someone, don’t you think?”

You know, she’s totally right.

I’m hearing that a lot of people are tired at the moment. Oh, I’m with you all there. I am totally and utterly spent. After months of lock-down, COVID anxiety, opening-up anxiety, wondering what on earth is going on with the people in charge, bad news, anything else you’d like to insert in the list it’s all leading to total worn-out-no-thank-you-I’m-all-a-bit-sick-of-this-go-away-no-more-adulting-for-me-now.

No-one’s got much resilience (I hate that word, but actually it’s the right one to use here, I think). Manners seem to be optional. (Actually, so does indicating whilst driving, I’ve noticed.) People seem to not wonder about the tones of emails they are sending any more. Everyone’s done.

And now….. who gets to really step up to work? TEACHERS. Oh yes indeedy.

They are back, with their classes, dealing with everything. And they can’t be crabby. They can’t let things slide. In fact, their job is going to be harder right now. Sooooo much harder. Kids will be tired. Anxious. Tears will happen. Fights will break out. Nastiness will occur. There’ll be the big gap between the kids who did all their on-line learning, and those that didn’t. (That makes teaching stuff just a little bit harder.) Everyone will need to learn to share again. And it’s teachers who are going to have to sort this out. One spot fire at a time. The teachers in primary school will be working with unvaxxed kids. They will be wearing masks – which is fine for an hour or so, but NOT fine for 6 hours – and then the next day. (I know, health care workers have been doing this for a long time too…. But they are the first to be labelled ‘heroes’. And they are, Don’t get me wrong. I’d just like to add to that list, please.)

The teachers I know will do this to the best of their ability. They will be cheerful. They will look forward to seeing their little people they teach. They will smile, and teach, and be gentle, and inspiring. They will do their job wonderfully. And they will do this despite being taken for granted by various governments.

So when you deal with your local school, please do so gently. When you see a teacher, buy them a coffee, or a glass of wine. Or cake. Or flowers. Because they can’t let things slip. In fact, they now need to give their all – and then some.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to do a concert with a real audience! Yes – all COVID-safe, and all that. But there were real people watching. In the same large space. It was totally fabulous. I played continuo with the Choir of St James, who sang SO incredibly well. It was an extraordinary concert. If you want to watch it, you can, for the remainder of March – here is more information.

They sang remarkably well – in fact, I don’t think I’ve heard them that good EVER. And I was talking to their conductor, who surprised me with a few things he said. He thought that COVID, and all that came with it, had dome some good things for the choir. No-one could travel, so there were no swapping of voices – everyone was around. The choir had to be really creative with their programming and how they rehearsed. It made a lot of people be really open in their thinking. And now they are reaping the benefits.

It was great to hear this from him – and it got me thinking too. About how I’ve had to change during this time, and how that’s created some good things. I wouldn’t have been able to live-stream concerts – hadn’t even thought about it. And then I wouldn’t have been able to live-stream a really special school concert at one of the school’s I’m in, which has meant so much to those little people. All the concerts I’ve done has really improved my playing. I’ve had to write new teaching material, which has been great. My teaching has probably gotten better too, as I’ve had to be really engaging.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been some awful things too. But also good stuff. Silver linings, eh? I

I’m lucky as a performer in many ways. Probably the biggest way is that I get to perform with who I choose – that’s the great thing about running your own series. You can ask musicians who you like. Players who inspire you. People who you think will challenge you.

I’ve just had the most wonderful time working with someone new – a flute player called Rosie. The concert was great fun – really exciting, and very ‘in the moment’. But what was probably the most exciting were some times in rehearsals. Let me try and explain….

Many pieces I find myself performing I have played before. This isn’t boring in any way – but there’s a feeling of safety about it. I know how this goes. I remember the other part. I know what I want to do. And then, sometimes, something new gets suggested. Totally new. And when it works, it’s incredibly exciting. I’m back on a tightrope again, knowing I could fall at any moment.

This often happens with someone I’ve played with many times. You trust each other, and can jump off the springboard together. But to do this with someone new? It doesn’t happen much. And when it does, it’s totally wonderful.

And that happened.

Imagine riding a skateboard down a hill. A big hill. Knowing you could fall off. And the sun is shining. And you have your favourite shoes on. The wind is in your hair.

That’s it. That’s the feeling.