Page 28 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 28

  A life of teaching & playing music
 Sheona Wade
Q. At what age did you first take a real interest in music? Who or what inspired you to do so?
I began playing
at the age of ten, mainly because my older sister already played and it looked
like fun. I was a terribly shy and introverted child except when
I played my instrument, so my parents really encouraged me to play a lot. As the years went by my confidence grew, but I am still a very shy person now (I put on
a good act!). When I play I lose myself in the music and love being able to express myself through my horn, I don’t think or worry about anything else going on around me.
I can’t really remember a time I didn’t love music – we always went to church on a
Sunday, so singing was a very normalised activity for me, then I started piano lessons when I was
7 (if memory serves) and went
on from there. We were a very musical household, in the cheesiest way – my sisters and I all had piano lessons, and each learned a wind instrument (saxophone for me) and had singing lessons, so we would often all be in the back room at home, singing or playing together. I was fortunate to have
a tremendously inspirational GCSE music teacher, John Frankland, who really encouraged me to dig deeper into classical music, which is when
I started singing in choirs, taking piano lessons much more seriously and generally becoming properly obsessed with all things musical.
I don’t remember
a time in my life that wasn’t focused on music! My family were all keen
amateur musicians, with both my parents playing in their local brass band and all my siblings at least trying out various brass
28 Music & Drama
and woodwind instruments.
I was encouraged to play a
‘toy’ keyboard at a very early age, but I showed an aptitude for picking out recognisable melodies and so as soon as I was old enough, my mum sent me
to piano lessons. At the age of
7, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to attend Chetham’s School of Music and so was completely immersed in music throughout my education. I was
a mischievous and accident-prone child, forever falling off the climbing frame or breaking bones in various silly stunts, and I owe my piano teacher so much for putting up with me – she was the kindest, most caring and most patient person I have ever known. She somehow managed to get
me to practise, and saw beyond my age and immaturity to really challenge me musically.
Q. Why did you choose to become a music teacher?
The year I graduated from University I won the BBC Radio 2 Young Musician of
the Year which then gave me
a platform to become a soloist
and a professional musician. As much as I enjoyed it there always seemed to be something missing.
I decided to do my PGCE at the age of 27 and have never looked back. I have a lovely balance of teaching and performing and a very supportive school! I think
it is absolutely vital to be a role model to my pupils and for them to see they can also have a career in music. Without music I wouldn’t be the person I am today and
I find it a privilege to be in a position to inspire and nurture our future musicians.
Having had hugely influential, generous and committed music teachers throughout school,
university and music college, I always wanted to make sure my professional career contained a substantial teaching element. Learning and participating in music is an invaluable experience for people of all ages, and I love contributing to that experience, in my case as a singing teacher.
Unusually, I remember the exact moment I knew that I needed to be a teacher.
I was living in South Africa,
and working as co-principal percussionist of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.
It was a great adventure for a 21-year old, living alone 9000 miles away from home, and I loved every minute of it. For a few months, I thought the job was absolute bliss. During the symphony season of weekly concerts, there were some weeks in which I had a major role
in every piece, which entailed hours of rehearsals and high- octane performances. There were also weeks where percussion instruments didn’t feature in the concerts, and so I got to sit on the beach and read my book, drinking fresh orange juice and watching a myriad of ships as they navigated their way round the Horn of Africa. It sounds idyllic, however I often wished
I were a string player so that I could be busier. Then, one day, the orchestra were sent to do a workshop in one of the poorest townships in Durban. The children sang to us, we played to them, and we shared our musical experiences as equals. Whilst we taught them about the language of classical music; our instruments and playing styles, they came
to us with their incredible
aural tradition of singing and drumming. I was transformed by this experience; moved beyond words, and it really ignited a fire in me. Rather than accepting the
permanent contract offered to me, I returned to the UK and enrolled straight onto a PGCE.
Q. How do you measure your success?
Iamonlyasgoodas my last performance! I am very tough
on myself, honest and very disciplined
as well. No matter how tired I
am after a long day at school the first thing I do when I get home
is practice for at least an hour. Success for me is all about being the best you can be and reaching your true potential. At the age of 43 and with all I have achieved as a musician I could easily sit back and take it easy, but I am constantly striving for excellence in my own ability, that is what makes me successful I guess?
For me, it’s when
I see my students really take ownership of their own musical progression – when
they nail some technical element without my prompting them; when they ask a question or make a comment about a lyric or character in a song that shows that they’ve really engaged with the material within themselves; when they
tell me they’re joining a choir, or auditioning for a musical... That’s when I know that I’m doing my job well – essentially when I realise that they need me that bit less than they used to.
For me, success comes in moments of triumph, tiny
or momentous. These moments are
incredibly varied; from directing 400 pupils in a world premiere of
a performance at a world-class concert hall, to seeing the awe and wonder on a child’s face when they encounter a new musical genre for the first time. Often, it is the small, domestic moments that are the most memorable.

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