Week twenty five – The Young and the Old

I may be a little biased, but Cantell School is an amazing place. I have been lucky enough to work there for a good few years now and it always has something new to offer. We have fantastic staff and even more incredible students. This week was our first ‘Live Music Week’ organised by music teacher extraordinaire Beth Halls and her team. It gave an opportunity for students (and staff) to showcase their musical talents during assemblies, lunch time and in a musical showcase.

It was good to see so many people getting involved in performing. It was, to an extent, even better to see so many people getting involved in enjoying the live music on offer. I can’t ever remember anything like that happening at school when I was a student, so I think our current students are part of a very exciting time.

Like I said, there was great participation. Unfortunately, I was keeping the table-tennis area safe for most of the lunch times, so I didn’t get to see many of the performers. But I could hear a lot of them through the open doors to the hall (and I may have stuck my head in for a sneaky look now and then) and I was pleased to see so many students piling into the hall, crowding around the performance area to see and hear what was happening and to generally be part of the live music experience. Whether they loved it, hated it or took it in their teenage nonchalance, they were part of a movement. And next time we have ‘Live Music Week’, or next time they have the opportunity to go to a show, or next time they have the incline to pick up an instrument, who knows what’ll happen.

For some reason, I’m still not sure why myself, I took the five Year 11 boys I work with down to the music room. They are spending the majority of their time learning English, preparing them for college. They all love music and are keen to talk about music from their countries, so I thought we’d have a practical lesson to let off a little steam. I don’t know if you’ve let five 16-year-old boys play whatever instruments they like in a school music room before, but it gets LOUD. They played everything they could get their hands on. They played everything as loudly as it could go. They played everything over each other. It was chaotic.

A beautiful, enthusiastic chaos. There was no worry that something sounded bad. There was no worry that they didn’t know how to play it. They just gave it a go. Some of them were good at some instruments (I’m sure I heard some notes strung together on the piano and they gave the guitars a good strumming) but generally when they were all playing together, it was a lot of noise.

I didn’t know if I should include this on my Live Music Mission blog, but then I realised that this is the essence of what I was searching for when I started back in January. These guys are the future musicians and the future citizens of the world. I wasn’t watching them like they were putting on a show, but they were having a ball playing their own music.

One of the best moments I saw was when one of the Brazilian boys, who had been showing off his drumming on a broken snare drum (he wasn’t happy with the quality), started teaching an Afghan boy how to play the beat he was playing. The teacher doesn’t speak much English at the moment, but he made himself understood and the student listened and watched as intently as I’ve ever seen him. Two students, from different continents, working together and helping each other. I couldn’t have been prouder of my students and my school.

Friday night, I had a musical experience with a very different life circumstance. My dad is retiring from work at the age of 70 – maybe I shouldn’t tell you that? So he was having a leaving do. We had a few drinks (and a cake – horse shaped) in a pub and then made our way to The Brook to watch the Ultimate Eagles (http://www.ultimateeagles.com/). Dad is a big fan of the Eagles and so was looking forward to seeing this tribute band for the first time (we were all newbies).

In our group, my brother and I were the youngest by a considerable margin. And I’m slightly ashamed to say, but my knowledge of The Eagles isn’t as expansive as maybe it should be, especially considering my dad’s love for them. Nonetheless, I knew many of the songs – in fact, more than I thought I would thanks in no small part to my Radio Two listenership.

In contrast, the others in our party, my dad’s friends and past colleagues, absolutely loved it. I mean, I appreciated the musical craftsmanship in every song, but my dad and co lit up at the start of (almost) every song. They sang, they danced and they clapped along. It’s been a while since I saw my dad singing his heart, apart form in the car, but he did that here. I don’t know if it was the occasion, the drinks or the band, or a combination of everything, but he had a bloody good time.

I looked across the line of people I was with at one point, and once again, my heart swelled. They were, like my students earlier in the day, lost in the music. My dad (he won’t mind me saying this – I hope) wasn’t clapping along in time and none of our group were particularly singing along in tune, but by God, we were all giving it some welly.

Hats off to the Ultimate Eagles for inspiring that in us. I feel we would all be happier if we let ourselves do that sometimes. We all had the enthusiasm of youth at one point. On the verge of his retirement, Dad definitely channelled his Friday night. I think live music has the power to inspire that in all of us.

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