– the violin, music & teaching
I am constantly amazed that what started as a simple interest and enthusiasm for violin, prompted by the local violin teacher saying in school assembly, “hands up who wants to learn violin,” has been my constant and is my career.
I have been involved with music making for as long as I can remember. I started violin lessons about aged 6 and within a couple of years started piano and trumpet lessons too. I quickly became fully immersed in the local, county and then national youth music scene and continued my studies at the Royal Northern College of Music graduating in 1993 with a special interest in electric violin.
After successfully completing a PGCE course at the Manchester Metropolitan University I gained Qualified Teacher Status in 1998 and the following year moved to Abingdon working for Maestros Music Service. In 2001, I was offered a full-time teaching post at Cokethorpe School where I went on to become their Music Leader and Performing Arts Co-ordinator until 2014. I then launched my own company to publish educational resources and original music, working primarily as a self-employed musician serving the community across a very broad range. In 2016 the first of my self-published works, “Quarts” received the high honour of being recommended by Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir CBE. I work closely with the Abingdon Music Centre, directing the Abingdon Community Orchestra and providing weekly music workshops for early years learning, special learning needs and those with dementia related conditions in residential care. Recently, I founded a Music Health Service providing highly specialist and tailored live music experience for residents with dementia related conditions at care-homes, recovering stroke-victims in hospital and adults with severe educational and special care needs at support hubs across Oxfordshire.
As an electric violinist I can be found playing & recording as a key part of August List and have recorded for Tom Hingley, DuoTone, Marc Canham, Great Western Tears and many others spanning 30 years. My solo recordings since 2017, including a single, EP and two albums “Dark Descended” & “Everything and Inbetween” (2022) have all been met with excellent reviews. In 2019 a 30-year retrospective of my work was released on CD on the Mains Spike label. Last summer I was commissioned by the University of Illinois to write a “History of the Bowed Electric String” for required reading of all Master’s and Doctoral level String students at the School of Music. I am invited as keynote speaker at the European String Teacher Association, International Conference at Easter. I consider this a personal triumph and significant milestone in the development of the profession.
I teach from the point of view that learning an instrument and making music with people is a fundamentally good activity for the individual and society. I do not assume any of my students are going to or should have a career in music but will try to give them the tools that will help if they do. Careers in music are precarious, arduous and almost totally unpredictable. For the violinist possibly even more so. Becoming good on any instrument takes time and effort and underpinning this is enthusiasm and enjoyment. Without these I’m not convinced it is actually possible to make any progress.
Music is a fabulous and powerful thing. Making music is one of life’s wonders and can be experienced fully from young to old. The positive effects of getting involved in musical activity at any stage are well known and proven. My register of students covers an age range spanning 100 years. Whilst this demonstrates it is never too late to start (my 96-year-old violin student started aged 80!), there are great benefits to starting music lessons young. Please read testimony from a broad selection of recent and current students…
Testimonials from students (2021-2022)
I am very glad to have found you to teach me! I would recommend you to anyone who was thinking of having violin lessons for any reason… you are dedicated and reliable, and good at communicating promptly and clearly.
Thank you for your positive approach to facilitating S’s learning. Finding you was a breakthrough! He really does value the skill now and is proud of himself that he has been able to play with the school orchestra as well as braving some solo performances. You certainly instilled confidence and encouraged S to believe he could do it! My observation is that you were able to suggest a variety of approaches so that he found one that worked for him. Your patience has been notable, likewise treating S as an equally valued human being.
Thank you so much for teaching MH for the time you have. As you know we are leaving. So her time with you has come to an end… but she wants to continue with violin so you have definitely been doing something right!! MH has loved learning the violin with you… She will definitely miss having her weekly lesson with you.
J absolutely loves your lessons. She always tells me how much she’s enjoyed it and says you’re a really fun, kind and patient teacher and enjoys your company a lot – pretty much everything you’d want to hear so thank you!
As you can see, E absolutely loves his lessons and playing the violin. Therefore, I’d say keep doing exactly what you are doing.
Thank you very much for all the lessons you have given MS. Thank you for your great patience, understanding and inspiration you give her. She really enjoys her lessons with you. Thank you for making them so enjoyable.
We have been so pleased with MB’s progress in violin this year. We were aware it would be a challenge but we are proud of how MB has approached it and how she has been able to pick everything up so quickly! She has loved the lessons and she is always very positive about them when she comes home. We really like the notebook to keep up communication with you, it helps us so we know how to support MB at home.
I have always thought that Ben has been teaching me about the enjoyment of music, not just how to play the violin. When dealing with a problem, say of technique, Ben usually sees a number of different approaches, not a “one size fits all” solution. I have found that Ben seldom talks about “problems” in performing music but has a much more positive approach focussed on a deeper understanding of a performance. Ben leaves me very clear written notes from our lessons, which I much appreciate since my memory is not great!
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