Benedict Heaney

– 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 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. Most 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.

As an electric violinist I am currently performing with August List and The Hoolies and have recorded for Great Western Tears, DuoTone, Marc Canham, and many others spanning 30 years. My solo recordings have been met with local critical acclaim, following the release of a single, EP and “Dark Descends” album in 2017. In 2019 a 30-year retrospective of my work was released on CD on the Mains Spike label and will be followed this year by a release of my second album “Never Ever Forget”. This 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 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 might 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 94-year-old violin student started aged 80!), there are great benefits to starting music lessons young.

collage of photos of author playing electric violin since 1985
Benedict Heaney – Electric Violinist – est.1985

Please explore this website and feel free to contact me directly.

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