Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don't always believe what you are told!

Fraser has been off in Dublin these last two days and if we had listened to what the matriculation secretary had told us he would never have crossed the North Sea and gone to the open day at Trinity College Dublin.

Having looked at the website to see what qualifications were needed to take a degree in English and Music we were pretty lost and then disappointed to read that a base requirement for entry to any course was a second language. Fraser was very dispondent and could not understand why this requirement was so necessary. It turns out after being at the open day that his Standard Grade French will suffice and in actual fact he nearly has enough points to apply already.

If only it was that simple! Since he wants to take a double honours degree in both English and Music and there are not many Universities that offer it, the competion for place is extremely high. Trinity in fact offer only 10 places. The first hurdle is a music exam in Aural, Harmony and General music knowledge/rudiments. If that goes well you are then offered an interview. If the interview is successful you are then offered a place. Phew!!! These are a lot of hurdles to jump before you can get started. I suppose the good thing is that if you do get in you will have to be very good and will have deserved it. I am hopeful for Fraser because he is a good musician but the waiting and suspense might be just to much to handle.

Maybe life would be a lot easier if we had listened to what we were told!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Instrumental Teaching continued.......

Following on from my rant yesterday I found this article in the
The Daily Telegraph
today. It goes on to give me the impression of what a mad and dangerous world we live in today.

Why have we come to this? Is it over protective Parents or too many people wanting to be Social Workers. It may well be both of these but the combination of both of them and the media, lead society today to have a total lack of trust in one another. I will continue to teach in the way I teach and this latest episode may well blow over as a similiar on did about 10 years ago. The Instrumental Teachers were told to teach at least two children at a time and with the door open!! It is amazing how a bit of beginner violin or oboe wafting down the corridors can encourage others to overlook these little directives!

Unlike yesterday I enjoyed teaching today. The children were lovely and hard-working. It also makes a difference when you have various standards to deal with and the satisfaction of knowing you have made a difference in that one lesson.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Instrumental lessons in Schools

Instrumental teaching in Schools and especially in some ways the cello, is a waste of time! It is not how I always feel but when I have a day like I have had today that sentiment comes rushing to the forefront.

I started off in a Primary School this morning where the two prospective cellist (ha!) turned up with neither having done any practise and more depressing, they didn't care! The only excuse offered was “I forgot” and said in manner that was so indignant as to be almost totally dismissive of my question. When I told them just to pack up and that I would see them next week with some work done, their reaction was at first puzzled and secondly pleased that they didn't have to sit through my nagging and pryinThe next school was another Primary where the two girls hardly speak a word and do about as much work as well. When I told them I had to hurry and that they had to be back in class a half hour later they almost broke down! “Our teacher will moan at us!” “Why”, I asked. “ Because we will be back to early and she doesn't like it!” I then go on to enquire, “You mean your teacher complains if you come back early because you have not missed enough work and if you come back late she complains because you have missed too much work. Right?” “Right!” came the reply. My first thought was I should take this further and talk to the Headteacher. The after a couple of minutes I thought, why? He will only placate me and tell me he will speak to the teacher concerned but he will not because he will forget as it slips down the pecking order of things to do. If, however, I was to inform him that the instrumental lessons were being withdrawn because of lack of interest there would be a flurry of indignation and bending over backwards to accommodate my every need. That would however last for about 2 weeks and then back to the status quo.
I am sick, sick, sick of the attitude but still come back for more. All the schools are not like that and neither are the children but there is an ever increasing number of them who like the thought of cello in the school but the reality is something else.

The other news today regarding instrumental teaching in schools is the “Non-Touchy” type of teaching a musical instrument. This raises its ugly head every so often but now the Musicians Union have come out with a directive to the effect that you must never touch a child unless you previously ask permission. Ask permission to touch? Yeah!! “Please little girl, do mind if I touch your hand and then maybe hold your arm in order to make you hold and move the bow properly?” How is that for inserting a little thought into the girls head!? It is ridiculous. I will never give up the right to use my hands as well as my voice as a way of teaching children, or for the matter adults, how to play the cello properly. I wish in some of my schools I got that far!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Changes in the family

So much has changed since the last time I posted here. Adam has now left for St Andrews University to study Chemistry, Fraser is now in 6th Year and agonising over what he wants to and where and Kate has now entered Primary 1 in Scotstoun Primary School. As if that is not enough Caroline's Mum has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer, my Dad has skin cancer and Kate has been told she has to wear specs, probably for the rest of her life. All of this has happened in a matter of 3 months but it feels that it has been happening forever!!

We had been waiting so long for Adam to go to University. Actually longing rather than long! Of course when it happened we were caught short and surprised that the time had come so quickly. Caroline was was very concerned about how he was going to handle the situation but is that not what Mothers do? She cannot stop beng a Mother! I took Adam through on the first day and to be honestit was a very nervous Adam. Would he like it was his first concern. Who would be his housemates that he would have to share a good part of the next four years with. The biggest concern to all of us was would he cope with studying again! He had done a 6th year and a gap year in which he had hardly had an academic thought. He was worried, especially about Maths, and we were worried that he would just "chuck it!" As in most thing that you worry about, they are never as bad as the thought. He has settled in well. He has a good bunch of house-mates and the campus he is staying on, "Albany", is the place to be if toy want to play hard and study hard. In other words the old adage- " Worry is like a rocking chair-it just goes back and forward but gets you nowhere!"-is true!

Fraser has now gone into 6th year at school and is now getting closer to having to choose a University. He did really well in hs Highers, getting 4 A's and a B. Funnily enough that is the same as Adam did. Fraser's problem is not that he will not have choices for courses at Uni but they are what he will do! He wants (he thinks) to do a double honours in English and Music and there are very few Uni's that do it. He would like to move from Glasgow and so that is one less choice left to him. The other choices are Trinity College Dublin and Queens University Belfast. I know he would love to go to Dublin but they are difficult to get into and we don't know how funding would go. Either way it is going to be an expensive time but we will try our best to do what we can for him. He deserves it!

At the other end of the spectrum our little darling Kate has now gone into our local Primary 1, Scotstoun Primary School. She is loving it and come home happy most days. Unfortunately after having had her eyes tested in Nursery School we were told that she would need glasses. We assumed that it would only be "part-time" glasses and only when she was reading. It has not turned out that way and in fact they are pretty strong. She was diagnosed as being long-sighted and there is not much chance that the eyes will be able to do without them. She has been very good with them and has adapted really well. After being told that she had no sense of depth and that she did not see in 3D it is not surprising she wants to wear them. It is sad because it has changed her looks no matter what anybody else says. She is so young to be wearing them but I suppose if she was having such difficulty seeing properly then it's a small price to pay. As always it's the Parents who make the bigger fuss!

The most serious piece of news was Caroline's Mum, Joy. She was diagnosed with Breast Cancer a couple of months ago. This is a return of the same disease from 20 years ago! I for one was convinced that it would have spread throughout her body but fortunately for her it has not spread. She has however had to have a Mastectomy. She has as always been very stoical about it and in fact 2 weeks after the successful operation she took herself into Glasgow to be at a concert in the Royal Concert Hall! That is so typical of her. She still has a way to go and has just started her medication which will not include Chemotherapy or Radiation treatment because she had that 20 years ago. The medicine has quite a few side-effects but they have yet to be realised. So we are waiting with baited breath!

My Dad has been suffering with a mild for of Skin-Cancer for a while but it has recently got worse and unfortunately it has spread to his scalp and ears. He gets rather large growths on his head and ears. This of course has made him grumpy, even more grumpy! He is in good health otherwise and is still working at the age of 78! Not bad for a man who had a kidney transplant 20 years ago. I'm sure he can get over this latest blip.

These are just the most important things that have happened over the last 3months but there has been much else. Life just now is moving so quickly. I am working hard and the time is just disappearing. I am lucky to be alive and with a loving family but sometimes I feel it is all a bit much and I want to disappear back to Tuscany! I think that will have to wait till next summer. If the time continues to pass as quickly as it is then that will be soon enough!!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

It's been a long year

Thank goodness the summer holidays are here! Not because I have had a bad year but it has been a hard one work wise.

Last October I suggested starting a weekly string orchestra that combined pupils from 4 local primary schools. They would come together every Friday afternoon during term time to form The Yoker String Ensemble. It was also a back up to their individual lessons at other times during the week and so would ensure that they would be seen at least twice a week. It is a great idea and when it works it is very rewarding both to the children and myself. I don't think, however, I fully realised the amount of work it would take on a weekly basis. As in most of these situations the music was the least of my problems.

How difficult is it to organise a bus to bring some children to a venue on a regular basis. Why does it take a phone-call by me, at least once a week, just to check if the bus has been booked! Then I am asked if I will be responsible for paying the driver a "little something" for doing a voluntary service! These things can be excused and handled in a one-off situation but not on a weekly basis.

Then when things seem to be running smoothly I discover that our funding has been cut. I am not surprised but the blow is very hurtful. Thankfully I found a couple of influential people who were willing to back me in an application for funds. It was passed and we are now back on a even keel. But for how long? All the time this is going on I am reading in the newspapers about "El Sistema" and the amount of money it will take to set up and maintain such a project. Where will that money come from? No answer is the loud reply. Politically I am both naive and without the right connections but I will fight my corner to the best of my ability.

In the midst of all this is the music being created by a group of just over 40 children. Playing their violins,violas and cellos they are making immense progress and have entered the Glasgow Music Festival. It is the first time for any of these children and when we get a very creditable 2nd Place, I can honestly say that all the hassle and running around is worth it. Many of these children would never get this opportunity unless somebody did something like this. Iam not looking to produce an army of professional musicians. I am looking to give these children all the opportunities they deserve and they respond with hard work and love for their Friday afternoons.

It has been a long hard year and I am glad I am going off to Tuscany with my family for 2 weeks but I will be back in August to take up where I left off and hoping against hope that I can concentrate on the music more than anything. We will see!!