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Return to Chapter 20



Learning and Teaching

Opportunities for learning an instrument – in Brass and Military bands. Music colleges and Teacher Training colleges. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – Making Music(1965) – Enquiry into Training Musicians (1975). The BBC Training Orchestra. The National Centre for Orchestral Studies (NCOS).

Perhaps, because orchestral musicians had not passed any examination or test to prove they could do what they were actually doing (though some of them were doing it extremely well) and therefore had not received any diploma or credentials their skills were unrecognised. Since becoming a performing musician was not considered a suitable occupation for a gentleman it was nearly always the children of relatively poor families and immigrants who became professional musicians. To do so they had to learn how to play their instruments and it was to be a long time before an adequate music education was available to everyone.

In the 18th and 19th century learning to play the piano to a reasonable standard had become an accomplishment that every young lady from a ‘good family’ was expected to be able to demonstrate. Many a young man who fancied himself as a tenor or baritone was lured into marriage by an attractive young lady’s prowess at the keyboard, which in the homes of the well to-do would normally have been a grand piano. By 1900 the very much less expensive ‘upright’ piano had become very popular and because of its size could be accommodated in quite a small room. When bought second-hand or third-hand they had become affordable to most families. For the first half of the 20th century one could expect to find a piano in the homes of both the well-to-do and those of quite modest means and find that quite a considerable number of children were having piano lessons – some teachers charging as little as one or two shillings (5/10p) a lesson.

The piano has the advantage of being an instrument on which one can make ‘pleasing sounds’ immediately, in contrast to most other instruments on which the beginner may have difficulty in making any sound at all or produces noise rather than music. In the 1950s the guitar emerged as another instrument on which one could quite quickly play simple chords, again with a pleasant tone. It is sad that although so many children start to learn an instrument not very many have ever progressed beyond a quite elementary stage. In the past I often met people who when they learned that I was a musician told me that they had had piano lessons as a child and now wished that they had not given it up so early.

A keyboard instrument also gave players the opportunity to make music satisfactorily on their own; not only music written for the piano, but arrangements of popular songs of the day, selections from operettas and musical comedies (now called musicals) and light and symphonic orchestral music. Arrangements for two players, four hands at one piano, of overtures, symphonies, oratorios and even operas were for very many years extremely popular. In the first half of the 20th century if there were a member of the family who could play the piano they would provide the accompaniment for a ‘sing-song’. It wasn’t necessary to be able to play all the notes: a friend of mine used to say it was enough, if you could ‘put up a framework’. Sometimes there would be other members of the family or friends who had some skill on other instruments – perhaps the violin, flute, clarinet or cornet, so that with the pianist ‘filling in’ the missing parts or the basic harmony it was possible to have a most enjoyable time. The old ‘joanna’, often beer-stained and in need of tuning, was to be heard in many pubs and of course a piano was essential from around 1910 in every silent film cinema.

More often than not it will be the parents rather than their children who will suggest that it might be a good idea to start having lessons on an instrument. A few children, once having heard a particular instrument, will give their parents no peace until they have been bought the instrument that has caught their ear. As a rule they will usually prove to be exceptionally talented – Yehudi Menuhin is a good example. If there is no one in the family or a friend who can start them off a teacher will have to be found. As well as there being plenty of piano teachers, because the stringed instruments had been acceptable instruments for well-bred people to play, there were also a good many teachers of the stringed instruments. A great deal of chamber music – the string quartets, trios, piano quartets and quintets by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and many other composers had been written for and played in their homes by amateurs. There were therefore a number of really excellent violin teachers as well as many giving lessons of varying quality, some for as little as two shillings (10p) a lesson. During the 1920s a few secondary schools began to provide group tuition on the violin for sixpence (2½p) a lesson. Perhaps it is not surprising that in general the standard of this tuition was not very high. At the same time one could buy a perfectly adequate ‘violin set’ – that is a violin and bow – for £1.50, much cheaper than the cost of a piano. Those violins, without a bow, now sell for £300 to £400. Emanuel Hurwitz, leader of the English Chamber Orchestra for 20 years, told me that in about 1927 his father bought him a violin for which he paid £8. Fifty years later when he was a professor at the Royal Academy of Music some of his pupils had similar violins for which they had paid £4000.

Between 1880 and 1914 as a result of the Pogroms a considerable number of poor immigrant Jewish families had come to Britain from all over Europe, in particular from the Pale of Settlement, the area between the Baltic and the Black Sea. They had lived in shtetls, small towns and villages in Russia and Poland, where there had been a long tradition of violin playing within the Jewish communities. The majority settled in the large cities, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester with the largest number in London. Many families took the opportunity to buy an inexpensive instrument for their sons and daughters and paid for them to have lessons. This led to a number of the most talented going into the music profession where from 1909 until 1928 there was so much employment for musicians playing in the small orchestras accompanying the silent films. They were then able to earn much more than their parents ever had. In 1943 there were still a great many Jewish string players in all the symphony, chamber and light orchestras.

It will probably have been less easy during the first decades of the 20th century to find a teacher if one wanted to learn a wind instrument. Unless you lived in one of the few towns that had an orchestra for part of the year the only person available will probably have been a player in one of the theatre orchestras who would not as a rule have been a player of a very high standard. Anywhere else it is likely it would be someone who themselves would probably be an amateur of limited ability who would be able to show you the very basic elements.

I was surprised to find that even in the 1950s when I was asked to give clarinet lessons at the Central School of Dance Music, where I was the only teacher who was an orchestral musician – all the others were jazz or dance band musicians, how many of my pupils had been self-taught until they came to me. They had taught themselves by listening to and watching others, perhaps finding information in an instrumental tutor or books and listening to broadcast and recorded performances. Later, when I interviewed a number of full and part-time musicians in the 1980s and 90s as part of Music Preserved’s Oral History of Musicians in Britain, I found that quite a few had only had perhaps two or three lessons, usually after they had already acquired sufficient skill by themselves and had undertaken some professional or semi-professional work.

This was true not only for musicians in the field of popular music. I have known several outstanding orchestral musicians who either had had very few or no lessons at all. Jack Brymer was one who never had any lessons. Another very fine player, a timpanist, a principal in the BBC Symphony Orchestra, told me that he taught himself while he was in his teens and living in Nottingham. As there was no one in Nottingham to give him timpani lessons he decided that he would have to find a way to get into the concert hall whenever any orchestra was rehearsing so that by using his father’s binoculars he would be able to see the timpanist’s hands and find out how he tuned his instrument and used the drum sticks.

However, because of the brass band tradition that had started in Britain in the 19th century, in 1900 there were brass bands all over the country. There were also Town, Military and Salvation Army bands. All these bands were able to provide boys with an opportunity to learn a wind instrument. Boys would usually join a band when they were between ten and fourteen years old – depending on the size of their hands or the length of their arms. It is unusual to start any of the wind instruments much younger. They would receive basic instruction from the bandmaster or one of the older players in the band. Girls were also welcomed in the Salvation Army bands.

On joining a band the young musician would usually be provided with an instrument – not always of their choice as it would depend on what instrument was available. Arthur Wilson, the very fine principal trombone in the Philharmonia for many years, told me that when he first joined a band he had wanted to play the cornet, but as they were short of trombones, had a spare instrument and he was tall for his age with quite long arms, he was given a trombone and told to get on with it.

The bandmaster will frequently have been a retired bandmaster from one of the many Army Line Regimental bands. He will probably have studied at Kneller Hall, the Military School of Music, where as well as receiving tuition on his principal instrument and conducting he will have gained a limited working knowledge of all the instruments to be found in a military band. I have heard horror stories from a number of musicians of how they had been taught by someone whose own main instrument was the clarinet or the flute but who was teaching them the trumpet or trombone. They often had no real understanding of the difference between the embouchure (the subtle formation of the lips and muscles) required to play a brass instrument and that required for the clarinet or flute.

Whatever the instrument, the main reason why so few continue beyond a fairly elementary stage is the need for regular practise. Learning a musical instrument is very similar to becoming an accomplished athlete. As one progresses an increasing amount of work and commitment is required. On some instruments even to get to the stage of making an acceptable sound takes some time. Only the most naturally gifted child will from the start make an agreeable sound on the violin or oboe. Until sufficient skill has been acquired patience on the part of the beginner is required when learning nearly all instruments (those sharing the home with them will also need patience, sometimes a lot more). It can be some time before something that sounds like music can be heard. After a few months even gifted children find the need for regular practise every day becomes tedious. Without parental support and encouragement (often rather more than ‘encouragement’ is required) excuses and reasons for not practising become increasingly frequent.

The majority who continue to play their instrument beyond their school or university years are very often those who had the opportunity to play in a band, in an amateur orchestra or to make music at home with friends and family. The few who go on to become professional musicians very often come from a background where a member of the family is or was a musician or a keen amateur.

At the time I joined the profession in 1942 quite a number of the brass and woodwind players I played alongside in the London orchestras and on sessions, men then aged over 40, had come from working and lower middle-class families. They had left school at fourteen or at the latest sixteen. Some of the best brass players in the orchestras had been in one of the brass bands. The best of these bands such as the Grimethorpe Colliery, Black Dyke Mills, Fodens and Morris Motors were all ‘works’ bands. The first was the Black Dyke Mills Band, under another name, and the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band formed two years later. Some factories would employ a man because he was known to be an outstanding musician. Most often he would play the cornet and become the solo cornet in the band, the equivalent of the leader in a symphony orchestra. His contract would include playing in the company’s band and he would frequently be given a job in the office rather than having to work in the mine or the factory. Some of the first bands had woodwind as well as brass instruments, and like the old New Orleans marching bands, in which many of the early jazz musicians first played, were often led by a clarinettist, playing the small, high pitched Eb clarinet.

In the past some of the finest principal trumpets in the symphony orchestras came from these bands: George Eskdale, for many years principal in the London Symphony Orchestra whose recording of the second and third movements of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto was a constant request on programmes such as Family Favourites. Harold Jackson, principal in the Philharmonia was a wonderful trumpet virtuoso. During the interval of one of the sessions when the Philharmonia were recording Wagner’s Tristan with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting, while the orchestra were having a well-earned cup of tea, my colleague Wilfred Hambleton (he was using the interval to try to find a better reed for his bass clarinet) told me that Walter Legge came into the studio to tell Furtwängler that he thought that Jackson sounded much too loud in one passage. ‘Yes’, said Furtwängler, ‘but he is so good – he plays so well – I do not want to tell him.’ Harry Mortimer, Jack Mackintosh and Maurice Murphy were amongst other fine players from the brass bands. There had also been many local Village and Town bands (known as ‘subscription bands’) in the early 1800s; the Police and Temperance bands came later, (it is recorded that some of the bandsmen were not always as ‘temperate’ as might have been desired).

Another route that led into the profession for percussion, brass and woodwind players was via the Army bands. As well as the Guard’s bands, which had a long tradition of producing fine instrumentalists, many of the line regiments also had their own bands. Boys from poor families, and a number from orphanages, would join the army at fourteen as band-boys and graduate to the band usually receiving tuition at Kneller Hall. When I came into the profession I remember there were some excellent flautists and clarinettists who had been in one of the Guard’s bands. Oboists and bassoonists with an army background though technically good as rule tended to have a thin reedy tone.

Ambitious mothers have much to answer for but a few must be given credit for recognising that they have a musically talented child and ‘encouraging’ and managing a potential soloist towards a very successful career. In the same way parents who want their children to do well and teachers who want to please their pupils’ parents may feel that by taking the Associated Board grade exams the children will maintain more regular practise in attempting to obtain a higher grade and this quite often does have the desired effect. On the other hand it not infrequently produces resistance. A large number drop out after Grade 5 when it starts to get more difficult and demands more daily practise if further progress is to be made. Parents and teachers often seem to forget that one learns an instrument to play and enjoy music. Too frequently, instead of playing for pleasure learning an instrument becomes just another subject to be examined. Those youngsters that have formed themselves into pop or rock groups, at school or later, have never needed to be encouraged to meet together to ‘practise’ because what they were doing was fun and what they wanted to be doing.

By the 1920s many more of those hoping to become musicians were going to the colleges of music. Many of the young string players Sir Adrian Boult recruited when the BBC Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1930 had only recently left music colleges. You could then start at college when you were as young as twelve, if you were sufficiently advanced – I was sixteen when I was accepted at the Royal College of Music in 1941. That is no longer possible. One must be eighteen and have at least two ‘A’ levels.

In 1942, the McNair Committee was set up to consider the ‘supply, recruitment and training of teachers’ and then in 1945 the Music Panel decided that the training of music teachers in schools was ‘already seriously inadequate in every type of school’ and that it was ‘steadily worsening in quantity and quality’. They were, of course, commenting on class-room teachers: there was still very little opportunity for children to have lessons on an instrument. By 1948 it had been decided that only having the Graduate Diploma from the Royal College or Academy of Music or a Teachers ARCM or LRAM was an insufficient preparation for someone to be qualified to teach music in a school.

The first Teacher Training College to provide a two-year course for teachers of music, art and drama was Bretton Hall in Yorkshire, in 1949. In 1950 Trent Park on the outskirts of London established courses in the same subjects. Eight years later, while I was in the Philharmonia and also playing for West Side Story, I received an enquiry from Trent Park as to whether I would take on teaching all the woodwind instruments – flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. It would be for three hours on Wednesday afternoons. I accepted their offer with some trepidation because my knowledge of the flute, oboe and bassoon was limited, to put it euphemistically. On top of that, at that time there was an MU rule that if you were playing for a West End show you had to pay your deputy 25% in addition to what you were receiving. As there was a matinee on Wednesday afternoon and I was being paid rather well for doing West Side Story and the fee for teaching was going to be less I would be out of pocket. Some of my friends thought I was crazy.

When I went to Trent Park for the first time I found I was faced with nine students. They ranged in standard from near beginners to a couple who had already received their LRAM – they had been at Music College for three years and had come to do the one year post-graduate course that would give them Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). The others were either doing the normal three year course with music as their main subject or in a few cases taking subjects other than music – English, History, Maths, etc. – and just wanted to learn to play better. I managed to keep just a page ahead of the non-clarinet students as the general principles of playing all the wind instruments is very similar: breathing, articulation, moving the fingers in the correct way and so on. I knew the tone they should produce by virtue of having played with very fine players for so many years. This was a very steep learning curve for me and, I am sure, resulted in slower progress for my pupils. My task was not made any easier by the fact that three hours for nine pupils allowed me only twenty minutes for each one.

Happily, for me and my pupils, a splendid man, Philip Pfaff, had just been appointed as the head of the music department (it was he who invited me to teach there) and there was also a far-seeing Principal of the college. Within a year or two we had appointed excellent teachers for each instrument. I continued to be a visiting lecturer at Trent Park for twenty years and I arranged a very fine colleague Gordon Lewin to take my place when I had to be elsewhere. Not only was he a very good clarinettist and saxophone player but also a very good composer and outstanding arranger, especially of music for wind ensembles. In fact, he wrote all the exercises and arranged the tunes I used in my clarinet tutor Play the Clarinet published in 1969 by Chappell and Co., and still in print after more than thirty years. It survived the take over of Chappell, when all compositions that did not sell well enough to pay for the space the music took up on the shelves were pulped and, finally, after subsequent take-overs by other ever larger conglomerates, it was rescued and reprinted by Peters Edition in the late 1980s.

The gamble I took in agreeing to teach at Trent Park turned out to be a fortunate decision. It led to a wonderful opportunity for me to learn a great deal about teaching in general and meet some interesting lecturers in a number of other disciplines, as well as to writing First Tunes and Studies, a tutor published in 1960 by Schott and Co.. It also prepared me for my future position as Director of the National Centre for Orchestral Studies.

In time it became necessary for anyone wanting to teach in a state school, primary or secondary, to have Qualified Teacher Status. It was not and still is not necessary for those teaching in an Independent (Public) School. The normal route to QTS is by taking the three year course that leads to a B.Ed. or, for those who have completed three years at a music college, the one year course that leads to the Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). I had a number of students who were taking the PGCE course, who were going on to be Peripatetic Instrumental Teachers and rather more who were taking their B.Ed. which would allow them to teach anything within the state school system including music, in class or as a peripatetic instrumental teacher. I did not have QTS, and was therefore not considered ‘qualified’ nor could I teach in a state school. However, I could teach and examine those who were going to do so. Like myself virtually all my colleagues in the profession including my fellow professors at the Royal College of Music, were debarred in the same way. Many highly qualified musicians who could have been extremely valuable part-time instrumental teachers were therefore unable to impart their skill and musical understanding, gained from their experience of working with fine conductors and soloists; they in their turn were denied the opportunity for self-examination that teaching others can provide. A teacher will often become a better teacher if able to perform, and a performer a better performer when challenged by teaching others.

At Trent Park I had a class for all those on the PGCE course who were considered ‘Professionals’, those who had been to music college for three years, flautists, oboists, clarinettists and bassoonists. I decided to get the clarinettists to teach the others the clarinet. My idea was that the clarinet students, supposed to be advanced players, would learn more about their instrument while trying to help beginners learn something about the fundamental techniques required to play the clarinet well. As soon as they could play in the bottom register, the easiest, they would play duets and trios (wonderfully and insightfully arranged by my friend Gordon Lewin), with a leading part that was interesting and the others with relatively simple parts suited to their ability. I insisted that no one went on to the next page of their studies until they had mastered the current page. This was especially important in regard to breathing and clean, clear articulation. At the end of about six months I always had some of the so-called ‘Professionals’ coming to me crying because the beginners, though they did not have their technique, could play the simple parts with better articulation than they could. As far as learning the absolute essentials on any instrument it is the first lessons that are the most important. Sadly, these vital lessons were at that time too often given by those insufficiently qualified.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, concerned with the examination and educational system in schools and music colleges and at advanced level, set up a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Gilmour Jenkins. Their report Making Music published in 1965 recommended that there should be earlier identification of talent and an increased number of specialist schools at primary and secondary level leading on to the Junior Departments at the music colleges. In 1971 the Inner London Education Authority did establish a specialist music course at Pimlico School, the only one of its kind in the maintained sector. It was extremely good and provided first-class tuition for gifted children. A number of specialist schools were also established in the years following the Report – the Purcell, Chetham, Menuhin, Wells Cathedral and St. Mary’s (in Scotland) schools.

The report also recommended that the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music and Trinity College of Music should be amalgamated to form a National conservatoire with four to six year courses that would lead to a Diploma in Performance. Not surprisingly there was no enthusiasm on the part of any of the conservatories to give up their individual autonomy. As usual the majority of the problems the Report highlighted were not solved.

By 1975 it had become apparent that the situation had deteriorated rather than improved. The Foundation decided that it was time to re-examine the problems that remained unsolved. This committee The Committee of Enquiry into the Training of Musicians with John Vaizey as Chairman – he became Lord Vaizey in 1977 not long before the report was issued – was much more broadly based. It included representatives from the music colleges, education establishment, professional organisations, the BBC and the Musicians’ Union. I was chosen to represent the MU because I was a professor at the Royal College of Music (I had been since 1964), was a member of the Executive Committee and Chairman of the Philharmonia Orchestra Council of Management.

The Enquiry’s report Training Musicians published in 1978 considered every aspect of teaching and performing but paid particular attention to the standard of instrumental teaching with considerable emphasis on the preparation of musicians for the orchestral profession. In the committee’s opinion there were still not enough top class soloists being produced and an extension of training was needed for those wishing to join an orchestra. In fact one of the prime movers urging the enquiry was the ABO, the Association of British Orchestras. The Association was particularly concerned that its members were unable to obtain ‘sufficient recruits of the required standard – particularly string players – and that the training of those they did take was, in their view, incomplete’. They felt there was too much concentration on playing the solo and chamber music repertoire. In fact many students, particularly the string players were given the impression that playing in an orchestra was something to be avoided.

It was also reported to the Enquiry that many professional musicians, in particular the members of the regional orchestras, felt that their status, income and working conditions did not compare with those of their contemporaries abroad. The situation was much better for the free-lance musicians, mainly based in London. One reason why the members of the four London Orchestra earned considerably more than their colleagues in the regional orchestras, who were on full-time contracts, was because they were paid separately for each engagement and were therefore considered to be ‘free-lance’, which brought the benefits of being on Schedule D for tax purposes..

I had been a member of the MU negotiating group involved for some years in negotiations with the ABO on behalf of the musicians in the regional orchestras and knew how poorly paid and hard working the musicians in those orchestras were. At that time the salaries for the rank and file string players in the regional orchestras was under £4000 a year (a pint of beer then cost 20p) for a thirty hour week, plus a good deal of travelling. It was clear to me that this was significant cause of the orchestras’ recruiting difficulties. As a professor at the Royal College of Music I was also aware that criticism of the extent to which students were prepared for the orchestral profession provided by the music colleges was justified.

Having taken part in discussions with the managements of the regional orchestras for some years I also understood the financial constraints under which they were forced to operate and that it was unlikely that the salaries of the musicians in those orchestras would be likely to improve to any extent. In fact, more than twenty five years later nothing had changed and once again, in 2004, the low remuneration received by all orchestral musicians, in particular those in the orchestras outside London, was once again being aired in the press. Their salaries had increased six-fold to just under £24,000 – but beer was nine times more expensive at £1.80 a pint.

The committee recognised that since the previous Enquiry in 1965 the opportunity for most children in primary and secondary schools to learn an instrument was very much better. Nearly all Local Education Authorities had Music Centres and peripatetic and part-time teachers. There were youth orchestras, brass bands and even jazz bands in which they could play. Some of the County Youth Orchestras were becoming increasingly good, and the National Youth Orchestra, in which the most talented played, was really excellent. The annual concerts they gave under very good conductors were outstanding.

The standard of those applying for entrance to the music colleges kept rising and I was aware from my teaching at the Royal College that the standard of instrumental performance by the best students was now extremely high. In fact over the years I had a number of pupils who when they finished at College were better players technically than I had been when I started in the profession. By 1980 I was auditioning entrants to the Royal College of Music who when still seventeen were offering the Carl Nielsen Clarinet Concerto, an extremely difficult virtuoso work that only a few of the best clarinettists of my generation would tackle. We were in a situation now that was the opposite to that I have described as being prevalent eighty and ninety years ago when there were only a handful of very good players. Now virtuosity, especially on the wind instruments was becoming relatively commonplace.

But still preparation for the orchestra was less than satisfactory. The BBC Training Orchestra, at first called the New BBC Orchestra, was established in 1966 as part of the deal that allowed the creation of BBC Radio 1 and 2. It was never really satisfactory for several reasons. The orchestra’s status was always ambiguous: the members of the orchestra were no longer students and though employed on contract by the BBC to give a broadcast each week and a public concert once a month, they were supposed to be there to learn how to play in an orchestra. In fact, they received no ‘training’, only more rehearsal time for what were clearly professional engagements. Many free-lance musicians felt that this ‘student orchestra ‘ was being used to reduce employment for them; some members of the BBC orchestras were concerned that these young musicians would be brought in to replace them. It was seen by the students who applied to join as a stopgap before they got a ‘proper job’. They had no real commitment to the orchestra and could leave at any time if they were offered a place in an orchestra. Conductors were uncertain how to treat them – were they professional musicians or students? By 1972 the BBC decided it could no longer afford to maintain an orchestra of 65/70 and decided to reduce the orchestra to 35 and rename it the Academy of the BBC and then in 1976, before the Enquiry started considering how the preparation of musicians wanting to play in orchestras might be improved, the Academy of the BBC was disbanded.

Whilst we were discussing how the situation could be improved it was clear to me that the orchestras were not going to receive sufficient additional funding in the foreseeable future that would allow them to pay their musicians substantially higher salaries. However, I could see no reason why something should not be done to create a post-conservatoire or university course that would provide the opportunities for orchestral preparation everyone agreed was required.

I therefore decided to prepare an outline for a course for post-graduate students to include the way it should be organised, the staff required, the financial support it would require and where it might come from and give a copy to Robert Ponsonby, Controller, Music, BBC, and John Morton, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, for their comments. Now that the BBC scheme had been abandoned the BBC and the MU were both ready to support another initiative. For the BBC it would be very much cheaper and the MU hoped to ward off suggestions from its members that it had allowed the BBC to break its agreement. Ponsonby and Morton responded well to my ideas.

I felt that this scheme needed to be attached to an organisation that could provide a Diploma that would provide those students who completed the course satisfactorily with some credential to show their future employers.

I went to the House of Lords and told Lord Vaizey of the plan and the approval it had received from the BBC and the MU. I asked him if he was able to suggest an organisation to which the proposed post-graduate course might be attached, somewhere the education authorities would approve and that could award a diploma of worth. He immediately said he would contact his friend Richard Hoggart, Warden of Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. Two weeks later I met Dr Hoggart. His enthusiasm for the project resulted in it being agreed within a few weeks that the course should be established at Goldsmiths’ College.

This gave me sufficient confidence to propose that the scheme be recommended in the Gulbenkian Enquiry Committee report. As might be expected there was considerable opposition from some members of the committee, especially representatives of the music colleges who saw any scheme as a rebuke to what they were offering. There were also those who held the view that the Youth Orchestras provided sufficient experience for those who would later go into the orchestral profession. They did not understand that in a professional orchestra the conductor/orchestra relationship and the inter-personal relationships between members is very different from the short-term ‘holiday’ atmosphere of a youth orchestra. Often, with minimum rehearsal time or under pressure to learn new repertoire, extremely blunt and sometimes wounding criticism can be experienced. It was preparation for this that the proposed intensive year-long course would seek to provide. This was not in any way to diminish the value of youth orchestras in giving so many young musicians the joy of making music together and sometimes taking part in wonderful performances.

After a considerable amount of discussion, in the end there was sufficient support for the Report to include the statement:

We also understand that there is a possibility that a post-diploma training scheme for orchestral players may be established in London at Goldsmiths’ College as a result of talks now taking place between representatives of the BBC, the Musicians’ Union, the ABO, the Arts Council and certain educational interests. We think a proposal along these lines is worthy of support.

In July 1977, before the Report Training Musicians had been published, the Advanced Orchestral Training Working Party was set up and while I was still playing in the Philharmonia and Chairman of its Council I was invited to be its Secretary. The Working Party held its first meeting on the 1st August 1977 with 3 representatives from Goldsmiths’ College and two each from the BBC, ABO, MU and the Arts Council. A year later in August 1978 the Working Party was able to agree the Terms of Reference and Membership for the Executive committee of the National Centre for Orchestral Studies (NCOS) and in September an advertisement for the post of Director of the NCOS was inserted in the usual national Daily and Sunday newspapers and periodicals. By November the many applicants for the post had been reduced to twelve and finally to four. When the decision as to who should be appointed had been decided a Press Conference was held at the Royal Festival Hall.

My appointment as the Director of the National Centre for Orchestral Studies in December 1978 was exciting, but frightening. I had been a professional clarinettist since I was 17 – for 36 years –

and now I was taking a leap into the unknown. Once I stopped playing there would be no way back. I have often been asked over the last 25 years by acquaintances when they learn I was a musician, ‘Don’t you still play for your own pleasure?’ When I tell them that I don’t they are surprised. I explain that a musician is like an athlete. One has to be in training – that is why however good one is one has to keep practising. The better one has been the less pleasant it is to do it so much less well.

I hoped that my experience on the MU committees and as Chairman of the Philharmonia would be of some use. Now I would have to manage staff, be responsible for the administration and budgeting and make decisions about which conductors, coaches and examiners to engage and what programmes we should play. As Director of the NCOS I would meet people and become involved with music organisations beyond my experience as a performer.

After a month’s holiday with friends in San Francisco I returned ready to embark with enthusiasm on this wonderful opportunity I had been given.

Chapter 22


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Reviews from previous months
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