Something strange is happening.
It’s August and I am not arranging Christmas carols.
I’ve always enjoyed quiet at the start of the summer holiday. The voice recovers after ten months of frequently switching between soprano and tenor, the fingertips gradually lose their ukulele calluses, the brain re-learns the joy of conversation without having to simultaneously tune guitars. Then by early August clarity returns and I’ve normally shortlisted repertoire for Remembrance Day, practised a Rutter piano accompaniment for the carol service and cheesed-up a wintery folk song. Next would be choosing songs for the Year 7 inter-form competition, which become my driving playlist until I’ve memorized all the words and worked out suitable harmonies.
Except that I don’t need to do any of those jobs this year. Ironically, leaving teaching has left me with plenty of time to read blogs and papers by others involved in music education, to engage in current debates on social media, to think carefully about how I could improve my own teaching approaches. So the first point of this blog is that teachers deserve time to think more abstractly and share ideas beyond the time/subject constraints of formal CPD, as well as time to plan for specific outcomes. I am rather in awe of those full-time teachers who regularly make great contribution to publications and online communities, since my own priorities after a day at work were generally biscuit-focused.
And so to point two. I love music and had assumed that as soon as I finished work I would become engrossed in some sort of project, as has often been the case in summer holidays. But the big riot hasn’t started yet. My piano has been taken into foster care, so I’ve done very little playing over the last month (there’s some cello action, but that’s another story). It’s the first time in 15 years that I haven’t had music to learn for some sort of deadline. I’d thought I would rush to explore new artists, develop a new repertoire, go to gigs, but I haven’t got around to more than pencilling in a couple of proms trips. For now, I’m enjoying the quiet. I’m not sure what it will lead to but, when I do start doing some focused musical activity again, it may be with a greater sense of personal investment and ownership than when it was squeezed in amongst all my ‘work’ music.
This Christmas I will not sing about wise men with blisters and angels that like instant pudding. In fact, this might be the only thought I’ll give to Christmas music until December. It’s a new experience, and a very quiet one, but maybe it’ll give me the headspace to discover something different.