For the past 11 years I have been employed full-time as a cello teacher in the state school-system in Fife, a county north of Edinburgh in the east of Scotland. It has been the custom for the past 30 to 40 years for instrumental music teachers to be employed by the different regions in Britain. Recently the music teaching programmes have come under attack, largely through the reduction in education spending. But Scotland is trying to maintain its programmes through what is going to be a major change in local government in 1996.
As a fairly typical example, Fife employs about 50 instrumental music teachers in strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, guitar, keyboards, piano and voice. We travel about on a weekly round giving what amounts to private music lessons to as many pupils as possible. We cover both primary and secondary schools and are able to stay with the same pupil for up to 10 years continuous tuition. Many of these pupils achieve a very high standard of playing, and until recently, the county fielded three primary orchestras, two intermediate orchestras, a string orchestra, concert and reserve wind bands, and a youth orchestra. In addition there are numerous choirs. Recent policy changes have threatened all this in a big way, and we are anticipating a major drop in the standard of players over the next few years, largely because most of the tuition has been taken out of the primary schools, in order to spread the same number of teachers over a larger area. Starting most of the pupils at age 12, beginning in their high school career has not been as effective as 'getting them young!'. And, naturally, they cannot reach the same heights of technique as they could with an earlier start.
This dilemma of resource allocation and its effect on educational policy interests me very much and is the subject of my dissertation for my MBA degree. I found it an area which is virtually unexamined in any management context. In Fife, an average size county for Scotland we have between 3000 and 4000 instrumental pupils in any year, and yet no studies have been made on any management aspect of such a large department. Policy decisions are therefore made on the basis of limited personal experience or hunches. Seldom is an informed decision made and outcomes are never studied (this last is a real cri-de-coeur).
As far as my day-to-day work is concerned, I currently visit 14 schools per week. This is too many. In the past I did 8 to 10 schools and this led to more effective and satisfying work. However, on the plus side, within each school I can choose pupils, set curriculum and develop whatever musical work is possible given my time constraints and the attitude and co-operation within the school. This includes producing string orchestras, chamber music ensembles, teaching theory and aural work, and working with class teachers on music/language projects and with visiting class music teachers on various ensembles made up of strings, recorders, classroom percussion and voices. I have also been able to teach deaf pupils and blind pupils. One profoundly deaf student is now in her second year at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. My blind pupil has never had sight but can now manage 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and Suzuki's Allegro, as well as other beginner songs and is learning Braille music. Three of my schools are Roman Catholic and there are possibilities of integrating the music-making with masses on feast days. In June I organised a Playday attended by 130 pupils from 27 different schools. The school year is 290 days. My contract is a full-time teaching contract with the usual employment benefits of pension, holiday pay and sickness benefits. There are also opportunities for overtime work, and my travel expenses are paid. Sounds like heaven, eh?
Our school year has just finished and I am about to set off for a year in France. During this time my base will be Grenoble, but it is likely that my husband and I will be spending a month each in Toulouse, Paris, Darmstadt and Rome. It is my hope to do some teaching in each place, but also to visit various music teaching establishments, both public and private sector to get a feel for how the education is organised and how effective, from a British point of view, it seems to be. As an MBA, it is also particularly interesting to look at methods of organisation from the point of view of resource allocation and the development and empowerment of the professionals working within the institution. If anyone has any particular question they would like examined, contacts made for them, or perhaps music software evaluated for its appropriateness and effectiveness in a European context, please let me know. My husband (a trumpet-player-by-night) and I both hope to be active in the European amateur and semi-professional chamber music scene. With luck we will be contactable via Minitel or the academic network in Grenoble.
In addition I am currently President of the Edinburgh Society of Musicians. This is one of the oldest music organisations in the country at 108 years old. We own our own rooms in a historic building in the west end of Edinburgh. Our recital room, with leaded glass windows overlooking Dean Village and the Water of Leith, has Bosendorfer and Steinway grand pianos. Our Artists' Room has a Bluthner upright. We run a concert series of about 40 concerts per year on Saturday evenings. These are volunteered concerts by visiting artists, resident professionals, and university and conservatory students. The rooms are also available for hire for masterclasses, auditions, examinations, meetings, workshops and teaching. In addition we have a small benevolent fund which distributes money to local musicians in need. So if you are in town and would like to give a recital or hire the rooms for practising or just attend a concert, the address is 3 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3BL. Potential performers should address a note to the Programme Organiser at the same address.
In the past I have been Chairman of the Scottish Branch of the European String Teachers Association, but semi-retired from it when doing post-graduate work. In addition, I occasionally perform on the cello, concentrating now mainly on chamber music with piano trios a particular favourite. My husband's brass group and I recently premiered a new work for brass ensemble and cello solo. With luck, some of this might appear on their WorldWideWeb page. (Look for Glasgow University Computing Brass Ensemble http://www.dcs.glasgow.ac.uk). We also have three cello and trumpet duets written for us, no doubt a monumental contribution to chamber music!
A bit of ancient history now: I come from Worcester Massachusetts where I first studied cello with Mary Locantore and for many years played in the Worcester Youth Orchestra under Harry Levenson and for three years in the Massachusetts All-State Orchestra. My husband and I met at the New England Conservatory Chamber Orchestra in 1964. This was followed by a Bachelor of Music degree at Wittenberg University in Ohio, studying with Jackson Wiley. Graduating with husband and baby, we went on to North Carolina where I first began teaching with the Chapel Hill Cooperative String Teachers Project, an excellent training ground for discussing work with other teachers and sharing ideas.
Moving to Scotland in 1974, we both qualified as primary school teachers and did our stint living "the good life" in the north in Ross-shire. We had chickens (free range, excellent eggs) and found we are terrible farmers. Give us the suburbs any day! Two years in Saudi Arabia were an eye-opener and an exciting time. The quality of music-by-night was superb. I conducted the Saudi Equity Theatre (music theatre) and the Hejaz Choral Society (one of the few choirs in the world to be overwhelmed with tenors and basses), and played in a string quartet, as well as teaching piano using French as the medium of instruction. All this while working all day in an Islamic-Arabic school.
After Saudi, we moved to Edinburgh and I began cello teaching in Fife as well as working with ESTA organising in-service workshops, playdays and masterclasses and producing a newsletter. I also performed with a piano trio, finding that I prefer the contrasting sounds with mixed instruments to the homogeneous sound of the string quartet. Much of this was laid aside while working on the MBA degree.
Returning to Scotland in 1996, I have the option of coming back to my current teaching post. However, I would like to find a position using more of my organisational skills and hope that the recent government re-organisation in Scotland will provide new opportunities.