This week I went back to school. After a gap of nearly 27 years, at 7.30am on Monday morning, I found myself back in the Chapel at Cranleigh Prep School. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will be forgiven for thinking that all I do is run choirs. It’s true, that does take up a lot of my time. However, as well as running choirs, I also spend a lot of time recording choirs to make CDs under the banner of my Recording company, 4 Part Music.
It was under this guise that I found myself sitting at the back of the now extended Chapel at Cranleigh Prep, in order to record their chamber choir which is run by the Schools current Director of Music, Catherine Beddison. I have to admit I found the whole experience slightly surreal. A lot of the school had changed beyond recognition since my time there in the late 1980s. Even the chapel was now about 50 feet longer than it had been when I was in short trousers! But there was also much that was familiar – the chairs in the chapel, with their plaques referring to pupils there in the 1960s and 1970s, were still exactly as I remember them nearly 30 years ago, as indeed was the chapel organ.
Against this backdrop of the old and the new, I found myself considering my ambitions when I was a pupil at Cranleigh. Just as I was musing on this, the current Head of Cranleigh Prep came over to me with his voice booming “I remember you..!”. The new Head, Michael Wilson, had taught me Chemistry at Cranleigh at GCSE level. Quite honestly I was very surprised he remembered me at all as Chemistry was definitely my weakest subject at school, so I was very far from being a memorable pupil! We had an interesting conversation and I was particularly struck by his observation that a lot of Old Cranleighans go on to pursue careers in fields which they enjoyed.
When I was a pupil, I had very little idea what career path I wanted to follow. I read music at University simply because at the time it seemed a good way to spend 3 years of my life studying something I enjoyed. And I did enjoy it, but I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with a music degree after graduation!
Despite a brief foray into the world of business and management after University, I soon decided that Music was the best route – and probably about the only thing I vaguely understood. So I set up my recording company 4 Part Music back in 2004 with a view to specialising in Choir recordings. Alongside this, as you probably already know, I run a number of choirs and have been Director of Music at a number of churches as well as taking on a few pupils for piano, organ and music theory. Thinking back to my days at Cranleigh, I very much doubt any of the science teachers remembered anything particularly inspirational from my time in the laboratories. But they probably did remember me playing the organ every day for morning service, singing in the choir and the Octet, conducting the house singing competition as well as playing piano in the jazz band and other such musical ensembles.
So with that background, it’s hardly surprising that I’m doing much the same thing now. I still play the organ for services, I tend to run choirs rather than sing in them, but I relish any chance to play the piano with a band or ensemble of some sort. When I am not involved in making music myself, I will usually be recording others making music. Life is all about choice and although I sort of fell into my career by not having any better ideas, I do believe its important to make the right choice. My advice would always be go and do something you enjoy – if you can earn a living and make a career out of that so much the better!