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A Letter To My Music Teacher: Thank You, Mrs Matthews

05/12/2016 16:48
Gus Stewart via Getty Images

Music, in some way, shape or form has and will touch the lives of each of us. It excites, heals, motivates and uplifts us. Music instantly brings back the memory of a time, a place or a person. For me personally, music has been a constant as I moved from childhood to adolescence to adulthood all with their own changes and disruptions. Whether it was my first listen of a Michael Jackson song, my beloved Eternal CD or a Miles Davis record, music has been my lifeline.

Maybe this deep and personal connection to music is why I feel so saddened to read about the decline in funding for arts and music based studies. To me it's like looking at a lost reality because without access to music education through government and locally funded programmes and resources I would quite simply not be where I am today.

Learning to play the piano from the age of eight was the start of my relationship with music through education. Even just hearing my teacher Mrs Matthews play the piano was something I looked forward to each week. Mrs Matthews encouraged me to develop a musical style and have the confidence to play beyond the notes on the page. She had genuine faith in all of her students and had an immense amount of patience.

After Mrs Matthews there were so many teachers who took the time to invest in my music education. It was a teacher who first suggested I try singing solo - something I had never been interested in doing. It was a teacher who introduced me to composition as a degree option and, once at Birmingham Conservatoire pursuing that degree, it was a teacher who suggested I consider writing and performing my own music. All of these teachers went over and above to draw out the best in me and to push me to keep going. They truly cared about developing young people's creative lives.

I've even had a handful of personal experiences on the other side of teaching. At 17, I started to give piano lessons, at 18 I worked alongside Birmingham based acapella group Black Voices to provide Youth Music funded programming to young people in schools and at 22 I became a music teacher at Queensbridge School in Birmingham. All of these interactions have been as rewarding as they were challenging and they've continued to remind me that encouraging young people to engage with music and to be creative is something of a privilege.

It is so important, now more than ever in fact, that we allow young people to explore all of the wide reaching foundations for development. Rather than being isolated to just Maths, English and Science - important though they are, this should include creative subjects which can provide a pathway to a career in music, music education or the arts as well as to a multitude of careers that benefit from a creative insight. More than just being about providing an adequate basis for children to advance, the availability of more creative subjects could be the difference between a child developing a sense of self-confidence and belonging in finding something that they enjoy or excel at.

Music teachers play a vital role in inspiring the next generation. They are the voice of encouragement, a voice that has weaved its way throughout my life building my confidence, enhancing my musical knowledge and driving me forward to believe in myself.

Music teachers of this kind, through their unwavering dedication both in and out of school hours, are the unsung superheroes of the education system which is why i'm working with Casio to help celebrate their efforts with the Action in Music initiative. You can find out more and nominate your favourite music teacher at actioninmusic.co.uk.

I learnt first hand the positive impact of having access to and providing music education, it's the reason I became an Ambassador for Youth Music early in my career and it's also the reason I'm honoured to be involved with an initiative that shines a spotlight on the importance of music education and celebrating music teachers and all that they do.

Art has always been a point of expression - an outlet for some with which they process, understand and portray the world around them so it is vital, especially in these times of social and political change that we allow young people access to this resource. I never imagined that I would be where I am and if not for the teachers and access to music education that I encountered along the way, I wouldn't be. I cannot list them all but I'd like to acknowledge the teacher who first believed in me. Thank you Mrs. Matthews.

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