Length of service at Prior's Field (in 2020): 11 years
1. Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing after you left school?
Not really! I thought I would be MD-ing musicals in the West End. After graduating from York, I studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as an accompanist and as a Repetiteur, and I managed to secure some good jobs in the operatic and musical theatre worlds, working at great venues and with many professionals. I always remember the day I was rehearsing with Robert Lindsay and Ruthie Henshall, and met the Right Said Fred guys in the lunch break! But not being a particularly pushy person, and not great at waiting for the phone to ring, it made better sense to pursue the teaching route. So, I left the freelance world behind (I also had about 80 private piano students a week - see below) and landed my first Director of Music job in 1996 (PF is my third school); I am pretty sure I vowed I would only work in schools for no more than ten years! I wouldn't necessarily recommend 80 students a week on a one-to-one basis. The moment I knew it had to stop was around 9pm one Tuesday evening when one particular student was a week away from her Grade 8 exam and was playing a Chopin nocturne. All I remember of that experience was waking up at the final cadence to hear stifled sniggering. Thinking quickly, I told the student that she had played so beautifully that it had transported me to a better place, a place of solace and of relaxation. I don't think she realised I'd slept through the whole thing....hope I didn't snore!
2. What would you say is your biggest achievement, the thing you’re most proud of professionally or personally?
Appearing as the soloist in a performance of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto with the University of York Symphony Orchestra. I auditioned for the opportunity and spent six months of my life getting to grips with the music, memorising it (photographically, as it happens: I could picture every page, including turned down page corners and coffee mug stains) and studying with distinguished professors in Leeds and Wakefield. To this day, all I can remember of the evening is arriving at the concert hall and leaving afterwards. The rest was adrenalin-steered, and the only reason I know it happened is that lurking somewhere, there's a cassette tape recording. I do remember hugging the leader of the orchestra straight after the performance for what seemed like hours: she was my best friend at university and we’re still in regular touch now.
3. If you could have an inspirational leader to a dinner party, who would it be and why?
A leader I really admire is Barack Obama, someone I feel made a big difference (and still does). However, my ideal dinner party line-up would definitely include Shirley Bassey, Basil Brush, Kate Bush, Debbie Harry, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen. Shirley Bassey once sent me a signed CD in a jiffy padded envelope and wrote her home address in Monaco on the back! I loved Basil Brush and remember seeing him at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon for one of my birthday treats. I’ve always wanted to play a duet with Elton. I couldn’t stop playing Heart of Glass by Debbie Harry and Blondie in the 70s (that’s my desert island disc) and Bruce was incredible live when I saw him at Wembley a few years ago. His recent biography is a great read. Born in the USA is one of my favourite 80s albums. And, of course, my ultimate dinner guest would be the sensational Kate Bush. I’ve tried so hard over the years to get her to visit PF but considering she doesn’t seem to ever venture out these days, I think it would be a miracle.....Hmm, I wonder if she has Microsoft Teams?...I wonder if all my guests would get on? Great after dinner entertainment though! Boom, boom! Just realised there's an odd number at the table.....the eighth guest would either be Barbra Streisand or Liza Minnelli, I'd have to have a think.
So, that's the unlikely dinner party scenario. What I'd really like is to get my closest family members and godchildren, my lifelong friends, and good friends on the staff at PF, past and present, together; I'm sure that would be a blast. Life is so full-on that there never really seems to be time to reflect and catch up properly. That's a dinner party that would go well into the early hours. Entertainment would be provided by ABBA...come on, hurry up and re-form. Some of the staff will remember my party a few years ago when we had the next best thing, though!
4. Do you have a favourite quote, expression or mantra which inspires you to keep going?
"It is what it is!" And, in these challenging times, "Every day in school is a blessing".
5. What advice would you give to today’s girls who may be wondering which path to take beyond school?
Be open minded. All subjects, like Music have so many possibilities. Make the most of every opportunity.
Mrs Humphreys taught me when I was at Prior's Field, so it only seemed right to sit in front of her once again in the science lab to interview her bef… More...