This academic year will see one of Samantha’s longest taught students leave to go to university. She started lessons with Samantha in 2009, which, as at writing this article sees for a total of 8 years’ worth of lessons.
We are bracing for it even now.
Nearly four years ago, in 2014, I had to make peace with a similar affair, which saw one of my first students since moving to Colchester in 2007 -- wow, ten years -- stop lessons to study at university. One of the saddest parts of this job is constantly and consistently saying goodbye to people and families with whom you make a deep and meaningful connection.
These students are dedicated, often never missing a lesson, or, excuse the pun, beat. They diligently practise. They are first in, during rehearsals, falling over themselves to participate. They arrive at every lesson with an eagerness to learn. They also are usually the ones who are left standing when others give up.
I recently expressed to a learner, who was surprised that they were a student who was present at an event in years previous, but who was now the only one still actively receiving lessons, that:
“The longer you ‘do this’, you will soon realise that the further along you get, the fewer people there are with whom you ‘came up’.”
I can remember when instrumental lessons were offered, in year three, at primary school, nearly everyone in the class took up an instrument. I was having piano lessons externally but decided to take up violin lessons also. Though I would cease violin not long after the start of secondary school, I continued piano lessons; my first second love – sorry Samantha!
So many people who started lessons in year three of primary school, stopped before the year ended. A few more, stopped when secondary school started, with literally a handful still pursuing study in sixth-form.
So many goodbyes.
A very real experience, that remains with me vividly was the reaction from the Deputy Headmistress of my primary school, Miss Wiseham, who, on our last day of school, was unusually teary. Throughout my tenure at the school, she was matronly stern.
That might have had something to do with my repeat visits to her office. That day, there was no lecture on the importance of “walking not running in the corridors”.
“... be good. You have a good head, use it. Listen to your new teachers, and try to stay out of trouble. Good luck with your music.”
As with many of the people I admired when I was young, Miss Wiseham passed away not long after my class left the school. An ex-police officer, she was moral, she was knowledgeable, she was kind but most important to me, she cared.
I find myself giving similar parting words these days, to those students who have been with me for any length, leaving on good terms. These days, it arrives via a reference in written form outlining everything we have achieved together and a professional assessment for use as they see fit.
Frequency does not make it any easier to deal with. In reflective moments, I search my mind and list the names of all the students I have ever taught. What might surprise you is that I can remember everyone, no matter how brief the encounter.
For most musicians and music teachers, music is not about money. We have to make a living, but more importantly, we share and connect with people on a level that is rivalled by few other professions. A saving grace, in almost complete opposite to the leavers saying goodbye, are the greetings we make with newcomers.
One journey ends another begins.
If you care, I promise the feeling is mutual; if you don't, no matter I will care enough for the both of us.
Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball. A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.
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