A Music Teacher’s Story from Mr Duggan
My second years asked me today why I became a music teacher and I thought a serious question demanded a serious answer, so I told them…
I’d studied music at Edinburgh University, followed by a year studying recorder at Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague (Holland) with ambitions to become a professional recorder player. But serious recorder playing is quite a specialist field associated mainly with renaissance, baroque and modern music, and I just wasn’t finding enough work in Scotland. People said, ‘go to London, you’ll make it in London’, but I just didn’t want to spend my life in London, so started looking for alternative avenues. With other woodwind experience (flute to Grade 8+, quite a few oboe lessons and a borrowed clarinet) to back up my recorder, I wrote to all the regional school music advisers in Scotland looking for work as a woodwind instructor. Some replied to say they didn’t need instructors and some didn’t reply at all, but the most interesting response came from Alistair Salmond (AFAIK no relation of Alex!) of Borders Region, who said something along the lines of ‘we don’t currently need a woodwind instructor but if you’d like to come down for a chat, please do.’ So I did!
Now, Alistair said I should become a music teacher and I said I didn’t want to, so he asked why not. And I said something like I didn’t want to spend my life teaching two-part songs for boys’ changing voices (class singing) and single-stave guides to Mozart (classical music appreciation), which is pretty well what we did at school. And he said, hold on, it’s not like that anymore with the coming of Standard Grade… you’ve got keyboards, electric/bass guitars, drums and a huge variety of musical styles etc. So the meeting ended with something like ‘the sooner you do your teacher training the better’ and I left totally enthused to start ringing round the teacher training colleges in February when you’re supposed to have applied back in November for the following session…
Too late for Jordanhill, but I didn’t really mind because I’d spent my entire school career at Jordanhill College School (as it was then). No joy either at
Notre Dame St Andrew’s College (now part of Strathclyde University), but I got an interview at Northern College in Aberdeen and already quite liked Aberdeen. One of the questions they asked me was ‘what do you think of Standard Grade?’ and I replied ‘it’s what’s brought me into teaching.’ ‘That’s a unique answer,’ they said, ‘but why?’ Because… and I started to talk about my enthusiasm to work with all the different instruments and musical styles. And got my place on the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) course!
So, 2y, you asked because you said you were interested and wanted to be inspired. Perhaps you found this inspiring and perhaps you didn’t, but I’m here because I wanted to be in a place like this (my home now for 26½ years) working with people like you on a wide range of musical instruments, styles and activities. Standard Grade’s history now, but the spirit of making music courses accessible to everyone and not just people with specialist instrumental instructors lives on in offering you opportunities to keep learning at your level right through school in a way that was effectively denied to most when I was young. Sometimes it all goes to plan and we have fun, and sometimes it doesn’t and we don’t, but I’m still here after all this time still hoping to make a difference, help, encourage and, yes, inspire! :-)