Hunts Post Article
Huntingdonshire Music School celebrates its 40th year next year. Over 400 musicians range from a guitarist, aged four to a sax player, aged 83. The school is one of Huntingdon’s best kept secrets. Report by ANGELA SINGER.
WHEN Derrick Baughan, aged 50, joined the woodwind ensemble at Hums - Huntingdonshire Music School - and sat down with his saxophone, the 12-year-old next to him said: “Don’t worry, don’t be nervous, everyone is when they start, it’ll be fine.”
The music school has 464 pupils The youngest is Max Sayer, from Papworth, a guitarist aged four and the oldest is Fred Cracknell from Upwood, a sax player aged 83. Fred is joined in the school by his son Vernon, 51, another saxophonist and two grandchildren Emillie, 12, on trumpet and Mariette, 11, on clarinet. He says: “I’ve been playing the saxophone since 1935. I played in all the local big bands including the Anglian Jazz Orchestra and the Priory Big Band in St Neots. I started playing at the music school when one of the teachers, who also played in the Priory Big Band brought me in because he needed a baritone sax. “I play in Hums to keep myself and my fingers going. I’ll play in any band that wants me. You need a mixture of experienced people, plus the younger people because they have the energy.”
The music school meets on Saturday mornings and weekday evenings at Huntingdonshire Regional College. Though director, Gary Seiling, an organist and harpsichord player, worries that “people don’t know we’re here” at the beginning of term last week, there were 78 messages on his voice mail, mostly from people wanting to become students.
Elvira, mum of Max, who will be five in November, said: “As a baby he enjoyed musical toys. His grandfather plays the accordian by ear and we had the impression that he had picked up that talent and we wanted to foster it. He chose the guitar because his dad is into that. It’s a good exercise for him to sit down and concentrate on the teacher and focus on one thing. He started in February when he was at pre-school and now he has started school it has all been helpful.” Max is one of 283 pupils under 16. There are 39 youngsters aged 16-18 and 142 over 19.
Says Sieling: “We are not short of students, Our fees are competitive, they include theory lessons in classes and there is plenty of scope for playing in ensembles and performance.” The ensembles include a swing band, two rock bands, three concert bands, an orchestra and junior string band. Sieling pledges that the school will teach any instrument. “If we don’t already have a teacher, we will find one.” Students are prepared for exams with over a 98 per cent pass rate of exams last year, with several distinctions and merits. Only one student failed an exam.
Despite it merits, the school was only just able to survive a recent funding crisis. In the midst of a national crisis in the funding of music education, Hums was obliged to increase its fees. To head off future financial trouble, Hums has formed Humsa, the Huntingdonshire Music School Association. The association is applying for charitable status so it can raise funds. Says Sieling: “We are now charging market rates and the music school is more secure than it was. If we get charitable status, it will attract extra funding to fight off further fee increases. Ideally we might even reduce them.
Humsa chairman is sax player, Derek Baughan, an engineering consultant from Brampton who says: “We want to form a pressure group and also raise awareness that we are here. It’s time we made a noise about our music.”
Article Copyright Hunts Post : published by the Hunts Post on 22nd September 2004.See Hunts Post website .