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Headmaster’s Blog

It’s not often that I write much about Richard Dawkins, but he deserves a mention in this week’s HM’s Blog as the inventor of the word ‘meme’. Its first appearance seems to have been in his 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene’, and refers to the spreading of cultural information. Fast-forward 17 years and the phrase ‘internet meme’ appears (courtesy of Mike Goodwin). According to Wikipedia, an internet meme (or meme) is ‘an activity, concept, catchphrase, or piece of media that spreads, often as mimicry or for humorous purposes, from person to person via the Internet’. These little pictures with captions that do that rounds on social media are more often than not inexplicably banal – who dedicates time to creating these things? – but occasionally a good one crops up. This week I saw one which made a very important point: it’s a point which we believe very strongly as a School, and one which it seems very fitting to share on the day of our Annual Charity Concert. Here it is:

We have ‘this’. And I am determined that we will always have ‘this’. In fact, we have more ‘this’ than ever before.

Over the last few years we have moved away from the old-model carousel of music/art/drama (a term of each) to the status quo: every pupil across the School has Music every week, Art & Design every week, and Drama opportunities every week through their English & Drama curriculum. We have further strengthened our music provision through the appointment of two full-time Music professionals (previously we had a Director of Music and a part-time Assistant; now I am delighted to have Mr QB as full-time DoM and Mr Fitzpatrick as full-time Assistant DoM & Chorister Tutor).

Such is the demand for instrumental music lessons that this year we have recruited two additional Visiting Music Teachers: this term’s arrival has been Mr Andrew Stark, formerly solo trumpet in Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and Trumpet Instructor to the Qatar Military Bands. 195 instrumental music lessons take place each week, and Mr QB tells me that this represents 22 additional pupils since last term, with an increase across the instrument range (the orchestral instruments, piano, singing, guitar and drums).  16 weekly ensembles run throughout the term (some auditioned, some open to all), and include Wind Band, Concert Band, Orchestra, Senior Strings, Junior Strings, ECS Vox, theory groups, Recorders, Guitar Ensemble, Percussion Group, and three additional choirs.

Last week a number of pupils entered the Devon Performing Arts Festival, and this evening sees every pupil in the Prep School come together in the Cathedral Nave for a spectacular Charity Concert. The theme is ‘British Values through Music’, and I know that we shall all end up singing (with gusto, I hope) about the widening of the arms of tolerance and inclusivity.  On the subject of inclusivity, you will see from the programme that Music at ECS continues to be about celebrating music-for-all whilst stretching and challenging our elite musicians.

So, I am proud that we have ‘this’. And it may well be that our ‘this’ will become a professional ‘this’ for a number of our pupils. If our job is to help pupils acquire the right habits for life, then the habit of music-making (both for its own sake and for the plethora of wider skills it teaches us) seems a very good habit indeed for a 900-year-old Music School to be promoting.

15 March 2019
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