Interview with Dr Philip Tebbs - Head of Music
Can you tell us about how your interest in music developed?
My parents are not musicians at all, but they played lots of classical music when I was growing up and encouraged me when I wanted to learn the piano. We had a terrible piano which cost £5 and then upgraded to one that cost £20. a few years later. I also had a very strict and frightening A Level music teacher, who made me work and stimulated my love of music.
Do you think musical ability is something you are born with or is it possible to practise and become talented? Wasn't it a famous golfer who said "the more I practise, the luckier I get"? It's a bit like that: yes, there is an element of what you might call the 'god-given gift' but practise, practise, practise, is what makes the difference!
What led you to become a music teacher?
Starvation. No, not really. I think communicating an enthusiasm for music, and encouraging others to play (regardless of age or ability) is incredibly worthwhile, and I have always enjoyed doing that. And it's much more fun than a proper job.
Can you tell us what music you are enjoying currently?
There is very little music I actively dislike, but at the moment, I'm enjoying a new recording of Bach keyboard music by a young Icelandic pianist, and also the jazz band's performances in the current Netflix series 'The Eddy'. And don't tell anybody this, but I enjoy Disney film music far too much. Even Frozen.
What are some musical achievements that you are proud of at St Gabriel’s?
So many. The entire cast's team effort to put on The Addams Family Musical was a fantastic achievement recently; also outstanding examination results, some amazing concert performances, and I have had previous students who have become members of county and national youth orchestras; but even smaller scale achievements can be amazingly rewarding, including some students' recent composing and performing work that they have been sending me while working remotely, often in quite challenging situations.
How do you think music helps in other areas of pupils' studies?
People often underplay the technical aspect of music in favour of its artistic side. They are intertwined, of course, and both can be explored in a really useful way. The analytical skills needed to grasp the complex rules of harmony are very stretching, for example, and can help to develop these skills for students going into A Level studies. The independent work ethos needed to find regular time to practise is also a highly transferable skill, as is the experience of performing in front of others.
Are you aware of any past students that have studied music at university and carved out a musical career?
Yes, although taking A Level music certainly does not limit one in terms of university choices. Students in recent years have gone on to become, for example, a secondary school music teacher, a freelance performer and instrumental teacher, a sound recording (acoustics) specialist, a professional vocalist and songwriter; and some have studied music and then gone on to have successful non-musical careers, but have kept their musical interests going by leading choirs, playing in bands etc.
What advice would you give to pupils interested in pursuing a career in music?
Work hard, love your subject, and turn up on time to rehearsals. Many people cannot do those simple things, but actually they will get you a long way. Genius is an added bonus, but do not sit there waiting for it!