9th December 2021

BLOG: Emma Cypher-Neal – It’s Christmas!

So, here we are, drawing towards the end of the term that all heads of music, music teachers and instrumental tutors love and loathe in equal measure… Christmas!  And let’s throw in all the other ‘C’ words that spring to mind: concert, celebration, carols and of course, COVID!

In past years the oranges and candles would be on order by now, lyrics to carols being cheekily written around the card that stops the wax going onto your hands (or was that just me?) and rapid photocopying of carol verses for audience participation. Students sneaking a t-shirt under their school uniform to keep warm and stop the shivers, and trying to find extension leads that have to run half-way across the church floor (no piggy backing allowed!)  All these seem like distant memories and suddenly the stress of the weeks leading up to Christmas seems rather appealing.

So where are we now? Hopefully all returned safely to our departments, with our gadgets and kit surrounding us. Being able to have proper conversations with our fabulous peri’s and catching up on the progress of our up-and-coming stars. But we can’t escape the call of ‘Christmas’ – it’s there in the distance and we can’t run from it.

The chat amongst Heads of Music over what sort of deal they have managed to strike with their senior management teams rings out from WhatsApp chats around the country. Music teachers kept in suspense whilst the powers that be make the final decision. Will it be live, or will it be virtual? And there really is no consistent answer – there seems to be no right answer.  The concerts give us purpose, that platform to shine, and for our students to showcase their talents. If we are lucky to host a live event, it certainly will become all singing and dancing, the lights, the sound desks, the mics and the amps. But Plan B could kick in – virtual. There it is again, that word we never used to use and yet it seems to feature heavily in our daily routines. Gone are the days when it referred to something from films such as Tron or Jumanji. 

I think all the staff who have delivered a virtual concert should be so proud of themselves – the skills we have gained in technology during these past two years have been incredible! So, whilst there may be no departmental financial gain or local charities benefitting from our performances, the most important thing is that it is all about the opportunity. The opportunity to perform, to raise the bar, to feel that adrenaline rush. Even if it means performing from your front room or study. Sad times but still times to celebrate. Celebrate the talent we work with every day and most probably take for granted. 

I would like to finish this short blog with a comment made to me out of the blue by one of the gentlemen in my Year 11 BTEC class who suddenly piped up last lesson and said “You have to be one of the jammiest and luckiest people I know Miss, you get to do what you really love every day and just talk about and play music 24/7”

Hold onto that thought people – we are jammy, and we are lucky.

Wishing you all the very best for the rest of this term.

Emma Cypher-Neal is Head of Music at Melksham Oak Community School and is also one of Wiltshire Music Connect’s Secondary School Music Champions.