When I was 10, I was privileged enough to start boarding at Casterton School. My dad was an Army chaplain, and it was sensible to be at one school so my education wasn’t interrupted. One of my earliest memories was of my first piano lesson.
I arrived up at the senior school, ready for my first lesson with Mrs Wightman, a lady I’d not met. All I’d heard about music was that Mr Chapman, the head of music was ferocious and strict. Anyway, I walked down to Mrs Wightman’s room and she wasn’t there.
Nervously, I crept up the corridor, stood outside the Director of Music’s office and tried to pick up the courage to knock. Just in time, a lady opened the door and came out laughing sunnily. Mrs Wightman. She marched me off to pay the piano, and Mr Chapman gave me a wink and a smile.
Many years passed – well, 6. But when you’re a child, 6 years is a long time – and I had many more wonderful memories with Mrs Wightman and Mr Chapman. The music shed (it actually was a shed; a ‘temporary’ building) became a safe home for me in my time at Casterton. Not because I was particularly talented, but because it was a place I could be me. Music didn’t care that I was disorganised, or didn’t hand my homework in on time. Music didn’t care if I was late. Music was so comforting for me, especially in those years when my outward face shouted happiness, but my inward self was so lacking in esteem; so desperately wanting to be someone else.
I am certain that my time singing in the school choir, with Mr Chapman at the helm, is the reason I still find such joy in singing today.
Mr Chapman, you were an incredible teacher. You gave me something which is really priceless: an opportunity to escape and be myself.
Thank you, I’m eternally grateful.