Four times a music teacher made a difference

Whatever your instrument of choice, playing music is an amazing skill to have. We believe that anyone can play music and should have access to an amazing music teacher who can guide and encourage you as you learn. But it does take time and hard work to get it right. We spoke to four people whose music teachers helped them nurture their skills and had a lasting impact on their lives and careers.


4 Times a music teacher made a difference


1. The music teacher who set me on the right track 


Gina Miller trained as a singer with her singing coach Eileen McCurrach. “At 80 years old she was still singing and playing the piano and that in itself was truly inspiring,” says Gina. The English operatic style that Eileen taught, meant that Gina developed an excellent understanding of technique and was able to boast a huge vocal range. She has also put these skills to great use in her career as a singing coach. They have enabled her to support her students whichever their preferred style of singing and demonstrate a wide range of techniques for them. 


Her operatic skills also took her in a surprise direction at the age of 47, when she got the opportunity to join her favourite band, Crimson Tears. They were looking for a singer with an English operatic style to complement their heavy metal sound. The style and range of Gina’s voice were perfect. Joining Crimson Tears also lead her to meet her now husband, Dave, who founded the band. Without the skills that Eileen taught Gina, her career as a singing coach and even her personal life could have turned out very differently.


Read about Why Music Education is Vital for Your Child’s Development


2. The music teacher who really believed in us


Catherine Jones was taught to play Alto Sax by Mr Thomas, Brass Teacher, and leader of the area’s youth wind band. As a former military bandsman, his precision was incredible but what inspired Catherine was his belief in his students. “It was astonishing how his belief in us transformed our belief in ourselves,” says Catherine. The band won gold medals at national competitions under his tutelage. Mr Thomas taught them how to play together, not as a group of individuals but as a true collective.


Musical instruments


Catherine feels that Mr Thomas’ influence went beyond her music to other areas of her life too. She undoubtedly believes he set the foundations for her 17-year English teaching career. She says, “I always tried to engender the same levels of belief and aspiration in my students as he set at our Saturday morning rehearsals.” Over the years, Catherine has led many choirs, music groups and musical theatre shows. She believes her leadership style was heavily inspired by Mr Thomas. “I don’t think any other teacher I had was able to impart that level of self-belief or ever showed so much faith in their students. He demonstrated the power of having high expectations. I also have a lifelong love of band music.”.


3. The music teacher who helped me find my own style


Phil Brookes, Guitar Tutor and Co-Founder of ACM Guildford taught Dave Miller to play the guitar. Dave remembers Phil’s patience and his versatility, “[He] showed me multiple styles and, pre-internet, this helped me to develop my own style and write my own songs.” As a Guitar Tutor and Founder and Guitarist of Crimson Tears, Dave’s career now revolves entirely around music. 


But Dave sometimes wonders if it could have all been different if he hadn’t had a teacher like Phil, “I may have given up had he not been into the same styles as me, hadn’t been as versatile or made it such fun.” Luckily for Crimson Tears’ fans, Phil inspired Dave to explore his style and write his songs. “The Dark Awakening”, the band’s second release, was welcomed with rave reviews. It spent many weeks at number one on the Femme Metal record chart.


The music teacher who inspired me to learn guitar


4. The music teacher who inspired me to learn guitar


It wasn’t a music teacher who inspired Griff Rising to take up guitar, but a supply teacher at his school, Richard Manktelow. “Classes were always fun and informal compared to our other teachers,” says Griff. “They were mostly made up of ageing ex-military service types (very strict and no sense of humour).”


Griff wanted to attend the local grammar school. But, as he didn’t pass his 11 Plus, he had not been given a place. “Mr Manktelow wrote to and phoned the school dozens of times to convince them to accept me. Turns out I had dyslexia, which really wasn’t a thing that got talked about back in the day.” After Mr Manktelow’s phone calls, Griff got accepted to the Grammar school. This meant that he missed the last week of term at his previous school. “Apparently, he brought his guitar in to play to the class. I missed it and was gutted, so decided to learn to play anyhow.”


Learn to play guitar


Griff went on to play guitar in many bands over the years and has been teaching music for over 20 years. “He gave me a book on Opera which he signed ‘good luck with everything’. The book is still on my shelf now. I went to see him many years later at an open mic night (took the book with me).” Griff continues to remember the impact that Mr Manktelow had on him, his music, and his career. And if he had not been accepted into the Grammar school Griff believes he wouldn’t have had the qualifications he needed for his teaching career. He even signs the odd book for his school leavers himself now too.


Find the right music teacher for you


As these teachers demonstrate, the people we learn from can have a lifelong impact, not just on our music but on our lives and careers too. So it is important to find the right music teacher for you. With hundreds of teachers nationwide, helps you find your best fit.