From shy 7 year old to solo performer in a non-musical family, to solo performer playing five instruments, Seth Bye tells us about his musical journey that started, and still continues 10 years later, with Gloucestershire Music.
The early years
As a toddler I loved being taken to the music sessions that were run in a local village hall and I was often the only boy to sit and concentrate while the others were running around!
When I started primary school I was very quiet, fairly withdrawn, and didn’t really join in with the other boys as I wasn’t interested in kicking a ball around the playground. When I was seven years old the school sent home a letter asking if anyone wanted to learn to play the violin. Much to the surprise of my mum, who thought I’d be to shy to join the group, I said yes!
Miss Henderson, from Gloucestershire Music, started a group of six complete violin beginners at Ampney Crucis Primary School in Cirencester along with a few cellos. A violin was hired, also from Gloucestershire Music, and my journey began.
I remember on one occasion the peripatetic tutors organised a day when all string players from local schools got together to form a mini orchestra. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and as a result joined the Five Valleys Music Centre. At the Centre I not only learnt about playing in groups and orchestras but also about socialising with children aged four to 18 and being in the environment of a ‘big school’.
For the first term my Mum sat with me at the back of the room because I was scared about moving between rooms! This prepared me for the move to secondary school and taught me lots about social skills. The Centre also provided a good introduction to music theory.
I was soon eager to stand up in front of the whole primary school to perform – as long as I had a violin in my hand I found a new confidence in myself.
In my final year at primary school I was the only advanced player left and was granted a bursary so that I could continue with solo lessons. At this stage I had passed my grade 3 violin and was also started to learn the viola and piano.
Moving to secondary school
From there I went to Farmors School, and although I was still quite shy I had no hesitation in being the only year seven to join the school orchestra and to sit next to the other viola player, who was a strapping 18 year old! We joked about being the sorcerer and his apprentice!
At 13 I stayed in Devon for a week long inspirational folk music course run by Joe Broughton (of the Birmingham Conservatoire and the Urban Folk Quartet). After that I joined two adult folk groups and a strings group locally. I also taught myself to play the accordion and mandolin with help from musicians I was meeting socially. I then helped set up and run the folk group at Five Valleys Music Centre.
I also rent a double bass from Gloucestershire Music, on which I have taught myself enough to be able to use it in my A Level music recordings.
I’m now aiming for grade 8 piano, violin and possibly viola by Christmas and then a gap year touring Ireland, soaking up folk music, and, of course, I’m taking A Level music and music technology. After that I have to decide which course/conservatoire to apply for in 2015.
My biggest influences
Of course, the first person has to be Miss Henderson – after all, she kicked all of this off!
Jonathan Trim was my idol in fact my choice of secondary school almost depended entirely on where Mr Trim could give my violin lessons!
Farmors School music department have been exceptional in their encouragement and support. Tony Frewer, Head of Music, has an extraordinary knowledge of music, skills and enthusiasm. I’ve also had patient and constant support in learning the violin from Helen Godfrey, also part of the music department at Farmors School.
Joe Broughton has also been a big influence with his passionate violin playing, boundless energy and teaching at Folk World.
And the future
Without Gloucestershire Music none of this would have ever started as none of our family are at all musical or have any knowledge of violins! I have been going to Five Valley Music Centre for 10 years now and the staff are a part of my life. They’ve influenced my whole life and development, and I cannot begin to describe how many ways this has shaped the person I am now! We certainly couldn’t have started the whole process without being able to hire instruments from GM.
I have gone from being a shy seven year old to a solo performer, happy doing radio interviews, over the last 10 years. It’s not purely about technical ability to play violin. The process is also about social and psychological developments that have evolved along the way.
School work is also my passion – worth setting the alarm an hour early for to practise every morning, including weekends.
I’m involved in many local groups:
• Five Valleys Orchestra – hopefully soon to be on YouTube – look out for us.
• Cirencester Philharmonic Orchestra
• Occasional support for small orchestras e.g. Wotton Bassett Philharmonic, Stroud Music Makers
• Helping local primary schools
• Occasional church organ playing
• Raising money for charities by hosting ceilidhs
I also record, write and perform independently, why not check me out on Youtube, as well performing in all sorts of venues as part of a folk duo with Katie Griffin which can be seen here
I recently did an interview with Radio Gloucestershire which can also be heard on Youtube
From primary school lessons to the National Children's Brass Band of Great Britain
Jack Lythaby, a Year 10 pupil at Lakers School in Coleford, started to learn the Tenor Horn when he was 10 through lessons at his local primary school. The lessons were provided through Gloucestershire Music (www.gloucestershiremusic.co.uk) and the instrument was loaned by Lydbrook Band. After four months Jack joined Lydbrook Training Band, and his parents didn’t believe the band’s conductor, Robert Morgan MBE, when he said that their lives would change if he really took to it. He was so right.
Jack is now 14 and his interest in music, particularly brass bands, has evolved and increased and he now plays not just for Lydbrook Training, but also Bream Silver Band and Gloucestershire Youth Brass Band (another Gloucestershire Music enterprise, supported by the Gloucestershire Brass Band Association).
In November 2013, on the suggestion of Robert Morgan, Lydbrook Training Band MD, Jack auditioned for the National Children’s Brass Band of Great Britain in Salford, Manchester. He passed and was invited to join them on their summer course at Repton School during July 2014. The course was run for a week, and during this time all the children in attendance received tutorage from some of the country’s top brass players from the famous Black Dyke Band.
We asked Jack about his experience with NCBBGB and what his highlights were:
What did you play during your audition? Was it a nerve wracking experience?
For my first audition I had to play a piece from a list that the organisers sent to me. I played The Ashgrove by H. Round and I also had to play scales and do some sight reading. That was just to become approved for the course. When I got to Repton, I had to audition again to determine what seat I got (there are three horns in a typical brass band; solo, first and second – in NCBBGB there are two players on each seat). For this audition I played Iona by W. A. Allison, plus scales and sight reading again. I was given the position of First Horn 1 so I was very happy. Going away for a week with people you don’t know may sound nerve wracking, but really it wasn’t. I was really looking forward to it and I soon made lots of new friends
What are your best memories of the course?
I really enjoyed playing the music that had been chosen, and meeting the composer of one of the pieces (Paul Lovatt-Cooper). Having an expert team of tutors really helped make the course enjoyable, exciting and fun.
Would you recommend this to other young brass and percussion players?
Definitely. The opportunity of being part of this band was one I am very grateful to have had and I feel that it has definitely helped me progress and fed my appetite for more.
The National Children’s Brass Band is for children aged up to 14. Whilst in Repton, Jack also auditioned for the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and has since found out he was successful in achieving the standard they require. He now has to wait for all the regional auditions to be completed to find out whether he will be invited to join them on their 2015 courses ….. watch this space!