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News > OH Assemblies > Sam's Assembly and Workshop with the Senior Wind Band

Sam's Assembly and Workshop with the Senior Wind Band

Sam Hairsine, OH 1994-97, is the Director of Music in the Royal Marines Band Service and came to school to speak in an assembly and conduct the Senior Wind Band
21 Nov 2022
OH Assemblies

We were very lucky to have Sam Hairsine, Director of Music in the Royal Marines Band Service back to school to deliver an assembly this week. He came back to school for the first time since he left in 1997. His job is to lead 54 people of The Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood as their officer commanding and as the Chief Conductor. He is responsible for the band’s output, morale, welfare, and many other things. This has recently included Her Majesty’s Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, concerts, parades, recordings, and small ensemble performances in a wide variety of different musical styles. Also, keep an eye out for a single called ‘Music is Magic’ which will hopefully be in the running for Christmas No. 1! 

Sam spoke to the Senior School students about values. The Royal Marines Values are ‘Excellence, Integrity, Self-discipline and Humility’ and how in his twenty-three years in the Royal Marines Band Service he has been constantly learning. He shared a few thoughts on some of the more important lessons he has learnt recently and how corporate values are fine, but only if we live and believe them. Below are some extracts from his assembly:

Top athletes talk about being present, living in the moment. The ideal state to achieve your best is that of flow, zen if you like, and is best achieved when as relaxed as possible. As performers we have to live in the moment. Thinking about what is to come or what has just happened will distract from what is happening right now, and lead to a worse result. How to do this? Well, have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and enjoy the process of working towards it, one moment at a time. I’m a driven person, but I have learned that we also need to be kind to ourselves. Relentless goal setting can make life miserable – remember that you are allowed to enjoy something just for the sake of it!

We are told that we live in a post-truth world. We do not. The truth is out there, and it matters. Just because someone says they have alternative truths doesn’t make them so. We still rely on truth and trust; society would cease to function without them. Honesty and integrity are drilled into Royal Marines from day one because they are so important to trust and team cohesion. Mistakes are admitted, learned from and we move on. Be true to yourself and your values. If you act with integrity, according to your own values, you will be more comfortable with your own actions and decisions, and be happier as a result.

Musicians are used to practicing. It comes with the territory. There is an oft-repeated claim that mastery of anything takes 10,000 hours of practice, whether that be golf or the cello. I’d like to talk about a different angle today. We live in an uncertain world, with information being forced upon us everywhere we go and everywhere we look. Mark Zuckerberg is even trying to make us leave reality altogether! Remember that there is more wonder in the world (let alone the universe) than we could ever comprehend, so there will never be anything better than reality. You will need to be self-disciplined to find balance, to find the truth and to maintain your mental equilibrium. Use trusted sources, be a critical thinker. Question what you’re told, and what you see. Inform your judgement as widely as possible and remember that things are rarely as binary as people or organisations will tell you. It’s fine, in fact it’s normal, for an issue or a problem to be too complex to sum up in a soundbyte, headline or 15-second video.

It is a powerful notion to realise that you always have a choice. Think of a time that someone upset you. They may have said something horrible to you or talked behind your back. Think of a time that you haven’t been able to motivate yourself or have felt weighed down by expectation, previous failure or guilt. You don’t have to feel bad. No-one has the right, or the ability, to hurt you unless you let them. What we feel is our reaction to what someone else has done, not the thing itself. However hard the going, however horrible the situation, we always have a choice. We can continue, we can succeed, we can feel good in ourselves if we give ourselves permission to do so. You are powerful and have all the tools you need right now. Royal Marines Commandos talk about strength of mind. We all have it, and we can all find it.

Finally, I’d like to talk to you about worth. Your worth is not measured in stuff. I am lucky enough to be a full-time professional musician. I’m not rich, I’m not famous. My aim in life is to leave the world a better place than I found it and to have a positive effect on anyone I come in contact with. Let me tell you a story. I did my Masters degree in Conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. I had an opera rehearsal and was walking into college across the Hulme Bridge, a big arch suspension bridge about 30 feet above a dual carriageway. I saw some movement on the other side of the road and looked across. What I saw was someone on the wrong side of the railings, with nothing but air between them and the road below. Someone was talking to her, but she was all alone. I walked across and not really thinking I put my music down, climbed over the barrier and held onto her wrist. Now at least there were two of us there. I didn’t really know what to say but I’d had to do something so just started trying to chat to her. It seemed like an eternity until the traffic stopped moving below and behind us and there were signs of help coming. At that point, two lads on the bridge opposite shouted ‘Go on, jump!’ and something changed. She looked me straight in the eye and said ‘Just let me go’. I think I said something like ‘I can’t do that’, and I meant it, because I’m not sure how I could have lived with myself. We then started this sort of awful ballet with her trying to take the bits of clothing off that I was holding and then me trying to get hold of something else. It was getting a bit dicey and then a complete stranger, PC Gareth Edwards, took a risk as well and joined us on the wrong side of the bridge, no ropes, support or anything else. I’d been out there about 40 minutes, but then between us we managed to get the lady back on the right side of the bridge, they had a group hug and I went to my rehearsal.

I haven’t really spoken about it since, so why mention it now? Well, I’ve shared it with you because it was a normal day, with all the people you normally get. I wasn’t the only person on that bridge, but only a couple of us stopped. I had to stop. My values, the Royal Marines values, wouldn’t let me walk on by. But we all had a choice. There was one bloke behind me when I went over, but whole teams of people when I came back. There a few things more powerful than a good example, a strong and visible manifestation of good values. Having integrity, earned every day through behaviour built on good values and the self-discipline to always try your best, win, lose or draw. The willingness to do something. 

After assembly, Captain Sam Hairsine shared his conducting skills with the Senior Wind band, working on a piece they are preparing for the upcoming Christmas Concert called 'Christmas on Broadway'. As well as rehearsing with the band for an hour, Sam also shared stories from his career; related to explanations of musical techniques which had our students captivated and appreciative of his time and the progress they made under his directorship. 

Thanks so much for visiting us, Sam. Keep in touch and please come back again soon. 


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