|29 Sep 2022|
We spoke to Sarah Lucy Penny who was at Hymers between 2002 and 2012 and has recently returned (September 2022) to work at the school as a music teacher. She follows in the footsteps of her father, Andrew Penny, who is soon to retire from teaching music which he has done for 45 years at Hymers College.
What do you remember of being a student at Hymers?
When I was at Hymers, I remember wanting to take advantage of any and every musical group going. I was able to be part of a string quartet with my pals from the Junior School, and followed that through for a few years into my Senior School years.
I was part of the string group, the orchestras, the choirs, later the percussion ensemble and wind bands, the theatrical productions... and in fact, when I did my A-level class, there were only four of us (myself, Ross Tomlinson, Penny Carpenter and Henry Wadsworth), and we happened to be one of Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass voice-parts each, meaning we made a vocal quartet and were able to do several performances as a group! We even went out and performed at some local care homes in our sixth form years.
It was a very creative time. Although, as the lovely new music building was built just after I'd left the school, I have to admit... as the music block, theatre and dining hall are all linked, I would have never had to go outside! Perhaps it definitely WAS a good thing I missed it!
What did you do after leaving school?
After Hymers, I went and worked for my gap year in a boarding school in Dunbar, Scotland - 'Belhaven Hill School'. The Director of Music at the time was Old Hymerian Michael Gale, and he had invited my elder brother (Jonathan Penny, OH too) to do the gap year job three years beforehand when he had left school. I completed a year there working as an assistant in the music school there and doing some administrational and pastoral duties, before moving over to Edinburgh to complete a four-year Bachelor's degree in Music at Edinburgh Napier University. I received first-class honours, as well as being awarded the Class Medal for highest mark in the year.
Following my BMus, I went to do a Master's degree at the University of York for one year, doing the 'Solo voice ensemble singing' course - essentially being partnered up with four other individuals to create a vocal quintet for a year, working and rehearsing together, focusing primarily on Renaissance music and performance.
Throughout all these years (roughly 2012-2018) I continued staffing for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain; the organisation that I joined as a choir member because of my Hymers singing teacher, Marion Riley. My work with NYCGB led to my being appointed as one of their flagship 'Fellows' in 2017-18, allowing me to lead workshops up and down the country, work with some of my vocal and conducting heroes (Sarah Connolly, Kitty Whately, Terry Edwards, Ben Parry) and some acclaimed choirs and groups (BBC Singers, The Real Group, Tenebrae, I Fagiolini]) and becoming a member of recording groups for film and video game soundtracks (London Voices, Abbey Road).
Since moving back home to Hull in 2018, I have continued with my freelancing work, become a Musical Director for locally acclaimed theatre group, Hessle Theatre Company, and started teaching privately and with the East Riding Schools' Music Service, with whom I now spend the majority of my working week.
What do you now do at Hymers College?
As I now return to Hymers College I am stepping into the shoes of my own first singing teacher, Marion Riley, who retired in summer 2022. It is a great honour to be undertaking such a role, and I know that I have a lot to live up to in maintaining the vocal excellence that Marion so carefully preserved during her years at the school. The shoes to fill are big ones... but at least they're diamond-encrusted!
How does it feel to be back at school?
It feels very special to be back working at the place where I spent so many happy years. The music department is thriving, and it must be especially noted what a treat it is for me to be overlapping the start of my career at Hymers with my Dad, Andrew Penny, as he enters his final term before retiring at Christmas. He is able to boast a strong 45 year stint at the school... I wonder whether I may be able to do the same!