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News > Staff > Teacher Feature: Janet Kelsey (1990-2003)

Teacher Feature: Janet Kelsey (1990-2003)

We heard from former Director of Music, Janet Kelsey about her time teaching at Hymers
19 Jan 2023

How many years did you teach at Hymers College?

I taught for 13 years at Hymers College from 1990 to 2003.  I began as the Assistant Director of Music and then later became Director of Music when Tim O'Byrne was promoted to Deputy Headmaster.

How have things changed since you first started?

Music teaching has changed so much since I was there. The inclusion of Popular Music and World Music on the academic syllabi. Composition, instead of Harmony and Counterpoint (I have my own views about that).

Plus, of course, music technology as a separate subject taught up to A level and beyond.  Using computers for composition was fairly new when I was at Hymers but it was a godsend for me as I have a very untidy style with a pencil and manuscript paper.

What are your favourite memories of teaching at Hymers?

I have so many happy memories of my time at the school. It was a golden age in my career and looking back, I was sorry to have left.  Most of these were memories of the seven choirs I ran at the school:

  • With the large school choir (usually about 120 members taken from a population of about 500 - all volunteers of course), I performed Purcell's Dido and Aeneas - semi-staged, with student soloists and just one professional - Aeneas,
  • Bach Magnificat with student soloists, Faure Requiem, Britten St Nicolas with tenor Ian Partridge (one of the Pickled Boys was ill on the day of the concert so another very brave older boy stepped in),
  • Orff's Carmina Burana with two pianos and percussion (which I conducted when I was twenty weeks pregnant with my first daughter Frances),
  • Britten's Noyes Fludde with the Junior School and Richard Grayson as God....ha ha ha.. which I conducted when I was 22 weeks pregnant with my second daughter, Jenny,
  • An Opera Gala with two soloists from Opera North.. I remember the magic of the love duet from La Boheme being sung as the soloists ascended the main staircase in the hall, ending with a distant top C. I also remember a lady in the audience who said afterwards 'I can't stand opera but I really enjoyed that'. Job done!!!

Fabulous things were done with my chamber choir, my two girls' choirs and my two boys' choirs, not to mention my staff choir. I remember the Senior Boys singing Keep the Home Fires Burning from the back of the hall during the November 11th Service.

There were many, many academic thrills too. Too many to mention.  If I am in a classroom I am happy. I suppose my brightest and most vivid memory is of doing The Adventures of Freddy Diver' with a fiendishly bright class of boys.  I remember lots of faces but can only remember the names of John Foley and Jeremy Campbell.

I also set up the tradition of Piano Showcases and Songs from the Shows.

I think I left the department in a good state, always with the help of brilliant colleagues, including my fabulous secretary Angie.

If you hadn't been a teacher, what would you have done instead?

If I hadn't been a teacher I would have liked to have been a writer. However, I think that I have the word 'Teacher' etched in circles inside my head like the rings inside a tree.

What have you done since you left Hymers College?

Since Hymers College, I have been the Assistant Director of Music at Gresham's School in Norfolk (the composer Benjamin Britten's school - although he hated it...) and since 2019, I have lived in France, where I run musical groups in French ... woo-hoo ... and teach singing and piano.

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