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News > Staff > Teacher Feature: Andrew Penny (1977-2022)

Teacher Feature: Andrew Penny (1977-2022)

We heard from Music Teacher Andrew Penny about his 45 years at Hymers
2 Aug 2023
Mr Penny on holiday
Mr Penny on holiday

How many years did you teach at Hymers College and when?

I started teaching at Hymers in 1977 and taught there for 45 years.

What was your role at Hymers College?

During this time, I have been Head of Woodwind, then Head of Instrumental and Vocal Staff, and then leading up to my retirement, Visiting Teacher of Clarinet and Saxophone.

Initially, I taught just 3 hours a week and saw 6 clarinet players. Later, I taught all the Woodwind instruments, (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Saxophone and Bassoon) and headed up all the 16 visiting music teachers on a full times contract. I directed Wind Bands and Orchestras for all year groups and some elite Chamber Groups with the older ones.

How have things changed since you first started?

Firstly, the civilised admission of girls and the consequent engaging of more female staff. More generally, there are more and better buildings, more teaching staff and more support staff. Now there are higher fees, higher pay, mobile phones, computers, cyber bullying and TikTok videos to cope with. Remember too, the demise of the fountain pen, chalk and the blackboard, thank goodness.

We still have very intelligent, clever and talented students who amaze me sometimes with their ability to keep an eye out for others.

What are your favourite memories of teaching at Hymers?

Hearing years after the event that you might have had some influence on the development of a young person and learning how grateful they are for something said or an action taken on their behalf.

 Do you have any favourite tour/trip stories?

I never really did trips or tours as I valued my half terms and holidays for other freelance music making, but there were wonderful days in the sun umpiring with the First XI cricketers and helping them appreciate the greatest game of all.

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

Before an influential music teacher arrived at my school and sent me up to the Royal Manchester College of Music aged 17 for an audition, it had not really occurred to me that I was potentially Conservatoire material. Since 14 years of age, I had really enjoyed reading historical transcripts of criminal trials and would have gone into the Law I think. It would have been tough though and I am rather grateful how it all worked out.

What have you done since you left Hymers College?

When I finished at Hymers last Christmas, I had already prepared for retirement by cutting down to two days teaching at the school and retiring from the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra last May. On one of my days off, I had started working at the Hessle and Anlaby Food Bank which had been set up at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. I joined them in September of that year with my white van we had bought for transporting our e bikes to prettier places than Hessle. Very useful a white van; you can get untold amounts of bean and tuna tins in one of those!

I still do a session there, but as there will be a limit to the time I can shift pallets of tomatoes and pasta, I have recently undertaken some training with the Hull and East Yorkshire Credit Union; they have opened a branch at Hessle Town Hall once a week. They provide many ways of saving and also provide cheap loans for those who need them. I have visited other branches in the area to see how they manage things and really enjoy it. For some people the Credit Union is the only branch where they can talk to a person nowadays.

I started some oil painting lessons three years ago and have a lesson with Stewart Taylor in Hessle every Friday. Go on his website; he does wonderful work. This is great fun and the attic rooms at home have become my garret just like in Puccini’s La Boheme but warmer.

The phone still rings; for example, I am doing a guest slot with an orchestra in Elstree in October and have some wind chamber music around there as well.  I do quite a bit of writing; not writing music but writing about music, perhaps for the Light Music Society or the Malcolm Arnold Society. I really enjoy that. The seventy or so discs I recorded for Naxos from the 90s onwards still have a life on radio stations around the world and provide nice treats when the royalties arrive four times a year.

I am visiting Art Galleries a lot too which might mean trips to London, or much nearer home like Bridlington. I took the opportunity to meet up with ex-colleague Andy Taylor recently at the gallery he works in at Bridlington.

Visits to Scotland to see our son, Jonathan (OH 1999-2009), now working for Channel 4, his partner Amy, who is a music teacher and our granddaughter Esther, just starting school now, are great fun.  We see a lot of our daughter, Sarah Lucy (OH 2002-12) as she lives and works so near of course; she teaches singing for the East Riding Music Service and from 2022, at Hymers one day a week. We are very proud of her work as Musical Director for the Hessle Theatre Company where she is typically involved in three shows a year.

My wife, Helga is looking at reducing her teaching too; I think the phasing out as I did, may be the way to go. We are looking forward to having the same days off!

So, there we are. I still visit the school from time to time to help in the Developement Office or partake of an OH lunch. It is a wonderful way to stay in touch with so many friends, students and colleagues. Do I miss the Hull Phil or Hymers? No not really; it was definitely the right decision after good periods of service at both.

I still go to some concerts at both institutions and am constantly reminded that none of us are indispensable and in a few years will be just footnotes in the local history section. We are only custodians really, never the owners.

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