A Lot of of My Former Students Are Still Active in Music, and I Find that Incredibly Satisfying

An interview with Sally Clark - Head of Music Faculty and Music Teacher at BSB.

Sally Clark studied Music at the University of Huddersfield and then taught EAL (English as an Additional Language) in Spain before moving back to the North of England to work in the International Department of a college as an EAL teacher and Welfare Officer. After completing her PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) in Secondary Music Teaching at the University of Huddersfield in 2002 she worked at Horsforth School in Leeds. Sally then relocated to Kenya where she was Head of Music at Nairobi’s Hillcrest International School for 10 years and was involved in many cross-school initiatives including the Kenya National Youth Orchestra and the Nairobi Orchestra.

How long have you been at BSB?

I’ve been working at BSB since 2013 as a Music Teacher in the Secondary School and sometimes with Primary students. I arrived here from Nairobi, Kenya where I worked for 10 years, so I’ve been teaching music for a long time.

What is the best part about your career as a music teacher?

When I teach young students, I try to imagine them in the future taking part in community music projects or even at a professional level once they’ve finished school. I aim that all students have a positive experience of music and make the most of the resources we have available for them to use. A lot of students I’ve taught in the past are still active in music now that they are adults, and I find that incredibly satisfying.

What is your favourite project related to music that happened within the school?

School productions of musicals can be complex and challenging yet fulfilling and really worthwhile. When students and teachers collaborate to put on a show, it’s a huge amount of work and a massive project and the satisfaction you have when it all comes together is a feeling second to none. In the past we have staged Grease, 13 and Our House and in each we were able to provide a band of combined students and staff. Working with actors, singers, dancers and wonderful costumes is fantastic. I’m looking forward to more musical productions in the future.

What triggered your passion for music?

I was always surrounded by music when I was young, and I would credit my parents for that, as their record collection was huge. From blues to heavy metal, classical to folk and encompassing music from all around the world, my parents’ broad taste fascinated me. As far as instruments go, I was very lucky at school because I was able to try many different ones to narrow down what I liked best. Very supportive teachers and parents encouraged me and let me know that I was good enough to pursue a musical career.

Do you think music plays a very important role in a student’s education? Why?

Absolutely - studying music provides opportunities for students to develop and to learn things they may not even realise they are learning. For example, we study protest songs in Year 8, raising interest in topical events and helping students to relate to current affairs. History students can gain a deeper understanding of the music from certain periods through knowing what has happened politically and the way that has affected how composers were controlled in what they could write. More scientific and mathematical students can appreciate the method of deconstructing music and putting it back together. Music really has got something to offer everyone – it’s a matter of finding what interests individuals and making the cross-curricular links.

How does a typical music lesson take place?

Usually students are really eager to play music, so they come to class ready to make a lot of noise, with their instruments of course. Throughout Year 7 we learn skills on different instruments until everyone has something they can produce sound on. We are then able to work with pieces of music and play together in groups. In most lessons, many instruments are used ranging from ukulele to trombones and trumpets to clarinets, so everyone can play performance pieces together and also create their own music.

Can you tell us something funny about yourself that your students may not know?

I went to an all-girls school and I’m sure people have pre-conceptions about what that might have been like. However, one of the greatest things I did at school was forming a rock band with my friends, an all-girl band, and our favourite music was by Jimi Hendrix. When we played in the ‘Battle of the Bands’ at the local Boys’ school, I was the lead singer and bass player on Foxy Lady, a Hendrix hit. I really enjoyed rock music and it remains one of my passions alongside the music of Stravinsky and Disney.