What does a freelance music teacher do? I thought I’d give a week in the life – this week was busier than normal (but then there isn’t really such a thing as normal)
On the way back from Church I get a call from Rich the guitarist from Balkan Gypsy wedding band Aistaguca – their soprano sax player has gone on holiday at short notice and they have 2 gigs next weekend. If I can fill in on guitar he reckons he can cover bass and or sax parts. I depped for Rich once before and know 14 of their songs so I’m in!
I spend several hours filling music away from the 200 guitar magazines a pupil gave me and loading up my mp3 player with all the tracks I need to learn for this coming week.
Teaching guitar all day at a Junior school (8-11 yr olds). At lunch time I go next door to the Infants and run a ukelele club for a bunch of 6 year olds. They’re having a coronation party this week and wanted me to play God Save The Queen on a union jack uke one of them has brought in. Then I just have time to eat a sandwich while I edit a backing track that one of my guitar groups is going to use for a concert on Wed.
After school I teach a rock band of 10-11 year olds. Today we start recording the drums and guitar of a song they’ve written on garageband.
At 5 I grab a taxi to cellist Rachel’s house and we head over to Old Library Studios to record her parts for my upcoming mini album Let’s Build An Airport. While producer Mark is setting up I upload the backing track I edited earlier to a pupil page where they can download it to practice to. Apart from the odd issues with semitone clashes in my arrangements and phantom xylophone parts appearing we get everything recorded the right side of ten o’clock and head home brain fried but happy. Rachel introduces me to the music of Amanda Palmer on the way home and she goes on my ‘music to check out’ list.
I send out late invites to the monthly songwriting I’m hosting next week via Facebook.
Head out to my first school to record a 10 year old pupil with autism. He has perfect pitch and an endless supply of ideas. But he’s off school ill. So I do some editing and go to junior school number two. I teach there for 3 hours, doing more editing in the lunch break. I also have a first try at the song Catrin wants me to sing with the choir at a school gig on Thurs. It’s in 7/8 and in macedonian. I hope my bass droning isn’t freaking out anyone within earshot. After school I had planned to record some tubular bells that the school have for my album, but didn’t have to time to pack mics, audio interface and all.
After a couple of hours at home I head for my practice space for a couple of private lessons.
Off to another school to set up all the PA for their big annual music night tomorrow. Once I got round the fact that there were 2 electric sockets in the hall and the dinner ladies wanted em both we were OK. The head sorted me out with a free roast dinner. Then teaching two groups at another school. Easy day.
Long trip to Mansfield to teach at a secondary school. Not everyone could make it due to a Coronation picnic being organised. One pupil brought in Carry On Wayward Son to learn. That’s one ‘Carry On’ film I haven’t seen but it’s still a cool tune.
I get a taxi to another junior school for a very special music event. The food and drink flows freely, the place is packed and the staff are fully involved too. So much fun that I’m sure there’s all kinds of rules against it. As well as 3 songs with my guitar pupils, I played bass on a Tennessee Ernie Ford song with the staff band, played Djun Djun on a drumming piece and sung the aforementioned Macedonian song with the choir. None of which had any rehearsal. As a finale the whole school, plus audience, sang a slightly cleaned up version of Jessie J‘s Price Tag. Realising the song has 4 chords I taught the bass line to a 10 year old guitarist and got him to perform it 5 minutes later while I covered the guitar part. Having previously seen Catrin, the music teacher, direct choirs of hundreds of kids with only 10 minutes rehearsal I know that tonight was all in a days work for her. She is one of the most amazing musicians I have ever worked with. The head sends me on my way with a bottle of wine and Catrin invites me to a Klezmer jam session.
On the downside, I’m starting to become aware that a pain I’ve got in my right thumb is turning into pins and needle in my whole hand and forearm.
I have a day off. Pins and needles in both hands and forearms. Very worried about the weekend gigs knowing that the last time I played with Aistaguca I played so hard my finger bled. My brain is fast forwarding through RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome and other life/career threatening possibilities. I soak my arms in hot water to ease the discomfort and take my daughter to see Prometheus.
The pins and needles are still bad. I take Ibuprofen and consult Dr Google. (I know that’s bad, but whenever I visit my real GP that’s all he does and I can type much faster than him, even with pins and needle). Most of the bad stuff seems to be ruled out and a trapped nerve in the shoulder may be the culprit. I remember pulling a muscle in my back last week quite badly due to rucksack full of music and macbook. Then I remember easing the pressure on my back by holding the strap with my right thumb. Someone online recommends ‘waving your arms like a mad thing’. I do it and the pins and needles recede as the original pain in my back reappears. I go to the gig.
As is common with Aistaguca there is a new member I’ve never met (Abel on alto sax), someone is filling in (Pete from Satnam’s Tash) and someone gets up to jam who I’ve never seen before (Irene from Muha). We have a great time playing for the coronation party and by the end all the reserved English villagers are up and dancing on the village green. Although we are playing Balkan gypsy wedding music people are doing the Macarena, pogoing, jumping around with their children or just throwing together any moves they’ve picked up from Strictly Come Dancing. The weather stays dry but my ears are frozen and I resolve to wear long trousers tomorrow.
Rich picks me up around 11. We head off to buy a new capo after his last one went M.I.A. then to a cattle shed near Radcliffe for another coronation party. Today we have lost Pete on bass but gained Belinda on violin. During the break I buy a roast pork and stuffing baguette from the local pub and get back only to find the band has started without me. The second set ends with wild applause as once again these English villagers discover their inner gypsy.
Coming home to an empty house I watch almost the whole of Casino with Robert De Niro before I thaw out.
Next week is the half term holiday. I need to write a song to share at the songwriting group, do a few private lessons and maybe visit a chiropractor at Nottingham Sports Injury Clinic. Should be a bit more relaxing.