In memoriam Tess May

I’ve just had the privilege of taking part in a memorial concert for Tess May, who died very suddenly last June, in her early 50s, of a stroke. She was a horn-player and brass teacher in the Milton Keynes area for many years. It was a wonderful concert. There were massed horn ensembles in the first half, played by colleagues, friends and former pupils. Many former pupils were in the audience, too. After the interval, the Tess May Olney Brass Band played five pieces – she founded the group and they re-named themselves after her following her death. Then a large brass ensemble played a series of pieces, including solos by her two sons, and culminating in an arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Everyone joined in with the final movement: The Great Gate of Kiev. As one of our conductors on the night said: this is the biggest noise ever made in Newport Pagnell. A Facebook page is linked to the event.

I was there as both a player and as a conductor, having played alongside Tess in various horn sections and worked with her as a member of an orchestra I conducted. The whole event made me meditate on the importance of the teacher in the lives of us all, and how a good teacher, who like Tess does good by stealth for years and years, can be one of the most positive and important influences on a huge number of people.

I think it’s true too that a music teacher has a particularly important role in the lives of their young charges. I remember my music teachers, and particularly my instrumental teachers, not only as teachers but as people with whom I had a very important one-to-one relationship. Encouragement, confidence-building, widening one’s horizons, dealing with some of life’s great difficulties – all these are areas where I feel they have helped me. I feel sure that there are many people out there for whom Tess was just such a person. It can sound trite to say she will be much missed for a very long time, but it is true.

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Published in: on February 15, 2010 at 12:21  Leave a Comment  

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