Last month Thomas Hamill accepted the Best Music Department award as Head of Music at the Merchants’ Academy in Bristol. Here he tells how his journey in to teaching began with a chance introduction to Superact’s CEO Ali Smith…..
Strange Routes into Teaching
On 25th February this year I was awarded the prize of Best Music Department at the Music Teachers Awards for Excellence
at a black tie even in a swanky hotel in London. My current school in South Bristol, ‘Merchants’ Academy
’, is in an area called Withywood known currently for high unemployment, problems with economic growth and a lack of opportunities for young people. Our achievement is all the more remarkable in these circumstances given we were up against private schools in Windsor and a post-16 music college in London. So how did an English graduate from the University of Warwick – and not even a great musician – end up leading an award-winning Music Department? The answer is working hard to take opportunities given and trusting people who give them to you.
I always loved music and was part of orchestras and bands when I was at school. However, following University I wanted to train as a lawyer but a lack of money made this impossible. A chance meeting with Ali at a comedy event in Chard, Somerset, led to her asking me to work on a project called JUMPS
where world musicians were placed fortnightly into a small town school in Ansford, Somerset. This chance to work in such a diverse teaching environment taught me that the best way for young people to experience music is through live exposure to it, and as much of this as possible is a mantra that has guided how I have run the department ever since. This was also a big part of our application for Best Music Department. My experiences at Ansford as part of the JUMPS project run by Superact and a chance meeting at a random comedy night in Chard (of all places) were the opportunity I needed to end up doing something I love. Be aware of all the chances you get, you never know which ones will make the difference.