"I was given piano lessons because my brother didn't practice. This led to my life long love with the piano, and a fascination with playing all types of instruments. I was given a full grant to Chethams school until I was 19. I defected from music for a while, by studying dance and theatre at Dartington College of Arts. Music kept following me about including a spell of teaching in Hong Kong. With theatre performance and dancing experience also under my belt, I returned to music study, taking a piano diploma at Trinity College of Music.
Alongside piano teaching I became interested in early childhood music, developing my teaching work in nursery groups alongside my private piano teaching work. Having a motorbike was the only way I could get anywhere quickly in London, and to maximise the volume of work that was building up. This inevitably led to my dream of having a music house full of children learning different instruments, with me living at the top! The Music House for Children was founded in 1994 as a not for profit music school to provide children in homes, nursery schools with musical learning, performance and training for teachers. At this point I did not have a real building.
In 2001 together with my husband, Charlie Raworth, we purchased an old snooker club. This is now Bush Hall in West London, a beautiful Edwardian concert hall hosting international and national artists concerts, showcases and private events. Our Boston Steinway grand serves as an apt and very lovely piano for visiting artists, although my dream would be to adopt a Bosendorfer, as the acoustics are so resonant in Bush Hall.
The Music House for Children’s new home became the next-door building to the hall to give children who could not afford instrumental tuition the same opportunities as those having private home tuition. In addition I was able to provide training to early years and instrumental teachers on site, as well as music workshops, holiday activities and specialist music classes.
I have over 60 instrumental tutors, and early childhood music specialists working with me, in homes, schools and in nursery groups. We are unique as a school in that we provide early childhood music for families, newborn babies and toddlers, instrumental learning and performance opportunities each year, all under two roofs. We are in the process of creating a new restaurant called Bush Hall Dining Rooms to provide delicious food for families, artists, audiences and musicians enjoying musical experiences at Bush Hall and The Music House for Children. This will open this May (www.bushhalldining.co.uk)
As a baby the multi-sensory embedded musical experiences provides them with an instinctive understanding of music when they later come to learn an instrument. Every child is invited to perform at Bush Hall each year to reflect achievement, parents’ ability to see progress, and build on confidence and social engagement with other young musicians. My interest in the benefits of early musical engagement led me to taking an MA in early childhood music (at Birmingham City University), due to be completed this July.
Termly training for all our music teachers provides fresh, updated and inquisitive ways to continue with their work in music teaching. With very young children using their instruments to draw out musical responses and curiosity is compulsory! We also provide training in early childhood music teaching throughout the UK.
My enduring love of the piano has continued to provide inspiration for composing music for babies and young children (check out Little Birdsong – www.littlebirdsong.co.uk). The books have just been taken on by an American publishing house, and due for re-launch this summer. Our insistence for high quality music provision is reflected too, in our commissioning an instrument maker. We now provide and sell early childhood instruments reflecting a range of tactile shapes, sounds, and are of high quality, and extremely durable (www.littlebirdsong/resources/treasurebasket)
I am still very much in tune with my piano playing, having recently performed at Robert Lockhart (late composer and pianist)’s memorial service, playing one of his early pieces. I also performed at Sark island to a private party. In my spare time I play the trumpet (my other favourite instrument) at celebrations and weddings.
I play a range of instruments including French Horn, Guitar, fife, whistles, violin, melodica, ukulele. These all emerge during my teaching work with babies and young children since live music is an integral and inextricable glue to a child and parent’s musical experiences. My other message in this habit of multiple instrumental playing, is to encourage others to pick up their instrument and to enjoy playing whenever they can.
The Music House for Children is currently going through major refurbishment. We are still waiting on hopeful funding and/or sponsorship to enable extension of the former ground floor studio into a more modern, ground floor space to enable more group music provision, with a particular emphasis on children with special needs.
As our twentieth anniversary approaches next January, we look forward to celebrating continuing diversity and opportunity for children and families in musical learning, not least, supporting music teachers and our musicians of the future." (Emma Hutchinson)
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