I was born in Lancashire, UK, but spent a good deal of my childhood abroad, particularly in Ceylon now called Sri Lanka.
As a young child, I was crazy about music! I took up the guitar (that way I could be more like Elvis) and later the piano. Both fell by the wayside, but later I took lessons on the euphonium at school and was hooked – my musical career was launched! I played in the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and held my first paid conducting position at the age of fifteen! Since then I have worked with many top ensembles as a soloist and conductor.
The early experience of playing in brass bands gave me a great deal that I will always value. The emphasis on competition and the way in which tyrannical conductors would prepare us for them, taught me a lot about how to secure high standards of musical performance in any context – although I don’t emulate all of those conductors’ methods! It also gave me first-hand experience of ‘encounter learning’, which is discussed in more depth here, in my articles on group instrumental teaching.
By the time I became a student of composition, conducting and tuba at the University of Huddersfield, my horizons had broadened considerably, I had become very interested in composing and my hero at that time was Stravinsky; he remains one of my musical heroes, although more recently Boulez has been a great influence. I also find the ideas associated with The New Complexity very interesting, whereas I am impatient with those who wish to return to tonality or who embrace styles featuring the prefix ‘neo’. In 1976 and again in 1978, my work as a composer was highly commended by the Mendelssohn Scholarship committee. I got my teaching qualifications at the University of Reading and embarked on a career as an instrumental music teacher in Berkshire, UK.
I moved into ‘mainstream’ education and taught Music & Music Technology (later to be joined by English) at advanced, diploma and degree level. All the while, I was active as a conductor of a variety of ensembles, orchestras, choral & operatic groups at a variety of levels and in a wide-ranging repertoire from classical to contemporary. The latter is an especial interest and I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to conduct some key works of the twentieth century such as Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Debussy’s Iberia, Webern’s Concerto, Ligeti’s Chamber Concerto and many others including performances and premieres of works by contemporary composers.
Several of my own compositions, in which electronics alongside ‘live’ performers are a prominent feature, have been published and performed publicly, including on BBC Radio 3. Most are on paper and are in still the process of being ‘digitised’, but there are a couple of examples on YouTube that can be accessed via links on the right.
I have also enjoyed a successful career in Music Education. Having taught instrumental and classroom music at all levels from middle school to university, I was the founding director of a successful instrumental music support service for schools throughout the UK which, over an extended period, provided opportunities for instrumental music to thousands of children who otherwise would not have had the chance. I was also, for a time, a member of the Mentors Panel for the CT ABRSM course of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, London.
Following this, I moved into international education and enjoyed successful experience of the leadership of Primary, Middle and Secondary phases in the UK, Asia and the Middle East, where I have gained in-depth knowledge, and valuable experience, of a range of curricula including the English National Curriculum, IGCSE, AS/A Levels and the entire range of International Baccalaureate programmes.
Having held several school leadership positions, I now experience demand as a teacher trainer, not just in connection with music, but with all aspects of effective teaching & learning and with school leadership and management.
Robert Lennon, May 2021