Nathan Palmer, who grew up in the borough, tells us about the musical education he received in Barnet and how his young daughter is now following in his footsteps.
One of the happiest memories from my school days back in the late 1970s and early ‘80s was making music and long-term friends at the Barnet Schools Music Centres, friends I still see regularly. I played the alto saxophone and flute and was part of the wind orchestra. We met every Saturday during term at Moss Hall School on Nether Street. The orchestra was conducted by Mr Johnston helped by a group of parent volunteers and Rita who provided musical and administrative support as needed. Time flies, as they say, and my contemporaries and I were off to further education in what seemed like flash. My saxophone was stolen during my first year at university and sadly never replaced. I moved out of Barnet until late summer of 2013 when my wife, our six-year-old daughter and I moved to Chipping Barnet.
One of my first thoughts was that I’d be delighted if our daughter could join in with Barnet schools music centres, if the music centres were still going. After the simplest internet search we found what I was looking for. The nearest music centre for us is at East Barnet School. Junior choir and group recorder lessons on Saturdays were suggested for our daughter and the only step left was to sort out the registration and modest fees and that required us to liaise with Rita Porzi – yes, the same Rita from 30 years ago – who now runs the centre. And yes, she hardly looks a day older – living and working testament to the benefits of a life in music!
Since starting at the music centre our daughter’s musical education has progressed happily and she has moved on to play the flute and joined the beginners’ wind band. There are regular concerts at the centres and I must also mention that my wife and I were as proud as any parents when our daughter was able to join in the massive Albert Hall concert in May of this year. It was a fantastic evening with a Romeo and Juliet theme. DVD available!
Whatever other problems there are in Barnet, the musical education opportunities are excellent. See the Barnet Education Arts Trust (BEAT) website for more details.