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Achieving eight Grade 8 certificates!

1 year ago

Sheila Joynes

Music teacher

I began piano lessons at the age of five because I was trying to play the music my sister was learning (she was six years older than me).

My first Grade 8 was the Music Theory exam in 1973. I was 17 at the time and I, along with another girl, won a prize from the Royal Scottish Academy, where I was a Saturday junior student, for attaining the highest mark ever; 95 out of 99 as it was then.

Most recently (November 2016) I did Grade 8 on Percussion. I had been principal cellist with the Chandos Symphony Orchestra for 25 years, but due to problems and operations on my hands, elbows and shoulders, I had to stop playing. I couldn’t cope with the thought of not being able to play orchestral music so I started to help out in the percussion section, got bitten by the bug and took it seriously. I started lessons in December 2015 and my parents (in their 90s, bless them) bought me a xylophone in January 2016. I’ve had so much fun since!

If I were able to choose a favourite instrument to play for ever, it would have to be my cello. It has felt like an extension of me ever since I first played one and has given me the opportunity to play a huge variety of music over the years. But if I had to choose one to take to a desert island, it would be the piano (along with an eclectic library of music) because it is complete in itself and I would love to have so much time to explore new works.

Sheila JoynesThe main enjoyment in preparing for exams is the sense of achieving and having made progress. I found that particularly on organ, which I took exactly two years from my first lesson. I had to work very hard to achieve the coordination necessary, plus there are all the extras difficulties, like transposition and sight-reading in three staves at once. I have double vision, so that’s HARD!

I’ve never found exams a daunting prospect – I must quite enjoy them or I wouldn’t have taken eight Grade 8s! The main thing is to be able to go into that room knowing you have done everything within your power to be prepared for it. Then if anything goes wrong, you know it was just that one performance on that one occasion and you can still be proud of yourself for reaching the required level.

I can’t say that music has given me benefits, compared to being without music, because I can’t ever remember not having it in my life. Obviously as a teacher of cello, bass, piano and theory, it has given me a career and an income but it goes far further than that. It has given me friends, opportunities, enjoyment, excitement; it has made me laugh, cry, gasp; it has been my friend when I’m down, given me the means to express my emotions, given me the power to entertain and comfort others.

It has fed my soul.


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