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Musical Notes - Governor Mona Adams interviews Head of Music, Ms Wardlaw

posted 19 Apr 2017, 04:52 by Michele Colt
An Honours music graduate from Surrey University, Bea Wardlaw joined the staff of RPA 10 years ago. For seven of
them, she has, as Head of Music, fashioned a department which recognises talent and in which she encourages all her students to explore – and enjoy – new ways of self-expression through both music and dance.

 'During the time I have been here, I have not only developed my own teaching skills, I have watched students surprise themselves by what they can achieve. As a teacher, I feel that I am still learning, still developing – and that philosophy is one I encourage my students to grab hold of', she says. 'It is a particularly exciting time for our school. We have a new principal, Paul Mundy-Castle, who continues the legacy of support and enthusiasm for music production, for which this school has a proud history'.

Mrs Wardlaw is not only working with students who will once again take part in a major vocal event including both solo and choir entries at The Rose Theatre, Kingston in the summer, she has a handful of new initiatives up her sleeve to whet student appetites.   “One of the exciting new events in our programme has been a springboard composition course at St Paul's school, including four weekend joint sessions which culminated in a concert in which our students wrote and performed their own compositions with Royal Academy of Music professionals.  Another is 'The Big Sing', a duo of workshops for KS4 vocalists designed to inspire and develop confidence. We also held a recital in Hertford Hall in March for which our GCSE and BTEC students prepared a varied programme of music making to show parents – both current and prospective – just what they can do. We love showing off, particularly to parents because we value their support and if we are to maintain that, they need to know what we are doing. Yes, it's a lot of work but the rewards are self-evident for us all'.

Another challenge which Mrs Wardlaw was keen to mention is one which will give RPA musicians an opportunity to compare and contrast their ability. It's the Richmond Prom, to be held later in the year at St Mary's University, Twickenham. At this borough-wide event, our students will have a unique opportunity to perform collaboratively with other borough schools. “It's very important”, Mrs Wardlaw says, “for students to have confidence in what they are doing and I think music is special in that it provides constant opportunity to display talent and build that essential confidence which will stand them in good stead for the future”.

'Why do I stay at RPA? Simple. Every year throws up new, stimulating challenges. I have been encouraged to work in a Prep school, but no thank you. Here, my career continues to develop. I've just done a Masters and am now starting a lead practitioner course. Why would I take that expertise anywhere else when I can put it to good use here, in a job that I love and with students who are diverse and endlessly entertaining? Can't think of a reason ..."