9 April 2022

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News * Developments * Updates

Socially Distanced Excercise is Cool!




05.04.20 – Darrell Priestley

Hi Everyone, the shortest of posts today. It’s an amazing Sunday morning, but of course, no trip to the seaside! I’ll be getting my daily exercise while enjoying the freshest air I can ever remember breathing on a solo bike ride. I’ll give other riders a wide berth, but wave a cheery hello (we’re a very friendly breed) as I pass at a safe distance. Sixty minutes in the sunshine will help compensate for a week spent mostly indoors.

Commendations to all for doing such a fine job of socially distancing. It’s not an idea that comes naturally, but it’s the right thing to do now, for sure, and none of us can ever really know the number of lives we saved by isolating. Looking back on this years from now, we will all be proud of what we did in the pandemic.

In normal times, we may tell someone ”You’re a life saver!” Now when we say it, it’s actually true. A Pat on the back for you today, because YOU ARE AWESOME!

Post Script: I’m now back from my ride, which honestly was a bit surreal. Even in the 1970’s when I began to venture further from home on two wheels, I don’t ever remember the roads being so quiet. Odd, but blissful. I’m surprised I didn’t see any deer, they often pop up when there’s no cars about. There were a few other riders, and several couples and the odd parent with child out for a constitutional walk in the quiet lanes, and pretty much everyone said hello to me. Strange how isolation begets friendship and cameraderie.

Wonderful Bill Withers




04.04.20 – Darrell Priestley

Oh, I am feeling it today. My relationship with Bill Withers is one of love, my respect for him immense. As an artist, he was effortlessly powerful yet understated, as a songwriter deep and sincere, and almost unequalled. Who else could know and express better than he what life can sometimes feels like from the inside?

Some people, you just can’t doubt. They cannot be fake, and with certainty you could trust them with your life. That quality was built in to this beautiful man. I have lived my life alongside some amazing human beings, some close, some at a distance, but very few of the ones I have not met have meant so much to me as Bill.

Bill Withers medium was soul music, in the truest sense, a soul sometimes energised by funk, other times suffused with gospel. An example of the latter is his famous elegy to the woman who raised him, ‘Grandma’s Hands’. In just 121 seconds, you come to know the essence of this woman and her lasting effect on him through the constant symbol of her loving hands, caring, admonishing, providing, hands which shaped his early life, hands which pointed the way.

Bill was an emotionally complete man, by which I mean he was strong enough to show his vulnerability, secure enough to share his hopes and fears. This quality, and his acute talent for emotional observation, empowered him to make a deep connection to so many of us. His seemingly simple lyrics run deep with meaning, rippling out into the heart of the listener.

Incredibly, Wither’s career spanned just eight years from 1971, beginning in his thirties, with a brief resumption in the 1980’s, with most of the classic songs coming from that first period. He loved music, but disdained the politics of the music industry. Withers’ album tracks and lesser known songs are every bit as deserving as his huge hits, so often covered by other artists that he was able to live in relative security for decades after retirement on the royalty income. That fact is testimony to the strenght of his message, and his succinct, clever, concise instinct for storytelling.

It almost feels wrong to single out any one track over another, but among my very personal favourites, perhaps because they are so very personal, are My Imagination, and above all, the incredibly intimate Hello Like Before, a song so everlastingly beautiful. Who could not resonate to those emotions?

Though I ache to think of his loss, still I am overjoyed at his lasting presence, through both his music and his legacy as a man. Bill, I love you, and I will miss you.

Thank you.

Preparations for Online Lessons – What You Need to Know




04.04.20 – Darrell Priestley

Music lessons online – what a wonderful thing, at times like now. But lessons online are different in a number of ways to lessons in person; to make the most of them, we all need to tweak our approach. Hence, we have produced a guide here that will help you approach your lessons and preparation. With a smart approach, you will maximise both the fun you have and the progress you make as together we go through this most unusual of times.

Since the doors of the Academy have been closed, Darrell and Eileen have been working on ways to bring this new format to life. In many ways, the lessons themselves are the easy part. More challenging has been the creation of a system to support moving lessons online, involving communication, booking and overseeing the whole endeavour. Though we have really tried, issues with our existing G Suite, which has hitherto served us admirably, have made it difficult to transition to the new system we have in mind. We are therefore turning to a new Microsoft system to support the business, which will require additional days to set up and then to learn, after which we expect to have it running well enough to start making lessons happen. Prior to this, we must prioritise students are who already paying for their lessons by standing order, but we expect soon to be in a position to start lessons for you all.

We have trialled sessions to determine what problems there might be. Generally the trial sessions have worked very well indeed, but you may want to spend a little time beforehand checking the settings on your device, especially microphone and sound settings, as it is improtant that student and teacher can both hear one another clearly. Consider using headphones if the built in speakers are not so good, but you should use the computer or smart phone’s own speakers, or better still attach seperate speakers if you want others in your home to hear the teacher’s contribution and performance examples.

For practical reasons, online lessons will observe a temporary timetable which may differ from your regular day and time. On lesson day, invites will be sent as an email request, asking you to join a meeting. Please be sure to respond at the appropriate time, and bear in mind that you may have to wait until your teacher has concluded the previous lesson before they can join you. If using a computer or laptop, the app should generally open in a browser, but if you plan to use a smart phone or tablet it may be necessary first to download the relevant app.

Until the new system is fully set up and working, we will generally be using Zoom software for online lessons. In the near future, we expect to transition to using Microsoft Teams for this purpose. This software will allow us to develop, adapt and personalise lessons over time, and may even have an added benefit in being useful for practice and lesson preparation after lessons in person resume again, depending on the working methods developed by each individual teacher.

Don’t forget, Darrell is working hard to keep everyone feeling informed and involved, and putting in special effort at this time to offer support by updating this page daily and making it helpful and relevent to you, our students and their loved ones. We suggest you visit often, not just for news and tips, but simply to remind yourself that you too are a part of this beautiful music community, all of us looking forward to when life outside the home opens up to us again.

Further tips ”Making the Most of Lessons in Lockdown” will be published soon – bookmark this page and check back here regularly.

Not got an email lately?




04.04.20 – Darrell Priestley

We have been busy emailing all students with updates and news about online lessons. No existing student should feel left out, regardless of their current circumstances. If you have not been receiving emails from [email protected], then please check all your email addresses for spam, or contact us from your preferred email address, making sure you mention both the student(s) and teacher’s name, and we will amend our records and bring you up to date.