9 April 2022

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The Lockdown Diaries




31.03.2020 – Darrell Priestley

So Tuesday, so happy. Well, I think it’s Tuesday, though who amongst us really knows? At least we got through Monday, which is a good thing, I think. Yesterday was a day of many hours spent at the kitchen table, planning, preparing, and video conferencing with teachers. Productive too, although each day, which I begin by typing away and gazing hopefully at the computer screen, starts off filled with such promise, it’s always a bit sad when reality bites and some tasks remain not quite complete.

Yesterday also involved a trip out. How very brave. Well, we needed to shop, which at present we are doing for three households, which means a fair bit of planning. Shopping can make me nervous at the best of times, I will confess, but there is a little extra trepidation nowadays when we are about to venture out amongst others. Fortunately, shopping etiquette is coming along splendidly. Who knew queueing could be so much fun? Great systems are appearing at most shops, and distancing is doing very well, but my word it’s strange seeing a queue for Boots in Pontefract stretching down Market Place toward the Town Hall.

Just like you, and everyone else, we would rather like our shopping delivered. No such luck. Six nights in a row last week I arose between 3.15am and 4.15am thinking this might help access the supermarket websites – who ever thought there would be queue to shop online? At one point, there was what passed for nocturnal excitement as I saw there were only 192,524 people in front of me, and it was quite a dilemma, should I stay up and shuffle slowly forward, or should I go back to bed and hope to awake just in time to take my place at the head of the queue? I’d like to say I made it to the front, but Zzzzz. You have probably been there yourself.

Speaking of shopping online, there are some funny tales. Did you hear of the lady who, ordering Brussells Sprouts (x1), received just one sprout, singular! Still, at least she got a delivery slot. Perhaps you have some funny, interesting, or heartwarming experience of your own that you would like to share. If you do, please send it to [email protected], and I’ll see what I can do. Uplifting stories would fit the moment particularly well.

One good point to emerge from Monday was our new Guidance for online lessons. Jessica put this together for us, and did a great job. It simply outlines a sensible approach for all to take, so that lessons remain professional, friendly and safe. Please take a moment to read the guidance through when you receive a copy, as it is important and intended to be helpful for everyone, and especially parents.

Lessons Online Start Soon




30.03.2020 – Darrell Priestley

Hi Everyone, Monday dawns. Feeling oddly a bit like every other day. Over the next few days, the teachers should each receive their new northernmusicacadamy.co.uk email addresses, and start getting touch with their students. So, what can you expect? Typically the teacher will email you, so watch out for that, letting you know how they are approaching lessons online, how they plan to arrange lesson times, and so on. They may also suggest how you should prepare, appropriate dress for the meeting (no pyjamas or swimwear online!), tips on warming up at your instrument first, and so on. They will also let you know about their terms, and what your options are. Please note, all existing students should at least have access to check-in visits, regardless of your current circumstances.

Do remember, though, this is not lessons as usual. The timetable will be different, and online lessons will be offered at special terms for our existing students to help out while we all isolate. Those of you who pay weekly will generally have a lesson in credit, and if so that will still be there for you when you return to the Northern Music Academy, (and who isn’t looking forward to that day?). Quite a few of Darrell’s students pay for their lessons monthly by standing order; he has planned a special package just for you, and is aiming to line your lessons up as a matter of priority.

Once we are given the all clear, we will all rush outside, do a little dance, and probably skip straight down to the music academy to share our experiences and show each other what we’ve learned. Some of us will probably have forgotten our books, but it will be ok! (One off exception, lol). Special prize for the one who has made the most progress.

We have a number of fun ideas that we wouldn’t want you to miss out on, so don’t forget to keep checking your email. Additionally, your teacher will contact you to arrange lessons and start meetings, also by email from their new email account. Don’t worry about any of this, just check your emails and we’ll guide you through it. Darrell will be quietly conducting in the background, and if anything is bothering you, write to him at the main email address: [email protected]

Finally, keep yourself safe, learn new things, and check this news post regularly.

Music lessons online




29.03.20 – Darrell Priestley

This is not a message I ever imagined writing, even at the beginning of March, but it turns out a lot can happen in a few weeks. Really! Right now, we are all reeling from the massive changes to our lives. But mercifully, the changes will be temporary, in a while we’ll be allowed out again, and provided we all behave ourselves and do the right things, it should be ok. In the meantime, we can only make the best of it, picnic in the front room, and probably learn some useful new things, such as resilience!

As of 23rd March, the Northern Music Academy has sadly had to close it’s doors to our beloved musical family for the first time in over 31 years, except for holidays – ( holidays! what are they?). It’s unprecedented, and quite bewildering, but step 1) of the Reslience Handbook says ”always make an opportunity out of any unexpected situation”, so that’s ok.

For the next few weeks, or however long it may be, we want to keep you on track with your music. Playing or singing music regularly will help us all keep in a good mental place, stay motivated and focused, have fun, and making smooth progress. Now doesn’t that sound like an opportunity to improve? I rather think so. Perhaps there will even be a special prize for most progress made at the end of it; just think, you could be in the running! And, if so, that would make you more of a winner than anyone in the 2020 Olympics – Awesome!

Using the internet, we intend to stay in touch, hear you play and watch you make progress, using live conferencing software. Wow! We just have to learn how to use it first. You won’t need to be an expert, (but if you are you can probably show me how to do it!) and of course the technology will need a little bit of learning, but it’s suddenly looking like we will have the time to do so, and even if we are a little slow at the start I have the feeling that soon we will all become rather good at it.

All this means quite a bit of organising for us at first, but as soon as each teacher grapples with the conferencing software and gets their head around the lesson booking arrangements, they should be in touch with you to suggest possible options for you. Whatever happens, don’t panic, you can always email us if you get stuck; Eileen or I will get back to you as soon we can, hopefully within 24 hours.

FInally, there have been whispers of Eileen opening up her famed ‘challenges’ to the students, fiendish competitions where I am usually out of my depth, and where other people inexplicably have an edge on me, even the tots. I don’t know how she picks them, but I’m getting better at losing – well, I’ve had a lot of practice by now!

Stay safe everyone, and see you soon online.

Best wishes Darrell

Ian Clayton tells ‘A Northern Music Story’




Some years ago, in the course of my work, I met Ian Clayton for the first time. Ian had brought his son, Edward, to try out out for piano lessons. At age 4, Edward had just expressed an interest in learning piano, and so began a teaching relationship that took our families’ through Edward’s growing up years and led to lasting friendship.

Fast forward to today, and Edward works in adult education, but music remains a big part of his life, and he plays piano regularly with The Glass Caves. When I mentioned to Ian that we were updating the Northern Music Academy website, he was kind enough to volunteer a story for publication on the website, and the completed story duly landed in my in-box the very next day.

This lovely story tells of a child’s musical journey, from a family point of view. A simple tale, told with great tenderness from the perspective of a loving parent, this edifying story is now available to read in the news posts on the new Northern Music Academy website. I find it quite moving; perhaps you will too. I commend it to you.