Updated 21.09.20

Now (Re-)Open

Northern Music Academy:
'The Conservatoire for Where You Are'

Today, any safe community relies on three things:

i) Washing Hands Well - with soap and water!
ii) Wearing a Face Mask when Around Others
and most important of all -
iii) Always Keeping a Safe Distance

Welcome to 'Safer Sound' at nma

All this, and wonderful music too. You're going to love it!

#Darrell & Eileen Priestley

News * Developments * Updates

‘Chicken Runner’ Challenge




10.04.20 – Eileen Priestley

When taking food to our ‘self isolating’ houses, it feels really unusual to see how quiet the roads are. When I was young this used to be called ‘Sunday’. Then families didn’t often go out, shopping was unheard of on Sundays because there were no shops open. Everyone that I knew had Sunday dinners, which was always some kind of meat, roast potatoes, two veg and Yorkshire puddings. Our Mums used to keep the fat from the meat to make dripping, which was lovely to eat on bread with lots of salt. It was probably one of the worst things you could ever eat.

When the weather was poor, so you couldn’t play outside, we used to make games to keep us occupied. One of our favourite things we used to like to make were ‘runners’. My two brothers and I would get one of Mum’s used cotton bobbins, which were at the time always made of wood. You would put in a tack at one side of the bobbin, get a small rubber band, thread it through the bobbin and at the other end put a hair pin across the hole threading through the rubber band. You would then wind the hair pin round so the rubber band gets tighter and tighter, put the bobbin down and it runs across the floor. My brothers and I would spend many a time having races across the living room floor with the bobbins.

Moving on many years later as our children became adults, Christmas day started to become a little too quiet. We would have our Christmas dinner and then sit down to an afternoon of the specials on T.V. As a group we decided we needed to spice up Christmas. So for a number of years now we have been setting up ‘Christmas Challenges’. There have been the most weird and wonderful challenges ever.

Here’s just a few:- Make a flying object – The winner is the one that stays in the air the longest. Darrell won that one with an aeroplane attached to a piece of string. The string went all the way around the room with the plane looking as if it was flying around. Make an instrument – The one who could play ‘Jingle Bells’ on their instrument was the winner. My brother won that one – with a set of bagpipes he made from some garden canes and leather for the bag.

Gone now are the sleepy afternoons watching T.V. In are the noisy, laughing and fun afternoons playing with each other’s games, instruments and toys, that we have made. Here we are ten years later still doing the challenges and still having lots of fun, with our grand children joining in.

So while we are all in lock down and wondering what to do, I’m going to set all our students a challenge. The challenge is to make a ‘chicken runner’. Keep your chicken runner safe and when we are allowed out again and are back at the Music Academy we can all take our ‘chicken runners’ in and have a race. This challenge is especially hard because bobbins now are made of plastic!


New Hobbies or Old?




09.04.20 – Darrell Priestley

As a musican, you have probably said at least once of your practice, ”I didn’t have time!” Well, you’re probably not saying that now. But today let’s think about something else you could be doing with all that time at home.

Do you like to read? I was always a bit of a reading fiend, in fact when growing up I found it very hard to put my book down at bed time, often reading long after my light should be out; to this day I put my not being taller down to a lack of sleep in my teenage growing years! But as the years went by, I started gradually reading less, until at one point I rarely would read anything longer than a newspaper or magazine article. This started to bother me a little, because although I am very focused at work I started to worry that I wasn’t working my mind in other areas. Several years ago I began to read again; to be quite honest I found it hard at first, and could only read a few pages of a book before becoming mentally a little tired. Luckily though, with perserverence, stamina develops and you find that you can keep going, sometimes for hours.

Practice is much the same, for music or indeed any other hobby. If you build up in increments, you will soon be putting in good stints at your activity, be it drawing, writing, lace making, or whatever, learning more and and getting better at it all the time. So now may be a golden opportunity to develop your interests in other areas. Unexpectedly, many of us, (though not all!), have more time on our hands than we are used to. But what to do with it? Apart from reading, I want this year especially to be one of growing things. I really love plants and nature, and starting with pots indoors, you can develop an appreciation of growing things by raising plants. There is so much to interest the plant lover, with leaf type, size, growing habits, colours, not to mention simply the feeling that goes with keeping your plants vibrant and healthy, learning what they like in sun, shade, watering and so on.

Sticking with plants, it is fairly easy to start growing plants for food, you can even do it on a window ledge if there is a little space. If starting out, start small with something like cut and come again lettuce, and carrots and tomatoes can both wotk well. One advantage of growing food plants indoors is that it’s much easier to keep on top of the watering, because you will quickly learn to notice straight away if the plants are drying out, as they will go limp. With practice, you’ll soon get the hang of watering enough so that they don’t wilt, whilst avoiding over watering too.

Learning should always be fun, so don’t overlook including board games in the mix too. Board games make you think about strategy, of how to achieve a particular outcome, and that can be good in developing your thinking more generally. We have a lot of different board games at our house, one of our current favourites being ‘Agricola’, which is interesting because while I often win, I still have no real understanding of how it works, and have to ask my son what to do constantly! Curious.

If you are lucky enough to live with others, one of the best ways to use some some of that extra time you might have is simply to learn more about the other members of your household. Find out what they like, and ask them what hobbies they have been interested in over the years. I was almost grown up when, one day, I learned that as a boy my father had made paper aeroplanes. But not just any paper aeroplanes. His aeroplanes were things of wonder, they looked sleeker than anything I had ever made, and flew magnificently. Many decades later, that’s still one of the wonderful things I remember about my father; that, and his terrific, tuneful whistle. It was so good, so beautifully musical, this has always made me think that my dad would have made a great musician, if he’d ever had the chance to learn. Instead, he gave that chance to me! Something I will treasure forever.

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