Gaynor Thomas, MGC 1950 Leave

I had always wanted to teach so, as a newly qualified graduate of the Royal Schools of Music, I was appointed to a small High School in Monmouthshire, where I was the sole teacher of music on the permanent staff. This was good grounding for the career I was to follow, giving me experience in teaching academic and practical music and in organising a department. Three years later, a move to Cardiff High School for Girls meant a larger department and opportunities to work with other schools within the authority.

I had continued to play (cello) and to sing in a semi-professional chamber choir which was increasingly involved in radio and television work. I had married, and decided to take a break from it all while my children were young, but I was frequently being asked to teach privately and quickly built up a private practice of teaching. By the time my own children were of school age, I was offered some instrumental teaching at Howell’s School, Llandaff, during the day. Within twelve months, I found myself appointed Director of Music of this independent boarding school.

Having been a boarder at MGC I had some insight as a teacher. In those days of stringent discipline, music was often an escape for an individual and often, friends made through music, last a lifetime. The personality of Miss Jackman - “Jackie” - as Head of Music was a major influence on me: her approach was unique.   

I was to remain as Director of Music at Howell’s until retirement. During my final year, I was approached by the Associated Board with a view to becoming a music examiner both in the UK and abroad. This gave me a little more time for composition which had begun as a necessity, owing to the cost of sheet music on a limited departmental budget, but I found that I enjoyed writing and I wanted to pursue it.

What does success look like?

Success is to see understanding dawn in a child’s eye; success is a past pupil achieving professional status; but best of all, success is knowing that those who found an interest in music at school are now ardent amateurs, singing and playing for fun and are part of that vast audience of listeners to the ever increasing range of styles which make up the art of music.

What is your best piece of advice?

Today, the world of music offers enormous possibilities. Know your strengths so that you refine your choice of training. There will be set-backs – it’s a tough career, but hard work and determination will see you through!