Ed Coleman talks about his favourite music genre and artists

What sparked your passion for music, and how did it lead you to pursue a career in education?

My mother was a music teacher and I think always dreamed of me becoming a cathedral chorister. It happened when I auditioned and got into Wakefield Cathedral choir when I was seven. The next five years were incredible, singing about 28 hours a week; singing in services, making records, doing live broadcasts on Radio 3 and touring overseas. I started accompanying the school choir on the piano at 11 and directing it at 13. By that point, I was a rather competent musician and cut out for teaching although at the time I didn't realise it!

Do you have a favourite musical genre or style that you enjoy listening to or performing? If so, what draws you to it?

There's so much music out there but I think we're all drawn to the music we got to love in our teenage years. I have Radio 2 on at home and whatever is playing - 60's, 70's, 80's, jazz, musicals and 'adult orientated rock' just suits me fine. I love the Radio 2 concert orchestra live recordings and the Radio 2 piano room performances. I'm a classically trained musician so as a treat sometimes attend a live classical concert, but more often I'm at a concert as a performer.

Are there any musical instruments you play or have always wanted to learn? Why?

I wish I could get a sound out of a brass instrument. Trumpet, trombone or tuba would have been great. I learned flute at school and never considered brass.

Can you share a memorable musical performance or concert experience that had a significant impact on you?

Every year at Wakefield Cathedral we performed Bach's St John Passion at Eastertide. That work is so powerful and it was performed with us standing next to the players of a Baroque orchestra. It got me into playing the flute but also wanting to emulate the harpsichord player too. It was such a fantastic learning experience, and even as an 8-year old I was incredibly moved but some of the music in it. The opening chorus is probably my most favorite piece and takes me right back to how I felt on that stage each year; the excitement, the nerves and the sheer emotion of the music. It has stayed with me for life.

Aside from music, what are some of your other hobbies or interests that you enjoy in your free time?

Aside from music golf has been my other lifelong passion as my father was club professional at Pontefract. More recently I have taken up mountain biking and Scotland, where my son lives, had some of the best biking trails in the UK. I also took up running in 2016 to lose some weight and lost three stone. I set myself a challenge of running 10k in under an hour which I am pleased to say I can still do.   

Is there a particular artist or composer who has had a profound influence on your musical journey? How have they inspired you?

At the age of 17 I watched the BBC young musician of the year final. The piano finalist that year was Leon McCawley, he was my age, a pupil at Cheetham's School Manchester, and he played what is regarded as the most difficult piano concerto - Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor. Despite not winning the grand finale he was astonishing and changed many of my views of music almost overnight. The concerto too has become my favorite and I had never heard anything like it before. Many years later I invited Leon to judge the piano competition at Loretto School where I was Director of Music, and I am pleased to say we are now regularly in touch. 

What do you find most rewarding about being the Head of Music? Are there any specific moments or accomplishments that stand out to you?

Often the most successful and memorable moments in a music tour are the ones that are unplanned. In 2012 I was with Loretto Chapel Choir in Pisa, Italy. On the very last day whilst heading to the airport we visited the baptistry at Pisa Cathedral.  Although we had really come to see the leaning tower, we performed an ad-hoc couple of pieces in the baptistry, a colossal circular building with a large dome roof. The acoustic was astonishing and many of the choir members, singing from memory in such a resonant building cried tears of joy! It was a very memorable and emotional experience and a great way to finish the tour. 

How do you approach incorporating creativity and innovation into the music curriculum? Do you have any unique teaching methods or approaches you find effective?

Those that have seen me teach will know that the piano is the tool of my trade. Given a piano I can engage children (and adults) partly because over the years I have built up rather a large amount of music in many different styles that I can play instantly from memory. In addition, I think there is often a fine line sometimes between teaching and entertaining, and if I can engage a group through entertaining it's easy to draw them into learning something at the same time!

If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one musical artist's discography, who would it be? 

Chris De Burgh. Discovering his early albums as a teenager was a revelation and I copied his style in my early songwriting days, particularly songs on the album 'Crusader'.

Have you ever had a student who was determined to make the recorder sound like a symphony orchestra? How did you handle their enthusiasm for "creative interpretation"?

It's surprising what music and IT. I've taught A-Level music technology in the past but the subject and approach to it is so vast that there will always be students who know more than me. The key is 'passion'. If a child comes to me with a passion for something I will pick it up and develop it. I have no experience with DJ'ing for example, but have a recent former student making incredible-sounding music in London at the moment as a live DJ. 

What's your secret recipe for keeping a music class engaged and excited, especially on Mondays when everyone's suffering from a case of the "weekend blues"?

Monday means more often than not having had a Sunday service the previous day. I am likely to still be 'on a high' from the musical performance in chapel, singing the music 'in my head', playing something at a piano every time I walk past and building myself up to the next choir practice! Hopefully, some of that enthusiasm will rub off on my students!