18 September 2017
Five St Mary’s School, Cambridge staff members participated in the Oxford and Cambridge Note Race 2017 over the summer break, taking up the challenge to learn a new instrument from scratch in just two months with only one formal group lesson, to raise funds for local charities Home-Start Cambridgeshire, the Alf Dubs Children’s Fund, and Blue Smile.
Junior School Music Co-ordinator Miss Elise Hickey and Year 5 teacher Miss Agata Wygnanska joined Senior School Assistant Head and teacher of Music Mrs Sonia Gears, visiting flute and clarinet teacher Mrs Anne Bury, and singing teacher Mrs Alison Daniels in taking on the challenge. Between them they learnt the flute, trumpet, bassoon, cornet and harp respectively, and raised a combined total of £1,690.
The two months’ practice culminated on 10 September 2017, when all challenge participants took the Grade 1 examination in their chosen instrument (all of the St Mary’s School, Cambridge participants passed) before performing in the Grade-1-athon concert. For Cambridge-based participants the concert was held at West Road Concert Hall for members of the local community; at the same time Oxford-based participants performed in their own concert in Oxford.
The age-old rivalry between the two cities continues, and on this occasion the Cambridge team was crowned the winner having achieved not only the highest average mark in the Grade 1 examinations but also raising the most money. At the time of writing the total raised (with Gift Aid) by the Cambridge team was £58,966.63 – just over £1,000 short of the target of £60,000, with plenty of time for donations to be made.
Mrs Bury, who achieved a distinction in her Grade 1 cornet examination, said of the challenge: “Each time I have taken on the Grade-1-athon challenge I have found it a tremendous eye-opener as to what my own students go through. It is an excellent experience for any teacher as it gives you a new perspective on your own teaching. I was delighted to get 87% and greatly enjoyed the concert, and I was thrilled to be able to raise £635.”
Miss Hickey similarly found the experience insightful as well as enjoyable, saying: “I am really glad I’ve had this opportunity to learn a new instrument and raise money for important charities. It was a beneficial experience to sit the Grade 1 aural tests to know exactly the types of questions our girls are asked.”
Headmistress of St Mary’s School, Cambridge, Ms Charlotte Avery, congratulated the team, saying: “What a fantastic achievement by each one of our colleagues – congratulations to all five. I am delighted that our school has been able to play a part in raising vital funds for local charities, each of which offers such essential services to the community.”