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Above photos by James Barry, Kyla Photographics www.kyla.co.uk


“Mike Wood came to Oakmeeds in 1975 and in the 37 years since then has introduced thousands of young people to all kinds of music.”


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I was five or six, I remember writing letters to Santa Claus asking for either a trombone or a saxophone. I always stipulated that it had to be a real one,” he grinned, “but sadly there was no money available for that sort of thing.” As a child, like many of us, he had listened avidly to Children’s Favourites on the BBC and his earliest memories of classical music stem from that time. Sparky’s Magic Piano, Tubby the Tuba, Rossini’s William Tell Overture and – awe-inspiring for a seven-year- old – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture were his first glimpses into the world of classical music. Mike didn’t know it then, but music was already taking over his life and he was absorbing it like a sponge. He affectionately recalls the TV series The Six Wives of Henry VIII simply because of the effect the Renaissance music had on him.


at first. He formed a band with his friends and they started performing mostly folk music in church halls, clubs and pretty much anywhere that would have them.


In his first year in secondary school Mike joined the choir and sang as a treble in the Pirates of Penzance. Bearing in mind it was a boys’ school, Mike sang a girl’s role; it must have been an interesting production. By a cruel twist of fate, just as Mike was about to start ‘O’ Level Music, the music teacher left and was not replaced. However, such obstacles don’t stand in the way of the truly determined. Mike found an old recorder somewhere and taught himself to play it and one day, when a guitar was brought into his art class as a drawing subject, he couldn’t prevent himself ‘having a go’. Soon he could play the guitar, even if it was just chords


Now sixteen, Mike and his best friend who could play both the piano and clarinet, pestered the school to be allowed to take Music ‘O’ Level, possibly – just possibly – because they would have to attend music lessons in the nearby Hove County Grammar School for Girls where there was a music teacher. There, in spite of the obvious distractions, Mike learned to read music, got his hands on a number of different instruments, and heard with wonder the Haydn String Quartets, Elgar and Palestrina. To put this into context: at this time all his mates were rocking to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.


Mike developed a regular routine which included an after school trip to continued on next page


“At teacher training college I was surrounded by students who had all been classically trained. I had a Music ‘O’ Level, courtesy of a girls’ grammar school.”


12


SUSSEX LIVING March 2012


www.sussexliving.com





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