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Hove Library where he would borrow classical LPs (remember those?), take them home and quite illegally record them onto an ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder he’d found. He would take the records back the next day, borrow some more, record them and so on, until he had amassed quite a respectable classical collection of his own. He took it with him when he went on to teacher training college in Hertfordshire, where unsurprisingly he chose music as his major. “It was an interesting time,” Mike told me wryly. “I was surrounded by students who had all been classically trained and who had at least a Music ‘A’ Level, whereas I had only my Music ‘O’ Level, courtesy of a girls’ grammar school.” In a breathtaking throwaway line, he went on, “luckily I had taught myself to play classical guitar by then.” Well, you would, wouldn’t you?!


In May 1975 he arrived, all bright- eyed and bushy-tailed, at Oakmeeds School in Burgess Hill to take up the post of second music teacher. He was to devote the next 37 years of his life to that institution and its pupils. It was during this period that he began to demonstrate his extraordinary ability to bring music out of virtually any sort of instrument – wind, percussion, stringed – it didn’t seem to matter, Mike would end up playing it. I suspect that it was his lack of formal, classical training in his early years that drove him to explore and experiment with so many instruments and types of music. At college he had concentrated on voice, lute and guitar, but over the next few years, amazingly, Mike had added piano, violin, banjo, mandolin, clarinet, trumpet and the French horn to his repertoire. Versatility doesn’t really seem to cover this multi-


instrumental talent especially when you consider that his many orchestral appearances include work as a violinist, double bassist and timpanist – though mercifully, not at the same time. It was also around this time that Mike joined a couple of teacher friends to form the very well known local cabaret group Wilbury Jam, which is still giving concerts today, many for charity.


As part of his duties at Oakmeeds, he had to take orchestra rehearsals even though he had no experience of standing on a rostrum in front of an orchestra. Characteristically, he simply got on with it and learned ‘on the job’. The experience was to stand Mike in good stead because when his friend Stephen Evans founded the Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra (then called the Martlets Sinfonietta) Mike played in the second violins and occasionally


14


SUSSEX LIVING March 2012


www.sussexliving.com





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