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Percussion Co-ordinator at Wells Cathedral School

Jayne Obradovic

Very few teachers nationwide can equal Jayne’s breadth of teaching experience and success. For consecutive years her pupils have reached the Percussion final of BBC Young Musician and many of her pupils have gone on to achieve West End and orchestral appointments in both the UK and international Orchestras. Education and Outreach work during the last 20 years includes Principal Examiner for The Guildhall School and Lecturer in Teaching Skills at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. In 2019, alongside CBSO timpanist Matt Hardy, “Concert and Audition pieces for the young percussionist” was published and has been included in the new ABRSM percussion syllabus. The desire to teach employable musicians, and extensive contacts in music education, has given her pupils the opportunity to perform and teach to the highest level. Her Sixth Form pupils at Wells have achieved major scholarships to The Royal Academy of Music, The Royal College of Music, The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Guildhall School. As an orchestral coach, Jayne has worked for the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain, National Youth Orchestra of Wales, National Youth Wind Ensemble, National Children’s Orchestra, IAPS Orchestra and over ten county youth orchestras.

Why did you take up percussion and how old were you?

I was fortunate, like so many players of my generation to receive free tuition at school aged 12. Our local music service in the Midlands provided a County youth orchestra, Wind Band and I joined a Brass Band where I learned the most important lessons through team work. My father was a huge big band fan and I grew up listening to Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey.

Who was your first teacher and where did you start?

 

It's all began on kit with the wonderful Fred Sweeney. He also introduced me to vibes as his wife played, enabling me to use their instrument.

What instruments/resources did you have? 

I had access to the instruments at my local music centre and a piano at home.

Do you have any advice for young percussionists during this stage of education? 

 

In my experience every student has come from a different Starting point and if they are playing simply for fun or working towards an audition the route should be the same if they want to progress. A daily "little and often" routine to include rudiments and scales, sight reading and fun pieces should hopefully become a habit. Lots of slow practice, also!

With your knowledge and experience now, what performance opportunities would you suggest for young timpanists/percussionists to engage with? 

 

Any opportunity will bring a challenge, improvement and confidence. Say "yes" to everything when you are young and school allows! Also, never be afraid To make mistakes! 

At what point did you decide this was the profession for you?

 

I wanted to follow my father into the Navy, however the opportunity for female musicians was not available, therefore I decided to go to Music College. To this day I am drawn to the ceremonial excellence of the Royal Marines and was in complete awe when I first went to Portsmouth to examine their diploma students.

After school, where did you continue your studies and who did you learn with?

 

I studied in Cardiff with Paul Vallis, who was timpanist with Welsh National Opera. I also took private lessons with many teachers who became major influences in my career. 

 

What was your first ever professional engagement, what was it like and how did you get it?

 

Like so many of my generation my first gig came via Harry Smaile and Eddy Cornish. I learned so much from them both during the London Festival Ballet Touring days  

 

What happened next?

 

There have been several defining moments in my career where I have been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time! When my very first pupils took graded exams, at the end of the session the steward mentioned the examiner wanted to see me. I was terrified as I thought I was in trouble! The examiner, the wonderful Jack Richards, very kindly suggested I applied to Guildhall to become an examiner. I had a wonderful 10 years working for the board, eventually becoming Principal Examiner and as a freelance player I spent many happy years alongside my dear friend Jan Faulkner, Paul Chalklin and the unforgettable Nigel Shipway. Receiving a call from the National Children's Orchestra was a huge turning point in my career. The Percussion tutor had been taken ill and I was asked to coach on their course in Cardiff. During my long association with NCO, I met Alan Hutt, who introduced me to Paul Denegri and the rest is history! 

When and why did you start teaching?

 

I have always enjoyed the challenge of teaching and working with young people keeps me young, for sure! I have taught many students who have gone on to pursue wonderful careers, not only in music. I am blessed they keep in touch and become friends.

You are the Co-ordinator of Percussion and Summer Schools at the Specialist Music School, Wells Cathedral School, what's this like?

 

When I arrived at Wells there were no junior students and I began with a 2 hour contract each week. The Director of Music, Angus Watson was very keen to develop the department and invest in equipment. I have been blessed to work alongside 4 Directors who have promoted percussion and supported me and my never ending requests to fund raise and purchase equipment. There is no doubt the success of the department has firstly been the huge array of equipment on offer to beginners, and of course the wonderful staff. My good friend, Alan Hutt gave me the best piece of managerial advice " surround yourself with great people" and I did! When I got married and started a family Jan took over and the department continued to go from strength to strength. I work alongside great teachers who are passionate about their role in a child's life. We are very much a team and the students feel part of our team.


Are there any challenges?

 

My week varies greatly and at times the days are very long. My home is in Cardiff and I spend all week in Wells, therefore I miss my family during term time. 
 

You are also a Professor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, what's this like?

 

The teaching skills course is a role I am very proud of. I believe RWCMD was the first conservatoire to train musicians to teach. It's such a vital element of the degree course and most of the students will teach at some point. I have been so impressed with many of the students I have employed them! 

 

You are also a composer, when did you get into this?

 

In 2000 Jan Faulkner and I wrote several pieces for the Guildhall syllabus and twenty years later being part of a team to research the new ABRSM syllabus. Matt Hardy had written several great timpani pieces which I suggested to the board and during the Wells International Summer School, Matt and I decided to dedicate a book of pieces to our great colleagues and much missed friends Jan Faulkner and Pete Handley.

 

What is your career highlight so far?

 

Too many to mention, however for me the highlights have always been about the people I have met and worked alongside. If I had to choose one highlight it would be the opportunity to begin the Summer Schools at Wells. 

What would your 'Top Three Tips' be for a young percussionists thinking about a career in music?

 

1. Slow, methodical practice.

2. Always play musically.

3. Be a nice person! (for all the reasons most musicians suggest!)

Thanks Jayne! 

If you would like to find out more about Jayne, follow the links below:

Wells Percussion Department www.wells.cathedral.school/percussion/

RWCMD www.rwcmd.ac.uk/study/music/percussio

ABRSM www.gb.abrsm.org/en/our-exams/percussion-exams/