Folk music supremo Kathryn Tickell made a visit to Alnwick’s high school last week to offer students tips from the top.
The Thropton piper and fiddle-player called in at the Duchess’s Community High School to meet a handful of A-level students currently arranging compositions for their exams next year.
The event was organised by the Howling Lane school’s head of music, Susie Cochrane, and another Northumbrian folk performer, Margaret Watchorn, who is also a teacher at Duchess’s Community High.
Inspired by her family, Kathryn, 48, took up the small pipes at the age of nine, and she is now keen to encourage other youngsters.
She said: “I remember people coming into school when I was younger, and being inspired by that made me want to push myself further, so I thought if by any chance I might do that with somebody else, it might be worth doing.
“Also, Margaret was saying that as well as the students being instrumentalists, they’re also composing, so I was really interested to hear the sort of things they’re writing.”
During the session, Tickell listened to students and gave advice on composing music.
After listening to Year 12 student Dan Lyst’s work, she said: “That piece was the first one I’d heard and immediately I’m thinking ‘give me that tune. I can definitely do something with that’.
“I think part of what is worthwhile about the session is me not just taking a tune and doing my own thing with it, but working with the students and giving them the freedom to take their ideas in different directions.
“If I can show them some of the different options, that would be great because there’s so many different things you can do with a tune. It’s just choosing which one works for you.”
The pupils were treated to the workshop with the star as part of an expanding programme launched by Ms Cochrane after she joined the Artsmark Gold-winning music department in September.
She said: “We’ve set up a series of lunchtime concerts every Thursday where pupils perform and get to practice, or we invite people in.
“We’ve had a range of people who have been so kind about giving up their time.
“We’ve had an amazing violinist from Newcastle, Stuart Hardy, who came in to perform a couple of weeks ago, and we have all sorts of other things lined up, so it’s really good. Kathryn is so inspirational for us. A lot of people know who Kathryn is, and lot of them have grown up watching her.
“Some of our players play with the Northumbrian Ranters and two of them are in Folkestra, which is Kathryn’s little orchestra, so they know how good she is.”
Tickell, a deputy lord-lieutenant of Northumberland, played a concert with her current band, the Side, at Alnwick Playhouse in the evening after the school session.
Ms Cochrane added: “Our ceilidh band has always been quite famous in the school world, and about six or seven years ago, it was really big.
“I want to build it up so it becomes really famous again.”
The school is also looking to set up a community orchestra.