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My best teacher - Mrs Barnard and Mr Regler by Beverley Knight

The singer-songwriter owes her career to the teachers who made her believe her dream could become a reality

The singer-songwriter owes her career to the teachers who made her believe her dream could become a reality

I was blessed to have a collection of great teachers, but two had a lasting impact on me: Danita Barnard and John Regler. My career is a testament to their belief in me.

When I was a tiny five-year-old child at Woodfield Infant School in Wolverhampton, Mrs Barnard told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I believed her. I always wanted to sing and Mrs Barnard was the one who told me I could achieve my dream. She also encouraged my creative writing, and from that came my love of songwriting.

Mrs Barnard was caring and compassionate; you didn't lag behind in her class because she didn't let you. But she was also a no-nonsense teacher, so children didn't mess about. The thing that struck me was her accent - she sounded different. Now I know it was a Polish accent. She was a Jewish refugee and as a small child she had lost her entire family in Auschwitz.

The first time I made a record I phoned Mrs Barnard, and over the years we have kept in contact. The last time I saw her was in 2014. She is now in her mid-eighties.

Although I passed my 11-plus, I didn't want to go to the local grammar school because I thought everyone there was posh. My sister was at Highfields School and my parents were fine with me going there instead.

My teachers were great. Highfields was always one of the best-performing schools in Wolverhampton, which suited me because I was very bookish. My favourite subjects were religious studies, English and history - they still are. I do a lot of reading, especially on Victorian history.

Mr Regler, the music teacher, was fabulous - he really was. He was enthusiastic and referenced things we understood. I distinctly remember a lesson on the 12-bar blues, a chord progression running through basically every single rock and roll record. He taught us that the 12-bar blues was the basis of most records; it has given us some of the greatest pop songs, such as Prince's Kiss, Elvis Presley's Hound Dog and Duffy's Mercy. This was my first introduction to musical structure and it really fired something in me. As the lesson progressed, my eyes got bigger and bigger.

Mr Regler was an omnipresent force in our school: he ran the school choir and was the musical director for all our performances. I didn't take A-level music but I worked with him in school productions. Over the years I was the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sandy in Grease and Nancy in Oliver!

Teachers obviously have their own lives, but whatever difficulties Mr Regler may have had, we didn't see it. We just saw a man who loved his job. He knew music through and through, but he was patient with people who were tone-deaf and didn't get music theory, just as I didn't get maths.

When I left school, I didn't fear going after what I wanted because I was encouraged by Mrs Barnard and Mr Regler. Mr Regler saw my latest show recently and we had a really good chat; he was so proud.

Beverley Knight was talking to Adeline Iziren. Knight is currently appearing in Memphis the Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London. Official workshops are available for students aged 14 and over. For information, or to download your free education pack including lesson plans and exclusive content, visit

Soul survivor

Beverley Knight

Born 22 March 1973, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

Education Woodfield Infant and Junior Schools; Highfields School. Studied religious theology and philosophy at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education

Career Singer-songwriter, radio presenter and musical theatre actor. Has released seven studio albums in the past 20 years

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