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Pupils I'll never forget

Fred Shaub remembers a musical prodigy who blew his preconceptions away

Andrew Nash was a little lad who I first taught when he was about five years old. He found everything at school difficult. One day his Mum came into school to buy him a recorder. I thought: "What a waste of time." I had always thought the clever were the ones who would be brilliant at music. I was wrong.

Ronald Ross has a good tradition of music. In those days I was teaching music and virtually nothing else. Every class did recorder lessons and he took to it quickly. By the time he was seven he had taken up the trumpet.

After a while his Mum asked: "What do you think of getting him some private lessons?" He went from strength to strength and after secondary school he got into the London College of Music. He's 27 or 28 now, and a professional trumpeter.

We had some wonderful times in the 1980s. We had a band that played the Albert Hall and the QEII Hall. It was magic. When I was conducting them at the QEII Hall I cried my eyes out. It was so moving to hear this wonderful music from these little kids from the council estate, sitting with their feet hardly touching the ground.

Andrew was part of that band. When he was about 10 we were doing a school concert and I had given him the timpani drums to play. At one point he thought I had signalled him to start bashing the drums. The more I tried to stop him, the more he thought I was trying to get him to play louder. I can picture him now, his twinkly eyes beaming up at me, thinking he was doing exactly what I wanted.

Four years ago I collapsed while teaching and I was off work for three months with heart trouble. Andrew came in and helped the school band rehearse for a show. He's now teaching other children the trumpet. We sometimes meet when we play in bands or orchestras together. He taught me a lot about judging people too soon. It has been such a joy to watch him grow and grow.

Fred Shaub has taught at Robert Ross primary, London borough of Wandsworth for 33 years. He was London winner of the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2003 Teaching Awards. He was talking to Harvey McGavin. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email

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