David Clinch

3rd December 2010 at 00:00

David Clinch, 59, is a retired teacher who brings music to children across Devon. The Irish-born musician taught PE in inner-city London schools Forest Hill Boys and Crofton School, now Prendergast-Ladywell Fields College, before retiring to Devon. He didn't quite manage a complete retirement, and after a stint as a cover teacher he turned his hand to music.

We've heard of An Inspector Calls, but...

"The Piper Calls Project involves me visiting schools to play instruments and get people to listen to music of different cultures. I combine music with all sorts of subjects. For example, for National Science Week I did songs about the Italian king who bred pigeons in 1913. It's a true story, and it links to Darwin's study of pigeons and the difference between wild and bred pigeons."

Were you born with a fiddle in your hand?

"I was always a consumer of music and I always listened to my family play, but I didn't played any instruments myself until I was 39, when I picked up the spoons. I used to go to a pub in London opposite the school I taught at in Lewisham. There I learnt to play the bones, then the pipes and it developed from there."

Sounds morbid. What else do you play?

"I play five instruments: the pipes, low whistle, spoons, bodhran (drums) and bones. The bones are made from animal bones, and were commonly used by black Americans in the 19th century. I learnt to play them in the early 1990s from a guy who played in early 1900s Washington. I'm learning the banjo at the moment."

Any favourites?

"My favourite is the pipes, although it is the most infuriating instrument at times. There is a lot of technique involved. In Irish music there is the grace note, for example. The pipes are difficult because you use each finger independently. Imagine putting all your fingers on a table and lifting each one separately."

Easier said than done - you must be passionate

"I won't say 'passionate' because I think it is the most overused word in English. I just love music, and interacting with students through music. I loved teaching, but at the chalkface you're always under the cosh. It's a pleasure to do something different that they benefit from. Yesterday I visited a special school, and the children loved it. They relied on sensory learning, and loved to touch the instruments."

When will you really retire?

"I drive my wife spare and have to hide myself away to practise, but if I'm 80 or 85 and people still want me to play, that would be great."

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