My best teacher

8th April 2005 at 01:00
I led a double life as a schoolboy. From Monday to Friday I was in class and at the weekends and during the holidays I'd be performing and making records. Occasionally if I had to sing on a weekday or appear on a programme such as Top of the Pops, they'd fly me back to Wales by plane or helicopter so I didn't miss school the next day.

None of my classmates knew what was going on. I never talked about performing at school. And my mother, being a teacher, was particularly anxious that I missed as little schooling as possible. Eventually, especially after Walking in the Air, people found out and I got ribbed a bit, but most of my friends didn't care a damn.

My mother taught the reception class at Llandegfan primary near our home in Anglesey, and when I was five she decided it would be best if I went to a different school. But I only lasted one morning. I sobbed the whole time because I wanted to be with my friends, so Mam had a word with her boss, the headmaster, and I joined her class. That didn't mean I had an easy time, quite the opposite. My mother was harder on me than she was on the rest of the kids.

Lessons were taught in Welsh and singing played an important role in school life. When I was seven I began regularly taking part in Eisteddfodau.

Everybody did something: some kids played recorder, others recited poetry.

I went for singing and Nia Jones, a lovely gentle teacher, coached me.

When a young headmaster, Edward Morris Jones, joined the school we did more music. He played guitar in assembly and encouraged us all to take up an instrument. I wanted to learn to play Beatles tunes on the piano. Elsie Francis, who taught English and music, suggested I went to Bangor Cathedral and asked the choirmaster, Andrew Goodwin, to give me lessons. Meeting him changed my life. He agreed to teach me piano, but he also asked me to sing a few scales. He spotted me as a potential chorister and I joined the cathedral choir. Andrew was a scary figure, but he taught me to read music and to perform in public.

By the time I went to David Hughes comprehensive I had a bit of a reputation as a performer. I'd played Joseph in my primary school's production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and appeared on television in the Welsh equivalent of Songs of Praise. Then a lady in the congregation at Bangor Cathedral asked a local record company to record one of my performances. Andrew Goodwin suggested I had some extra coaching from Julie Wynne and Robert Wyn Roberts, who had just graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music.

Andrew taught me the basics, but everything else musically I learned from Robert and Julie and they were the biggest influence on my career as a boy soprano. They were great fun and taught me how to sing all different kinds of music. I made an album and a BBC producer heard it and asked me to sing in Handel's oratorio Jeptha.

My fellow pupils still didn't know much about my professional life, even when the BBC made a documentary about me called The Treble. The film crew came to school and said they were making a programme about maths teaching.

The camera was on me most of the time, but only about half the kids guessed what was really going on.

When they saw me on television they weren't particularly bothered. I got a bit of ribbing from the younger ones when Walking in the Air became a hit.

That was in 1985, when everything seemed to happen. I missed half of the school year, but I managed to get 10 O-levels. The headmaster, Dafydd Jones, was great about me taking time off. He was very progressive in his attitude and encouraged me to make the most of every opportunity.

My main interest at school was football. I didn't concentrate in maths or science and occasionally got into trouble. I remember when we were dissecting a pig's heart, I put a bit of it into a girl's pencil case and was banned from biology lessons for a week. I gave up singing on my 16th birthday, not because my voice broke, but because it wasn't performing as well as I hoped. I went to the Royal Academy of Music, formed a pop group, became president of the students' union and had a good time.

Aled Jones was talking to Pamela Coleman


1970 Born Bangor, North Wales

1975-81 Llandegfan primary

1981-87 David Hughes comprehensive school, Menai Bridge

1983 First professional engagement, in Elijah at University of Wales

1984 First record, Diolch e Chan; presents Songs of Praise for first time

1985 BBC documentary The Treble; releases Walking in the Air

1987 Releases 15 albums in Japan

1988 Joins Royal Academy of Music

1991 Joins Bristol Old Vic theatre school

2002 First adult album, Aled, reaches number one in classic charts

2004 Appears in TV programme Strictly Come Dancing

March 2005 Publication of autobiography Aled and re-issue of Aled CD

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today