My best teacher

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
I was in the choir at my first school, St Mary's in Canton, Cardiff, and I remember singing a solo in assembly, which must have been my first-ever performance on stage. I was there from when I was four until I was 10, and I loved it.

Then I went to the Cathedral school in Llandaff. It was a choir school and very academic. I got a scholarship, but my mum still had to write to lots of businessmen asking for sponsorship because she couldn't afford to send me there.

I stayed for two years, and when I was 12 I moved to Howells school, also in Llandaff in Cardiff, and I'm still there. All the teachers have been very supportive and understanding about my singing career.

Mrs Evans, my class teacher, has a cool sense of humour and I really like her. Mrs Davies, who is the deputy head, has also been very good to me, and I get on well with Mr Guy, the English teacher. I like the subject and he's got lots of enthusiasm.

As I'm away on tour so much I miss a lot of school. But while I'm on the road I have two private tutors. They're both young, in their early 20s, and I can honestly say it's more like having my friends teach me. Before I went into Year 10, I had all my lessons with Richard Leyshon, who's been with me for about two-and-a-half years. For the past year, I've had Catherine Aubrey, too. She teaches me French, English and history, and Richard concentrates on geography and maths.

They're both really cool and we get on brilliantly. They liaise with the school and it works out well. We do three hours of tutoring a day and, whatever's in my schedule, we have to fit it in. It can be a bit of a pain sometimes because touring is very tiring. You've got the travelling and sound checks and interviews to do and then the concert - and you've got to do your school work on top of all that.

I've had lessons in some pretty odd places. We quite often have to do them on planes. I sang on Rupert Murdoch's yacht when he flew me out to sing at his wedding in 1999. I sang for President Clinton at the Whit House last year, and I had two exams to sit on the same day. I did a French exam in the morning and a history exam in the afternoon. Then we had to rush off to meet him. It was a mad day - but I passed the exams. I was in a really good mood about meeting him and that boosted me.

People ask if it's hard to adjust when I get back to school, but the teachers are so good they make it easy. I don't feel I have to catch up because I actually learn more when I'm on the road with Richard and Catherine than when I'm in school. You get one-on-one tuition and you don't lose concentration like you do in the classroom.

When I'm away I keep in touch by running up huge phone bills to my friend Abbie. She's my gossip-girl and keeps me up to date about everything at school, and who's got off with who. When I get back my classmates always ask me who I've met, and when I say the president their eyes glaze over. Then I tell them I've met 'N Sync and Limp Bizkit and they get a lot more excited.

I've a big year coming up. I have my mock exams in January and then my GCSEs in June. But, however busy I am with singing, Richard and Catherine make sure I get my lessons done. It's going to be hard work because there's recording and touring and lots of other stuff planned.

Singer Charlotte Church was talking to Nigel Williamson

The story so far

1986 Born in Cardiff

1990 Attends St Mary's school, Canton, Cardiff

1996 Attends Llandaff Cathedral school

1997 Performs "Pie Jesu" on TV show, Talking Telephone Numbers; signs with Sony Music

1998 Debut album, Voice of the People; youngest artist to have a top five album in British charts

1999 Acting debut in UK television show Heartbeat, and US television show Touched by an Angel

2000 Voted artist of the year at Classical Brit awards; meets Bill Clinton at the White House; sings for the Pope at the Vatican; releases Dream a Dream

2001 Tours the US. July: appears with Pavarotti in Hyde Park


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