In the news - Matthew Manchester

7th January 2011 at 00:00

Australian-born Matthew, 30, is a music teacher at Heathfield School, Middlesex, an independent day school for girls aged three to 18. He came to the UK after a double degree in music and performance and teaching in Australian schools. Last month, he held a pilot video-link lesson with a class in a deprived area of Canada. He now wants to extend the programme to other subjects.

Why Canada?

"My sister is a primary teacher in Canada, teaching disadvantaged kids. We were talking about musical instruments and she said there were some her kids had never seen. I am lucky at this school because we have a fantastic range of instruments. So we got started on linking up a music lesson where I teach them about sound. There were 60 Year 4 kids from three primaries in the Saskatchewan province."

Any hiccups along the way?

"Yes, the technology failed us, so we used Skype. That aside, it was remarkably easy. In fact, it was so easy that I am surprised people don't do it more often. The students in Canada blog about everything they learnt - they were really positive."

What next?

"We have plans to do another link. My brother is an entomologist and I'm going to try to get him involved in a science link. I would like to have a joint music project running via video-link in schools across the country. I'm also thinking about online master classes, where we get a bunch of performers into the school to play A-level music and examiners mark them and children can learn from it."

How do schools here compare to Down Under?

"I find the older years back in Oz have more emphasis on creativity, and I find it frustrating that it's not the same here. It's a lot harder to compose your own stuff here. However, in Britain kids have more access to culture. For example, I grew up in a small town four hours away from Sydney. So going to Sydney, to the conservatorium, was a big deal. Younger Commonwealth countries don't have the baggage we have; they can change things easily."

What instruments rock your world?

"I can't answer that without sounding arrogant - I can play pretty much anything. Primarily I play the trumpet, but can demonstrate how to play most instruments. String instruments sound worse in my hand. I am a brass player at heart."

Since how high?

"I started playing the trumpet when I was seven. My local brass band was offering free lessons and it took off from there. My dad played the tuba, and at one point four out of five of us in our family played in the brass band."

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