Prodigy Jamie's raw talent

13th January 2006 at 00:00
Jamie Louise White's remarkable musical talent was discovered by serendipity.

Auchenback primary had been chosen for a video-conferencing music workshop with Paul Rissmann and the London Symphony Orchestra. Rissmann immediately recognised Jamie's natural musicianship and ear for music.

Now, two-and-a-half years later, she is one of Scotland's leading young bassoonists. Becky Roberts, her bassoon teacher, mentor, friend, and driver to all ends of the country, believes Jamie has "a touch of genius".

Jamie had never read music before, nor even been exposed to classical music, yet the 11-year-old primary 7 pupil could follow the score of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring on her second music lesson.

Now, just turned 14 and one of the most outstanding pupils to enter the specialist music school at Douglas Academy, she has won a place in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, making her one of its youngest players.

That feat would be remarkable for any teenager; what makes Jamie's success so extraordinary is that she comes from an area of Barrhead known for its crime and drug problems (the company which insures her bassoon will not allow her to take it home to practise), and she has not had the advantages that many fellow pupils take for granted.

Ronald Mackintosh, head of the music school at Douglas Academy, points out that the specialist school was set up in 1979 with the express intention that lack of money should not be a deterrent to any youngster with talent to learn music..

But anyone making their way in the music world incurs costs and needs money to get to auditions, to take part in rehearsals, to play in concerts, and, most importantly, to study once they leave school. For this reason, East Renfrewshire Council is setting up a trust fund so Jamie can continue her music studies, hopefully at a conservatoire, when she leaves the academy.

She would need her own instrument (she currently plays Douglas Academy's bassoon, worth around pound;15,000).

Jill Carrick, East Renfrewshire's quality development officer for the expressive arts, estimates the trust will need to raise around pound;50,000 to meet Jamie's future needs. The council's provost, Betty Cunningham, is showing her support later this year when she will split the proceeds from a charity dinner between Jamie's trust fund and St Vincent's Hospice.

Marian Roy, Jamie's headteacher at Auchenback primary, says the teenager also showed great aptitude at literacy, but no-one had suspected she had hidden musical talents.

Jamie recalls her first taste of music-making in P7 with the LSO by video-link. "It's strange because we were making music, not just listening to it. As I got more involved, I appreciated it more. There were other people there who played instruments - I was stuck on the chimes."

Once her talent had been recognised, she was given the choice of four instruments - French horn, trombone, clarinet and bassoon. She chose the bassoon without even knowing its sound.

In two-and-a-half years, she has reached grade 8 standard in the bassoon and, in less than two years, grade 6 at piano.

Her teachers describe her as a "once in a lifetime" pupil. For Ronald Mackintosh, what makes her stand out is her natural understanding of musical nuances. "You only have to tell her once and she gets it immediately," he says.

Jamie says: "I love the bassoon - it's really satisfying when you hear yourself and know it sounds good. When you play, all you think about is music. It's a good feeling."

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