Waving goodbye to rainy, windy Edinburgh and the wonderful Hebrides Ensemble, I headed north into scenic Perthshire, to spend a day at Ardvreck School in Crieff. Music director Peter Grant (previously encountered teaching in Calne, Wiltshire) had invited me to judge the school music prize, and to celebrate the re-opening of newly refurbished practice rooms.
Almost everyone in the school, over a hundred pupils, had entered an earlier round of the competition, leaving me with 18 finalists performing on all kinds of instruments to deliberate over. While they played, the rest of the school, aged 7-13 , listened with courtesy and concentration. It was a pleasure also to meet Ardvreck’s community of music teachers who work in a sizeable dedicated building in a prominent position on campus. I’m only sorry I missed out on hearing the school’s celebrated pipe band.
Ardvreck is fee-paying, and its parents subsidise its extensive musical activity with evident enthusiasm and pride. In fact during my visit I sensed that the school’s greatest asset is one free to all; fresh air and exercise. I hope I’m right in reporting (my informants were roughly 9 years old) that the whole school is going to climb a nearby Munro (= very tall mountain) and will shortly take an 11-mile hike to a local loch. Meanwhile a group of staff including the head, Ali Kinge, is going to cycle the North Coast 500. And I’m sure I overheard a gentleman at the opening saying that he was planning to travel by penny-farthing from Lands’ End to John O’Groats. But maybe by that time I was hyperventilating on fresh highland air and widespread enthusiasm for music.