Meet Mr Andrew Raymond – the new Head of Instrumental Music at Swan Christian College.
Mr Raymond will be coordinating instrumental music at the College (including music ensembles and music tutoring lessons). He joined the College this term after seven months of travelling around Australia in a caravan with his wife Kristy and their two kids (ages 7 and 8). We have met with Mr Raymond to ask him a few questions about his role, his passions and his vision for instrumental music at the College.
What is your role at Swan Christian College?
My role is a newly created position. Coordinating instrumental music will mean overseeing the tutors that teach instrumental lessons at the College as well as overseeing the music ensembles.
"I will be driving the development of more progression in the way we are teaching instrumental music across the College"
Most importantly though, I will be driving the development of more progression in the way we are teaching instrumental music across the College. I am looking into improving the structure of our instrumental music program from Kindy to Year 12 to create a program that takes kids from when they start playing an instrument, to them being involved in an ensemble, to continually progressing musically from Junior School into Middle School and then Senior School. At the moment, we’ve got some exciting things happening but they don’t necessarily connect with each other. They don’t really connect with the classroom music program and they are not all structured in a way that, once a student finishes with one level ensemble, there is a higher ensemble to strive to be in.
My role will also involve growing a music culture at the College: creating a higher expectation of what we can achieve here at Swan Christian College. Less excitingly, it will involve the administrational nuts and bolts of running an instrumental program: the hiring of instruments, the paying for lessons etc...
What drew you to the College?
I have come from a pretty big music department where I was the Head of the department and that covered all aspects of music: all the classroom curriculum and all of the instrumental music. What attracted me to this position is that it will allow me to focus on the part of that job I love the most – which is making music with students and creating performance opportunities for students. What drew me to Swan Christian College also was the type of school it is: a Kindergarten to Year 12 co-educational school with a Christian purpose. I like the ethos at Swan and what it represents. I have enjoyed my first weeks here meeting staff, students and parents and already feel at home here – thanks to all those who have made me feel welcome.
It is going to be a challenge for sure – there will be a lot of growing to do. We want to build the music culture and make music have a bigger profile within the school and the community, but also something that the whole college is proud of, whether they are directly involved or not.
What is your favourite part about working at Swan Christian College?
The students I have met so far have been really fun, kind and eager to learn – as a teacher, that is always a great place to start! The Principal has been very generous in giving me time to review the current music program at the College before coming up with a new strategic plan. What is exciting for me is that I have been given the permission and time to do that.
I am going to visit lots of schools that have terrific music programs and create the best model that I think will work for this College. However, I don’t just want to bring in a model from somewhere else to this school and say: “We are going to do it this way.” I want to tailor the program to Swan Christian College specifically. Some changes might have to be gradual, others more immediate.
Before you started working at the College, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
I worked at an international school in Dubai for a year. My wife and I took leave from the school we were working at back then (my wife is a music teacher as well) and went to Dubai. I loved the experience! It was a really exciting time and it was a great chance to experience other cultures and travel.
"I loved the experience! It was a really exciting time and it was a great chance to experience other cultures and travel."
Working in Dubai gave me a real confidence that music education in Australia is of very good quality – world class. Dubai is smoke and mirrors. Everything looks fantastic, but when you’re there you realise that a lot of it is all about image and the reality is often quite different. Education was a real business there. It was all about making money for the investors; it wasn’t about teaching the kids. So, coming back to Australia was great, because, for the most part, schools in Australia are there for the right reason – and that is for the kids.
On another note, when I first graduated from uni, I worked on a gold mine near Meekatharra, right out in the desert. That was only for a few months (just to get some money together before I travelled to America), but I am also really grateful for that experience! I worked in the outback on a gold mine! A good experience to have made.
Are you Jazz, a Country or a Classical music type of person?
Look, I like listening to Jazz. But I studied classical music at university and I grew up actually listening to quite a bit of country (my mother’s side of the family are all farmers).
"If I had to listen to something for the rest of my life, it would probably have to be a Jazz album."
So, there is a little bit of all three in me to be quite honest, but if I had to listen to something for the rest of my life, it would probably have to be a Jazz album. It would be a Big Band album – probably one of the more contemporary New York Big Bands like the Bob Mintzer Big Band. I love the sound of a Big Band. It is just so powerful, exciting and vibrant (not so much the old school swing stuff from the 40s and 50s, but more contemporary jazz compositions).
Do you play an instrument yourself?
Yes, Trombone is my primary instrument. I started on piano when I was a kid and I also learned percussion at school, but Trombone is what I studied at university. I have spent the majority of my practise time on the Trombone.
What instrument do you wish you could play?
I wish I was a better singer. I think everyone can sing – but the tone of my voice is something akin to a chainsaw ripping through a tree; it’s not very pleasant to listen to. I would like to have a great singing voice. Like William (Mr William Vasiu).
What is your vision for the future of instrumental music at Swan Christian College?
To be really honest I am still formulating the details, but essentially, I just want lots of kids involved in music. Having fun. Music is hard work and it is not an instant reward type of activity. Without hard work, you don’t progress and you don’t get anywhere. But why would you do any of that hard work if you are not having fun?
"My vision is to see lots of kids involved in music."
My vision is to see lots of kids involved in music, progressing from Junior School through to Senior School, in ensembles that push them to be better musicians and better at working in teams with their friends. There are so many reasons for learning music: from the way it develops the brain, to the sorts of things that you learn as a human (like commitment, teamwork and dedication). It is a life-long skill too! Something that – if you want to – you can keep doing until you’re pretty old. I love watching community groups perform with senior people sitting in their bands, still playing an instrument – or in the case of my dad, still playing music at church – and it is just brilliant that they are doing that and that music has been a part of their whole life.
The College would like to extend a warm welcome to Mr Raymond and is looking forward to the positive changes that he will bring to our school.