Often December feels like a time of winding down and cosying up in preparation for the New Year... but this year, December has been busier than ever! This year has had plenty of adventure, but it feels like I've saved the best for last. I have a lot of reasons to say 'thank you' to the people around me who make all this happen.
McAusland Music Christmas Concert
Last Saturday, 7 December, we had the third McAusland Music concert. After only two years in business, it was awesome to see so many students on stage, playing so wonderfully. We were able to enjoy the event in the beautiful Wilnecote Parish Hall, and we opened our doors for the first time to the general public. We had about 60 guests there to hear a wide range of musical styles (and quite a lot of Christmassy tunes). The guests were well fed with delicious food from Ann McAusland, and the event was captured in gorgeous detail by Heather McAusland's photography. I'm already putting together some ideas for the summer concert, so watch this space!
On Monday 9th December I was invited to the Tamworth Town Hall. When we arrived it was revealed that I had been nominated for the BE Tamworth award. This is an award that has been created to recognise people who put Tamworth on the map and help to publicise the great place that it is.
I'm really proud to live in Tamworth, to have set up my business here, and to be part of helping it grow as a hub of business, leisure and the arts.
The accolade was awarded in the gorgeous Tamworth Town Hall, in the historic centre of town. It was fabulous to gather with other people who are part of bringing attention to this town in all the right ways.
The Mayor, Richard Kingstone, presented the award and I had the honour of having Stuart and my boys there with me too.
Music Service and the Little Big Band
My mission as McAusland Music has always been to improve access to music. One of the things that Tamworth lacked when I set up McAusland Music was a way for total beginners to get into playing the saxophone or clarinet. Music provision at schools was simply not enough to meet the demand for children, and adults had little option. In recent months, though, I have been able to work with the local music service (run by Entrust) to start up a Little Big Band for junior musicians.
The Little Big Band had its first rehearsal earlier this month. I was really impressed by the way that this tenacious group of youngsters (all of them grade 3 or below) came together to make some impressive sounds on their first time. I'm very excited about upcoming rehearsals, and in seeing the band grow as we get the word out there. Working with Charlotte Garbett, manager of Tamworth Music Centre, is going to be a lot of fun and I'm really glad to have the opportunity to get this band together.
I have also started to branch out a little further and have been appointed into the Walsall Music Hub to work with some of their students as a music educator. I am excited to be working with other groups of young people across the region, making a difference to their futures and helping them to enjoy the passion of music.
Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Finalist
I was extremely honoured to have been nominated for the Sutton, Tamworth and Lichfield Chambers of Commerce Awards for 2019. I am even more excited to have been invited to the grand final event at The Belfry in January, as a finalist in the Small Business category.
This is steep competition, as 'small' businesses can have 50 employees. I am one of only two Tamworth businesses to have made the finals in this category, and I am overwhelmed to have been recognised as being in the same league as the other finalists.
Student Platform at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Often I write about the pleasure in seeking mastery in musicianship. All musicians can improve, and I am definitely including myself in this. You may know that I'm studying for a postgraduate Diploma in Jazz Performance at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC), and it is a very exciting but daunting course.
Part of the process is that I have to form my own band from the students at the RBC, then put on occasional showcases of my music. It's exhilarating to be able to design your own repertoire, recruit from a pool of the most talented musicians in the country, then stand under the spotlights in Birmingham's only purpose-built jazz club.
Last night, we played a set of three funk-inspired jazz pieces, paying tribute to three acts which shaped my musical life at pivotal times - Tom Scott, The Brecker Brothers, and Too Many Zooz. My magnificent band made the whole set buzz, and I can't wait to get stuck into the next event.
My love goes out to these super people and awesome musicians:
Gareth Howell (trumpet)
Maria Grapsa (keys)
Joe Kessell (bass)
Dan Wilby (percussion)