Teacher focus: Charlotte Treadaway Jump to main content

Teacher focus: Charlotte Treadaway

“So let’s go: play me what you’ve practised this week.”

“Well I didn’t really get to practise because…”

Sound familiar?

There aren’t many vocations that can be described as challenging, infuriating, mildly soul destroying, rewarding, joy-inducing and inspiring in one sentence quite like teaching does. At aged 27, I have been teaching for 10 years across a broad range of abilities, instruments and institutions. From a humble music shop in Northamptonshire; to a rather sizeable house owned by a top lawyer; to a secondary school in a deprived area of the Welsh Valleys, I’ve experienced many different types of students, but yet they all have one thing in common: a love for music. In their own little way.

As a portfolio musician, teaching can be and has been the fundamental padding to my career to date, and is that way for many other musicians. Many just do it for financial reasons as there is always demand, but some do it more for personal reward and sense of achievement. For me, the latter has always prevailed. I currently teach students at a fantastic performing arts academy in Woolwich and privately in Essex.

I always aim to not just teach music for the sake of learning music, but to almost act as a life coach: I usually gain students at pivotal and influential points of their development and I feel it's extremely important to teach the fundamental principles of how working hard produces great results, and that it’s OK to get things wrong and to ask questions. That’s the difference between teaching and inspiring.

I took on a drum student last year who had already developed fantastic technique and was clearly playing at a high level. However, there was a problem: in order to get a scholarship to their desired secondary school, the student needed to know how to read music and to also have taken grade 5 - all in eight months. I admit, I thought (only for a moment) that it might be impossible, but we achieved it. I worked hard, they worked hard and most importantly, we both had the support of their mother, who not only made sure her child practised, but supported me too - which a lot of parents tend to forget.

As with any job, it hasn’t always been straightforward. There are plenty of students that I have had to walk away from because they didn’t practise, didn’t care for nor about my existence, and I never laid eyes on the parents. What’s the point? Maybe that’s a debate for another time. School lessons can also be a safe haven for forgotten PE kits or fake illness. I took a recent lesson where the student decided that it’d be more productive to rearrange the furniture while I sat there watching in horror. I have had to give many students ultimatums before they got themselves into gear and started practising (I have found that ultimatums work 98% of the time). I even had a student whose parent forced them to take an exam and they failed. Again, what’s the point of that? Music shouldn’t be a chore, it’s there to be enjoyed.

Anyway, I have arrived at my next lesson: a young drummer from Tilbury who has gone from being a shy child to a drumming powerhouse who’s just gained a merit in their grade 4, got to the finals of the school talent contest and joined the school band (I’ve just about picked myself off the floor in amazement about the latter). It may be 10am on a Sunday morning (and the last of my free time for the week) but that level of progression in a student is what makes teaching worth it.

Even if I can hear their panic practising as I walk up the path…

Charlotte Treadaway is a multi-instrumentalist, teacher and MD from London. She is also an ISM advocate and recently appeared on BBC Radio 5 to speak about the importance of music lessons.