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Farewell Jeff

14 Apr 2023
Old Boy News
Jeffrey Black (1979) resigns as Director of Music.
Jeffrey Black (1979) resigns as Director of Music.

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Class of 1979

After almost a decade on staff as Director of Music, Old Boy Jeffrey Black (1979) has resigned and is returning to England. Here, Jeffrey reflects on his Churchie journey which first started as a Year 5 student in 1972. Jeffrey will be missed by all and we wish him well in his future endeavours.

‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.’ Heraclitus

Some months ago, in talking to a fellow staff member, I was reminded of this quote. As it is with the river and with man, so too, institutions. It is now just over half a century since I first set foot on campus at Churchie as a shy, slightly awkward nine-year-old boy. Much has changed, and yet much remains constant. I could not have predicted that my life would come full circle and I would be afforded the privilege of revivifying and leading the music department of my alma mater. In my day, the then director of music, only half-jokingly, said any guitar or guitarist within fifty yards of the music department, then housed in Darnell, would be shot and questions only asked later. Also, back in those days, boy sopranos played all the girls’ roles in the annual musical. I did not get to play my first male role until Year 10—I had already been at the School for five years!

Perceptions, expectations, and social mores of the day are decidedly different. Churchie has always prided itself on the way boys and staff communicate and interact with one another. Not the formality of Tom Brown’s Schooldays but a willingness to see both sides—pupil and staff—as something more than a clinical anodyne teaching model, notwithstanding the occasional misstep in communicating with staff without using a proper email salutation ('Hey Sir’ or ‘Hey’).

During my time here at Churchie, I loved my sport, playing football, rowing, and track and field. Other than captaining my football team, I did not reach the top level of sports but enjoyed them, nonetheless. These passions were able to co-exist with my more obvious skills and talents in music and drama. For me, one of the gratifying aspects of my near-decade at the helm has once more revived that complete Churchie young man where all of one’s interests can be pursued without a difficult choice being made as exemplified by the statue at the southern end of The Flat. The pursuit of excellence in academia, sports fields and concert platforms are the sine qua non of a full vibrant life at Churchie.

Churchie Music is extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated team of teachers, instrumental tutors and conductors. Without their efforts, the music department as it proudly stands now, could not have been achieved. Involvement in the programme has quadrupled in the last 10 years. The growth in the strings programme under Mr Hooper has been transformed into a powerhouse. Mr Davison’s expertise in leading the band/jazz programme has produced stunning results. Mrs Oxenford has diligently applied herself in engaging young men to sing confidently and without reservation in the Choral programme. This last one is still a work in progress. When I arrived, I had hoped that by the time I left, my singing at Headmaster’s Assembly would be drowned out by the one thousand boys singing lustily—regrettably not the case.

The genesis of the instrumental programme in the Prep School, with the immersion programme, now means every boy in Years 3, 4 and 5 has the experience of playing an instrument and continuing with their studies into senior school. Churchie has a Symphony Orchestra of which it can be proud, numbering about fifty players. In addition, the many bands, string orchestras and choirs, both auditioned and unauditioned, provide ample opportunities for the boys to find a ‘home, that best suits their musical preferences.

Classroom music has strengthened with much greater academic rigour, and Ms Pearse and Mr Kriesch have worked tirelessly to bring this to fruition. The introduction of the International Baccalaureate during my tenure has been another contributing factor to this aspiration of engaging young minds in a challenging academic environment.

Despite my best efforts, the Performing Arts Complex is not yet built but is now closer to fruition than at any other time in Churchie’s existence. In this too, I am comforted by another favourite quote, made popular by John Lennon: ‘Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.’

Thank you to the Churchie community—parents, boys, Old Boys, fellow members of staff and the Headmaster—for entrusting the music programme into my hands a decade ago when I returned from London.

A sincere thank you to all and goodbye.

Jeffrey Black
Director of Music

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