The Oban Times - - LEISURE -

FOR a small In­ner He­bridean is­land with a pop­u­la­tion of not much more than 700, Tiree has pro­duced an in­or­di­nate num­ber of ac­cor­dion­ists, not least those play­ing in West Coast bands Skip­in­nish, Sk­er­ryvore and Gunna Sound, and in up-and­com­ing young out­fits such as Trail West and Dùn Mòr.

Much of the credit must go to Gor­don Con­nell, a self-taught pi­ano- ac­cor­dion­ist whose en­thu­si­asm for the mu­sic and ded­i­ca­tion as a teacher in­spired 100 ac­cor­dion­ists on the is­land which has been his home since 1962.

Voted Mu­sic Tu­tor of the Year in the 2010 Scots Trad Mu­sic Awards, Gor­don first ar­rived on the is­land to take up a post as his­tory and, later, mod­ern stud­ies teacher at Cor­naig­more School – now Tiree High School – and by 1970 he was teach­ing ac­cor­dion there.

‘Gor­don is quite dif­fer­ent to any other mu­sic tu­tor I’ve ever had,’ says Daniel Gille­spie, ac­cor­dion­ist with folk-rock­ers Sk­er­ryvore. ‘It’s un­be­liev­able how nat­u­ral teach­ing is to him and how much pa­tience he has. Gor­don would be first to say that he’s not a world- class ac­cor­dion player but he is a world- class teacher. And he’s never taken a penny for his teach­ing.’

He re­tired from the school in 1996, but was per­suaded to carry on teach­ing ac­cor­dion by his pupils’ en­thu­si­asm. So far as his own play­ing is con­cerned, he de­clares sim­ply that ‘teach­ing young­sters who are about to over­take you is mo­ti­va­tion enough for me to keep prac­tis­ing and try­ing to learn new tunes. I wouldn’t re­ally class my­self as a player.

‘I guess the most sat­is­fy­ing thing for me is see­ing my stu­dents progress – some to form their own bands – at least four of them are mak­ing a liv­ing from their mu­sic and a cou­ple of oth­ers are ban­dlead­ers with day jobs, but ex­tremely com­pe­tent just the same. What still mo­ti­vates me is the great re­sponse I get from my stu­dents. They’re all fan­tas­tic peo­ple and a pleasure to teach.’

Tiree, he adds, is ‘a small and friendly com­mu­nity. Most of my for­mer stu­dents still keep in touch – many of them I count as friends.’

Tra­di­tional Mu­sic Hall of Fame Gor­don Con­nell.

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