Mary fin­ishes on high note

TPHS teacher looks back on 3 decades of tune­ful tu­ition

Te Puke Times - - Front Page - By STU­ART WHI­TAKER [email protected]­

When mu­sic teacher Mary Gen­tle start­ing work­ing at Te Puke High School, she didn’t have a whole lot of re­sources.

“When I came here I ba­si­cally found a room, a pi­ano and half a drum kit, a cou­ple of vi­o­lins and a flute in a cup­board and a box of re­sources,” she says.

“The first thing I did was chuck out ev­ery­thing that had pounds, shillings and pence on it.”

How times have changed. Mary is re­tir­ing at the end of this term, leav­ing a very healthy mu­sic de­part­ment in the hands of Josh Crump with whom she has shared mu­sic teach­ing du­ties this year.

“It was re­ally start­ing with noth­ing, then you look at it now, with all the thou­sands of dol­lars worth of equip­ment that has been built up over time.”

The first thing she did was to get more in­stru­ments “so we could ac­tu­ally have the chil­dren play­ing stuff”.

“The first prize­giv­ing I was here for, we had the first lit­tle band of, I think, eight kids play­ing — and it’s grown over the years.”

Around 15 years ago a ma­jor build­ing pro­ject meant the cre­ation of a mu­sic suite.

“And mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion has changed over the years and I’ve had to change with it.

“I grew up with a clas­si­cal back­ground and [30 years ago] there was still this no­tion of old­fash­ioned clas­si­cal mu­sic, the­ory etc. But I’ve al­ways had a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to that. We don’t learn by the­ory, we learn by do­ing and play­ing.”

Now there are three lev­els of mu­sic study in the school and the mu­sic room is in use vir­tu­ally ev­ery pe­riod.

“We have a con­cert band and we’ve also had groups do­ing cham­ber mu­sic com­pe­ti­tions and had stu­dents in­volved in con­certs, we’ve had pi­anists and singers and just re­cently had the band tour of pri­mary schools.”

Huge ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy have changed the mu­sic teach­ing land­scape im­mea­sur­ably.

“[Josh] has been amaz­ing with the tech­nol­ogy and that’s a huge thing — Mac com­put­ers, a suite of other com­put­ers, Google class­room, sound files — and he’s taught me heaps — it’s a bit sad be­cause I’m just feel­ing I’m get­ting my head around all this.

“How kids com­pose songs and how kids per­form with back­ing tracks — it’s all chang­ing. You can’t say one [way] is right and one’s wrong — it’s all chang­ing to suit the needs of the stu­dents and that’s the big thing.”

Mary says that over her years at the high school only a hand­ful of stu­dents have gone on to have ca­reers in mu­sic.

“But how many stu­dents have there been that mu­sic has been a sig­nif­i­cant part of their life?

“I have en­gi­neers who come back and see me and say ‘I’m play­ing in a band in Dunedin, or I’m do­ing this or that — not many kids go on and have a ca­reer in mu­sic, but mu­sic, like drama and dance, en­riches lives.

“I’ve seen kids per­form or learn a piece of mu­sic and it has be­come their thing. They might not be sporty but maybe into one of the arts and the whole arts thing helps cre­ate a whole per­son and I think that’s some­thing we are over­look­ing now with this fo­cus on ca­reers.”

The pro­duc­tions that have been staged over the years have been among the highlights, as have see­ing tal­ented stu­dents grow.

“You get so much sat­is­fac­tion from see­ing what the stu­dents can do. Stu­dents come into Year 9 from var­ied back­grounds — a lot have had [no mu­sic teach­ing] — boys es­pe­cially — and all of a sud­den they are putting things to­gether and play­ing with drum beats and their par­ents are ring­ing me and say­ing can you teach them an­other song please.”

Mary says she is happy to help out with mu­sic at the school, even in re­tire­ment.

I’ve seen kids per­form or learn a piece of mu­sic and it has be­come their thing. They might not be sporty but maybe into one of the arts and the whole arts thing helps cre­ate a whole per­son ...

— MARY GEN­TLE Re­tir­ing TPHS mu­sic teacher


Mary Gen­tle is re­tir­ing af­ter teach­ing mu­sic at Te Puke High School for 32 years.

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