Like mother, like daughter: A Q&A with alumna and parent Claire Skipsey
For our students, Chetham’s School of Music is the first step on a musical journey that lasts a lifetime. To celebrate Mother’s Day, we spoke to Claire Skipsey who studied at Chetham’s from 1988 –1993 and now, nearly 30 years on, her daughter is studying here too!
Chetham’s is the UK’s largest specialist music school and the only one based in the North of England. Every year we welcome over 300 talented students from around the world and offer places based purely on musical potential and never the ability to pay; almost 90% of our students receive some form of financial support and a quarter do not pay any fees.
We asked Claire some questions about her time at Chetham’s
What does Chetham’s mean to you?
I have extremely fond memories of my time at Chet’s. I gained a place at the age of thirteen, moving across from my local secondary school. Music was always the subject in which I excelled and Chet’s enabled me to explore this to the full. I had great teachers, a good variety of ensemble and solo opportunities, and vast amounts of performances in some beautiful venues. I also loved the small class sizes and as a result was pushed academically. I always felt there was a real family feel to the school.
What was the best thing about your time at Chetham’s? Do you have any favourite memories?
Some of my favourite memories are from the music courses. I adored being a part of a massed choir and progressing to the orchestra in my senior years. I vividly remember my final concert at Chet’s, performing the 1st trumpet part of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra.
I also have really fond memories of the Christmas Music concerts in Manchester Cathedral. I loved playing the brass descant parts which soared over the top of the choir in the Cathedral acoustic.
I was a day student for most of my time at Chet’s and have fun memories of lots of the characters in day house and of the lovely Dr Donald who ran the house. We had lessons on what was called “ the bomb site” (where New College House is now located) in mobile classrooms.
I made a fantastic circle of like-minded friends at Chet’s, many of whom I’m still friends with today (via the power of social media).
What are you doing now?
I went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music. I then joined the Royal Air Force Central Band and toured the world for five years. I am currently Leader of Music at a secondary school on the outskirts of Bradford. I also teach brass privately and have had many students who have gone onto study at Chet’s and the major music colleges. I still perform, but for fun these days. I currently play with the Hammonds Brass Band, who have just qualified for the National Brass Band Championships at the Royal Albert Hall!
Tell us a little about your family link with Chetham’s – from being a student here yourself to being the mother of a current student.
With both myself and my daughter’s dad being very musical, we encouraged her to play from quite a young age. She took to playing the cornet really quickly and had a real thirst for doing well in music exams and performing in ensembles.
When looking at secondary schools, Chet’s was always my preferred option for her and when we looked around she stated “this is the school I want to go to”.
How do you feel that your daughter is following in your footsteps?
She is at a school that she will always be very proud of!! I have no doubt that she will come out of Chet’s a fantastic trumpet player and with great academic results.
How do you two share your passion for music?
We love to perform duets during the weekends and in the holidays. We both love to play in brass bands and often do this together. We also both share a passion for musical theatre. She loves to perform on the stage – I prefer to just watch these days!
How would you encourage other parents to get their children into music?
I think music is a real gift in a child’s life, it offers so many transferable skills that are invaluable. I think the best way of getting children enthused by music is making it fun! Take them to listen to concerts and shows aimed at kids. Get them lessons on their chosen instrument/voice and encourage them to join ensembles, compete in competitions, play in concerts, and complete music exams. Not only will they feel a huge sense of accomplishment and gain confidence, it will leave them with skills and a love of music that will continue for the rest of their lives.
We also asked Claire’s daughter some questions.
What’s your favourite thing about being at Chetham’s?
Playing in all the different groups and playing lots of styles of music. One day I’ll rehearse a brass quintet, the next day jazz and orchestra. I’ve also recently switched from cornet to trumpet, which I am really enjoying.
Do you and your mum make music together?
My mum taught me up until starting at Chet’s in September 2021. We both have a love of brass bands and we really enjoy playing duets and watching musical theatre shows together when I’m at home.
Photo: Claire’s daughter, a current Chetham’s student, holding a framed photo of her mother from when she was a student here herself.