A genuine ‘pandemic positive’, Rose Martin’s role was born out of the Music Department’s desire to help with the significant blow the Covid crisis struck to music in schools. 18 months later, Rose has seen music start to flourish again in the partner schools she works with. We managed to squeeze into her busy schedule and ask her how she heard about the opportunity to be involved in the Music Partnerships project at Radley. 

I joined in April 2021, right in the middle of Covid – a strange time! The role came about because, during Virtual Radley, Sam (Gladstone, Director of Music) had begun a series of online music assemblies with local schools. These became ever more popular at a time when many schools were grateful for help with the music curriculum. Sam had lots of ideas and needed another pair of hands to realise some of the ambitions he had. I have always been a freelance musician: teacher, conductor and singer and I’d recently found myself in Oxford (my partner and I live on a boat, we’re just heading into our eighth winter onboard!) so I was looking for something in the local area, having previously worked in London.

What appealed to you about the role?

It sounded really interesting and dynamic. In some of my teaching roles it was only really possible to share quality music with a class of 30 at a time and I loved the idea of having an opportunity to make even more of an impact. Music is an incredible way to connect with people – it’s my passion and I love to share it, so the idea of being able to do so with a wider community was really appealing.

How did you go about establishing relationships with local schools and building a foundation for the partnership work you and Sam had in mind?

Through a huge number of cups of coffee! I didn’t know any of the schools in the Abingdon area at all, so I spent the first term making contacts, visiting the local schools, sticking my head into Staff Rooms and chatting to teachers. Covid had really decimated musical opportunities in many schools, so I found that anyone who cared about music at that time was ready for someone to turn up and lend a hand.

How have you found working at Radley and representing the College, although you’re not based onsite full-time?

It’s incredible to see how much gets done within the boarding culture. It’s very interesting to observe, in terms of a hierarchy of needs, many of the boys and staff’s needs are met – lunch is provided, accommodation might be provided, in the case of the boys there’s no long commute to and from school, no list of kit and books to remember to bring for a full day at school – so therefore there’s more capacity built in to achieve other things. Those baseline things are quietened so you can concentrate on the things you want to do, be it academic, music, sport, drama. I work in state schools in addition to my role here and I’m able to observe what works in the different environments and transfer ideas both ways. The opportunities for cross-pollination are really rich.

Schools needed a dramatic injection of energy into music post-pandemic. Music and music teachers had been suppressed by so many restrictions, and it needed to be stimulated again.

Do you have a highlight from your time here?

So far, probably the Music Flood 2021. One of the things I really like about Radley is that it’s such a dynamic and pragmatic place. Your ideas are welcomed and supported and you’re encouraged to carry them out!

Tell us how the first Music Flood Week in September 2021 came about.

When I first arrived Sam and I knew that schools needed a dramatic injection of energy into music post-pandemic. Music and music teachers had been suppressed by so many restrictions, and it needed to be stimulated again. Sam and I felt the moment was right to launch something to give local schools a boost with their music provision and get children excited about music again. It was challenging – we had grand plans, but we didn’t know if any of them would be allowed or if schools would be able to sign up, given all the continuing Covid restrictions. We had the idea of a Music Flood – music in every school, every day for one whole week – and we were given the go-ahead to do it. That was wonderful and it’s a credit to the culture of Radley – we had the idea and before we knew it, we were doing it.

How did Music Flood 2022 go?

It was a total joy! We are definitely feeling the benefits of all of the groundwork we did last year. In 2021 four schools joined us in Abingdon Market Place at the end of the week. They certainly made their presence felt and it was an amazing afternoon. But this year we had ten schools: around six hundred children and it was incredible! Radley boys performing with the Hackney Colliery Band, to hundreds of excited children was a great sight.

What’s the best bit of your job?

Making music! The positivity music spreads is infectious for everyone: we did a folk workshop earlier this year which included getting the children to dance a ceilidh, but it was one of the teachers who said to me they hadn’t had this much fun in months! The planning, organising, relationship building: it all crystallises in these moments of joy and human connection.