Judith Ward

Student spotlight details

After taking over a small church choir Judith decided to enrol on our Composers' Workshop weekly classes. These gave her the confidence to explore new forms and promote her works more widely.

'I have been teaching music in secondary schools and to small groups of children for most of my career and had written several pieces for students over the years, but it was taking over a small church choir that got me writing music more seriously. A friend was already on the course and encouraged me to come along.

'It was so good to get back to academic study and it was fun to be a learner rather than a teacher for a couple of hours a week. The study topics shed new light on music I already knew and introduced me to more music. I enjoyed the variety of music that others on the course brought to the workshop sessions and I learned a lot from the feedback on their pieces. Particularly valuable was the supportive feedback from both the tutor and the course members on my own pieces. This helped the work in progress and also gave me confidence to write for different forces and explore new forms.

'Fellow class members not only brought their experience in different genres but also provided opportunities for me to play their music and for their associates to perform my music. They have taken my music to perform with other groups elsewhere in the UK and in France. This in turn has given me confidence to promote my works more widely.

'The biggest challenge on the course was finding the time to compose enough to get the most out of the feedback sessions. You can submit a short piece, get feedback, tweak things and then present an improved version. However, it is more valuable to start out on something more adventurous, safe in the knowledge that your tutor, an immensely experienced composer and teacher, will always guide rather than correct and that your colleagues will never be dismissive of your work as they will be in the hot seat themselves one day soon. You can take what you want from their advice and progress to the next stage.  A bit of support goes a long way and you do actually need someone to notice if your accompaniment figure accidentally sounds like the beginning of “Silent Night”.

'Future plans include writing a Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, as people in two choirs who have sung my music have suggested this and I’ve had sketches for these settings kicking around for a while. I have recently taken on a much larger church choir and am doing a lot of improvising on the organ, so it would be good to develop some of these improvisations, potentially for a collection of pieces for beginner to intermediate organ which an organist friend is compiling.

'I’d recommend anyone who already composes, even if only a little at present, to join the Composers’ Workshop. Going back to being a learner has been fun and the lovely brochures offering further fascinating courses have been hard to resist!'

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