Congratulations to Jenny Henry who was nominated for the Passing It On – Educators’ Awards category. VOTE HERE
We asked her the following questions.
Tell us more about yourself
I’m a self-taught mandolinist who has played informally in Shetland for many years. I began teaching mandolin in May 2014 after Brian Nicholson of the High Level Music Centre in Lerwick eventually persuaded me that I was capable of doing it. High Level was moving to new, bigger premises and had room to expand and add more instruments to their teaching provision, so I agreed to teach part-time, in the evenings, and currently have pupils ranging in age from 11 to 70+.
Being the so-called ‘leader’ of the Shetland Mandolin Band is a voluntary role.
How long has your group been together?
The idea of a mandolin ‘orchestra’ has floated around for a few years when more than a few of us have been together in a session, but it was only after I began teaching and realised that there weren’t many sessions or group opportunities available for my pupils to attend, that weren’t dominated by fiddles, that I decided to try and set up what has become the ‘Shetland Mandolin Band’. I organised the first informal meeting in November 2015, and was delighted and surprised when 30 folk turned up with their mandolins, plus a guitar and double bass. We regularly have between 20 and 30 players attending our fortnightly get-togethers and usually have piano, bass and guitar accompaniment.
We welcome players of all abilities – no one is turned away – and try to provide easier parts and harmony lines etc that are suitable for the less-experienced players to pick up, although it’s not a teaching session and the beginners have to work hard and put in lots of practise. Non-music readers usually record the tunes they need to learn and we use social media a lot to share tunes. I also now base some of my teaching on the band’s very varied repertoire so my pupils benefit from that as well. We’re lucky to have the likes of Gary Peterson (Hom Bru) attending, which spurs on especially the younger players, and many in the group are accomplished musicians who have mandolin as a second (or even third) instrument, while others have emerged after years of playing ‘in the house’ to come along and enjoy tunes.
What have you/your group got planned for the next year?
We’re hoping to put on our own concert before the end of the year. We’ve got about 12 pieces that are up to performance level so we plan to invite a couple of other local acts and put on a show. Monies raised would possibly go towards the production of a CD, which has been requested by a few folk locally. We’re also hoping that we’ll be invited to take part in the 2018 Shetland Folk Festival so will be working on some new stuff for that. And we’ve had requests from some of the rural parts of Shetland to come and perform, but due to the numbers and logistics involved nothing has been confirmed as yet.
What has been the highlight of your journey thus far?
I think our performances and the audiences’ reaction at both our 2016 and 2017 Shetland Folk Festival appearances would have to be the highlights and made us realise that all the hard work learning and arranging tunes (some of which we might not necessarily like very much!) was very worthwhile. But seeing the diverse group of individuals come together and now be almost a ‘family band’ has been a personal highlight for me. New friendships have been made, there are now some of our older members who’ll meet for tunes on an afternoon, and those who’ll go for a pint! Seeing folk’s confidence grow, including my own, has also been very rewarding.
How does it feel to be nominated in this category?
I’m surprised and a bit embarrassed that someone has taken the time to nominate me, but I’m also grateful that they think I’m worthy of it. None of this would be happening without the support of the whole band though, so the nomination is really for us all.
Read more about Jenny Henry – Shetland Mandolin Band? at their website
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