“A Happy accident” is how Nigel Gatherer describes the start of his career in music. He grew up in a musical house in Edinburgh- his two older brothers were both guitarists. He recalls “As a child I’d sneak in to of their bedrooms to have a shot on the mandolin when they were out at night”.
He continues, “It became a passion at a young age, I’d play for hours on end in my room, but it was never serious, I thought I was completely wasting my time!” Leaving school, he moved to Dundee for art college. “Upon graduating I tried to give up music and get a proper job, and of course that didn’t work out”.
Moving back to Edinburgh, Nigel was playing informally in sessions and such, when the Scots Music Group got in touch, asking him to teach a mandolin class. His reaction: “No way, I could never do that”. But they persisted, and eventually he relented and agreed.
Taking this class, and publishing a book of folksongs that he’d collected during his student years in Dundee was the start of two paths that Nigel has followed ever since.
When he started teaching with the Scots music group, “something in me awoke” he says. “I just loved it. The teaching just grew and grew while everything else shrunk, until it became the main thing I was doing”. Of course this wasn’t the only thing though, he’s continued to publish books and learning resources of Scottish music, building up an amazing catalogue.
With his classes for the Scots Music Group in Edinburgh growing and growing, Glasgow Fiddle Workshop got in touch. It hadn’t long started, and they were looking for the first time to expand beyond solely offering fiddle tuition. With his newly-found passion for teaching, Nigel was there.
Now, some years later, the Glasgow Fiddle Workshop has celebrated its 25th anniversary, and has grown far beyond the size it was when Nigel joined, offering classes to adults and children, from across the ability spectrum, in a range of instruments. Now the lead tutor, he remains a driving force behind its success: It’s emphasis on learning by ear, welcoming of beginners, minimising barriers to participation, employing high quality tutors, and a real community focus, particularly for adult learners.
He says: “People coming to the music is a bit like them discovering an oasis in the middle of a desert. I see it all the time, people whose lives who have changed from coming to the Glasgow Fiddle Workshop and Scots music group. Its not just the music but also the social side of it. People look forward to seeing the tutors and their fellow classmates and friends. I think that’s mainly why we’re still here, we’ve managed to turn so many people on to music. It happens all the time little groups forming and doing their own thing. Its like a contagion but in a good way”.
The big thing is to make sure that the music is fun: “I encounter a lot of retired people who’ve been put of music when they were young. Now with the connections they make, often after coming to the music again later in life, they are saying “I don’t know how I had time to work!” There’s no doubt that life wouldn’t be the same for these participants had Nigel managed to give up on music and get a “proper job!”