I received a parcel from my Teacher from far away land yesterday. And it was Teacher’s Day (for those in Malaysia). How awesome is that?
Although I had been informed that the book was on it’s way to Kuala Lumpur, I had forgotten about it. This turned out to be an unexpected yet very pleasant surprise!
And I was brought to remember yet another Teacher, an angel sent from heaven who watched over me. I was 17 and on my own in faraway land trying to grow up and fend for myself in a less than friendly world.
I was pursuing a music diploma with a private tutor on the other side of town while studying for my “A Levels” in boarding school. Mrs Fairbank was the loveliest Teacher anyone could ever have.
And if for some reasons she happens to be reading this, I want to reach out personally and say thank you. I have not forgotten you although I lost your contacts. And I would love to be in touch again!
Mrs Fairbank loaned me her spare bike so I could cycle to Bayston Hill instead of take the public bus (inflexible time schedules). That was sometimes an uphill climb but it was good training for the young lassie.
Winter time, when it gets dark at 4pm and my fingers would freeze after cycling, Mrs Faibank would put on the record player (sorry we did not have ipods nor CD player nor walkmen then) and we would have a cup of hot English tea so I could warm my fingers before lesson proper. Tea has been comforting ever since.
And as we listened to the pieces, Mrs Fairbank would explained music analysis and interpretation while Mr Fairbank would be checking my bike and oiling it to make quite sure that everything was working just fine.
I remember the Fairbanks coming to pick me up from school in their truck and we would go into town for the local concerts (I could not leave school compound without a chaperon even though I was a six former). They would then drive me back again after concerts. There was warmth and care in a cold and foreign land!
I vividly remember one day Mrs Fairbank asked me to get ready for the weekend as she wanted to take me out to the woods. She specifically asked me to come prepared in “boots”.
I respectfully followed instructions and came ready in boots; my brand new high heel Debenhem leather boots – the only pair of boots I have then. Mrs Fairbanks laughed her head off when she saw me in my outfit. She had of course meant them Wellington boots!
That weekend instead of walking in the woods, we ended up just sitting on the grass and chatted while Mr Fairbank raced the dogs with the truck.
Occasionally, Mrs Fairbank would also ask me to babysit her 2 little ones backstage while Mr and Mrs Fairbank rehearsed (they both played in the local chamber orchestra). I think that is just an excuse for me to be with them so I can soak in the music.
Once I even saw my Physics Teacher playing second violinist in a local concerts. Mr Batho told me only the brightest people play music. He was of course right! He was my homeroom teacher, another very nice Teacher who allowed me to sit in on his Year I class as I needed to do lots of catching up. Life was a mixture of challenges, disappointments and fun.
Why am I telling you this? That was a particularly challenging year for me. First time away from home, alone in a foreign land without a friend, left the school I had enrolled in to study (not part of the plan) and was trying to squeeze in 2 years of A Level preparations into 9 months of study while preparing for my diploma examination to be taken at the Royal College of Music in London. This is a part of me I have not talked much about.
To make a long story short, I did not make the practical. I froze when I saw all 3 stern looking elderly examiners in the exam room. All preparation went out of the window. My fingers would not co-operate. My mind went blank. Viva voce? I could not find words to express what I wanted to say.
Across the street, I wandered into Kensington Garden (or was it Hyde Park?) after the practical. Mrs Fairbank was trying to encourage me over the phone form the Midlands (she had asked me to give her a call right after the exam). That was a very expensive call as she could not get one word out of my mouth as I was busy swallowing tears.
Summer came and I left. Yet I could not have come this far without the Fairbanks. In fact I could not have continued studying music without their help because I had no instrument to practice on after I left boarding school.
Mrs Faibank taught me how to practise using my mind and my imagination and with my fingers on the desk. The Fairbanks later found me a family I could stay with that would not mind me practising at least 3 hours a day. Trust me, this can be torturous to your ears!
Between school work, practice and concerts somehow I managed to learn about the more fundamental things in life; like why Mrs Fairbank was a lacto ovo vegetarian and why she used Oxfam cards.
l have been very fortunate to have great Teachers like the Fairbanks in my life. They not only taught me, but truly inspired me. Mrs Fairbank taught me that failure in an instance need not stop me from moving forward and that I should continue to embrace and enjoy music as a part of my life. This Teachers’ Day I feel very very thankful for having inspirational teachers in my life.
To all Teachers, Mentors and Coaches out there who have inspired your students, I salute you! And I would that your inspiration will carry through to those we teach.
Thank you Mr and Mrs Fairbank. And yes I still remember what you say. I will not give up on music. Although never made the performers’ list, I had since led choirs, accompanied, taught, made music, arranged (somewhat) and even took up a second instrument while at Uni because you continue to inspire me and I continue to fall in love with music.
If you know of someone who know John and Sarah Fairbank from the Midlands, I would appreciate it if you could pass this onto them. Thank you so much!