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Teacher lauds the power of music on children

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Marjorie Pettit, who has been teaching music for almost 60 years (Photograph by Sékou Hendrickson)

A music teacher with nearly 60 years in education said she had seen the “profound effect” her craft could have on the lives of her students.

Marjorie Pettit, 81, whose pupils included people who became politicians and civil servants, said learning music developed discipline, confidence and intelligence.

She added that, while not every child could become a master, they could benefit greatly from exposure to the arts.

Ms Pettit said: “I can tell you that if a child is bright and determined then they will succeed wherever they are.”

Ms Pettit, who is originally from Scotland but lives in Pembroke, has worked in public and private schools throughout Bermuda before starting her own private study in 1987.

She has taught several key figures, including Derrick Binns, who ran the Public Service as part of a nearly 40-year career.

She runs the Bermuda Chamber Choir and the Bermuda School of Music’s Youth Choir alongside her music studio.

Marjorie Pettit, who has been teaching music for almost 60 years (Photograph by Sékou Hendrickson)

Ms Pettit said that music was “a very difficult mode of study” and, because of it, “if any child is drawn to it and they persevere, they’re definitely going to benefit from it”.

She said that music education tended to create “highly intelligent people” because the craft required multitasking, the ability to read sheet music and sometimes reading in multiple languages.

Ms Pettit: “I think that for any child with just normal intelligence, the study of music is going to enhance that. It’s just going to make them brighter.

“I’m positive of that, because they have to learn to accept a very, very complicated language – the language of music – and they have to allow themselves discipline, because they’ve got to do it themselves.

“Nobody’s going to learn it for them.”

Ms Pettit said that she had seen successful pupils build up their discipline, focus, organisation skills and confidence over time.

She added that the study of different musical styles also exposed children to different cultures and helped them to become more worldly.

Ms Pettit said that classes could be good for finding friends and building social skills.

She explained: “If they’re in a group, say in a choir, then you don’t need to spend a penny to be in that choir because nature has given them a voice.

“Therefore, to use that voice in a choir, they’re going to become socially aware of other people and enjoy being in a group activity.

“If they do not have the finances to afford an instrument, they can join in a group where they experience beautiful music.”

Ms Pettit recommended starting children off in music at about the age of 7 or 8.

She advised parents to let their children choose which instruments they wanted to practise.

Ms Pettit also warned parents to keep in mind how much support would be needed on their part.

She said: “The kid can’t do it on their own. The parents really need to check that a certain amount of practice is being accomplished.”

Ms Pettit added that, although there was a “healthy” amount of music education in schools, she hoped to see a push for more choral classes in primary schools.

The Bermuda School of Music’s Summer Concert, directed by Ms Pettit, will take place tomorrow and Saturday from 7.30pm in St John’s Church in Pembroke.

It will feature the Bermuda Chamber Choir and Orchestra and the Bermuda School of Music’s Youth Choir.

Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased at ptix.bm.

From Scotland to Pink Shores

Marjorie Pettit moved to Bermuda in 1966 after graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a focus in piano.

She admitted that she had “no idea about Bermuda whatsoever”, even wearing a tweed jacket when she arrived in September thinking the weather would be cool.

She had a position at Prospect Primary School, which was recently desegregated, making her one of the few White teachers there.

Ms Pettit said that she was the school’s first music specialist — a role that was “basically unheard of” prior to her involvement.

She explained: “They would have someone teaching music who could perhaps play the piano.

“They had good musicians of course, but they weren’t primarily specialists – maybe one or two in the private schools but certainly not in the public schools.”

Ms Pettit said that the school did not have much in the way of instruments, but she was able to get them several recorders to teach them scales.

She added that, despite the lack of resources, pupils took to music like “ducks to water”.

Ms Pettit later met her husband, Anthony, a Latin teacher at Saltus Grammar School, in 1967.

The pair married in 1969 and had their first child, Andrew, in 1970, when Ms Pettit left teaching for about a year.

She returned to the profession in 1972, this time in Saltus’s music department for 16 years before she opened her own base for tuition.

Through her studio, Ms Pettit worked with groups such as Gilbert & Sullivan, the Bermuda Music Festival, and the Bermuda School of Music.

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Published June 13, 2024 at 7:55 am (Updated June 13, 2024 at 7:54 am)

Teacher lauds the power of music on children

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