Nurturing talent through the joy of teaching music

Herald Series: Becoming self-employed opened doors to wider career development for Mel Houldershaw Becoming self-employed opened doors to wider career development for Mel Houldershaw

MUSIC is central to Mel Houldershaw’s life in almost every way.

She has been giving piano and recorder lessons to children and adults for almost a quarter of a century.

But most of the mother-of-one’s time is taken up with voluntary activities.

She is the driving force behind a number of local choirs and orchestras for adults and children, including the East Oxford Community Choir (EOCC).

It has won praise for its talent and enthusiasm and performs in prestigious venues, including Keble College chapel, Dorchester Abbey and the Holywell Music Room.

It all began in 1996 when she realised there was a real appetite for a community choir and she started EOCC.

She said: “Becoming self-employed gave me more flexibility and I realised I could start a choir, which was something I had been wanting to do for a while.

“I knew lots of people in the community and loved music, so it was a natural thing to do.

“My role is to see talent and encourage it.

It has expanded to now include seven- to 13-year-olds in the East Oxford Youth Choir.

Before becoming a music tutor, she was a qualified maths teacher and has a degree in maths and physics from the former Oxford Polytechnic, now Brookes.

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But the seeds of her future career were already there, as she was studying modules in music alongside the maths and science.

She taught maths to pupils at what was once Peers School, now Oxford Academy, for four years before swapping to a career in music.

The 50-year-old hops on her bike to make the journey to Summer Fields prep school in Summertown and Larkrise Primary School in East Oxford where she teaches music.

She describes her daughter Rhianna Johnson, 20, as “a bit of a miracle birth”. During her pregnancy, she developed the highly dangerous condition pre-eclampsia which led to her giving birth more than a month prematurely.

Ms Houldershaw, who lives in Sunningwell, also finds time to chair the Oxford Grenoble Association which is celebrating a quarter of a century of Oxford’s twinning with the French city this year.

There are strong links between the two places, including through their choirs. Ms Houldershaw and her fellow musicians have been known to serenade passengers on the TGV train between Paris and Grenoble, even when ‘off duty’.

She explained: “I believe in the power of music, in community and in doing it with soul.”

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