How Little Notes came about

Our Little Notes journey is reaching it’s 12th anniversary and so I’ve taken a moment to look back at the story so far. The Little Notes story now contains so many more chapters than we ever anticipated and has given us huge amounts of joy to reflect on. It’s become part of the fabric of our family life, with Little Notes evolving into a Family Business in so many ways. Our own family has become the backbone to our research and development, as well as being our raison d’aitre for Little Notes.

Over the last 12 years, running our own business has enabled us to juggle being close at hand for our daughters. It wasn’t necessarily straightforward to run 3 classes and then pop home to breastfeed a baby, but it was at least possible! I might have needed to sneak out early from every school assembly I’ve ever been to, in order to run the half-mile up the road to open the doors for my first class, but I’ve been there! We’ve both appreciated sharing the early parenting and our girls were each able to enjoy having 1:1 time with each parent at home during their early years.

We are frequently asked what it’s like to work together. Well, the truth is that we’re not actually in a room together for very long! For the first 10 years of Little Notes, we had our own little one(s) at home so the whole project became designed around one of us being able to be at home all the time. Admittedly that one was frequently negotiating work calls and emails around naptimes, as well as preparing for any forthcoming concerts that are still a vital part of our musical lives. I have hazy memories of booking in new clients while my 3-day-old napped and also discussing one of our most successful venue collaborations whilst cooking a stir-fry for my children’s tea! Working from home isn’t all coffee breaks and lie-ins.

But working together has enabled us to dream together and this has definitely made for a more exciting and colourful journey. We’ve been able to encourage one another to work to our strengths, (it’s been a joy to see Mark launch our Build An Opera project, for example) and we’ve definitely benefitted from each other’s areas of expertise. For example, we each listen to music very differently and it’s been a lot of fun conjuring up creative ways for our families to enjoy the music that we select for the classes. We have both thoroughly enjoyed the excuse to rethink the whole concept of responding to music, spending hours ploughing through hundreds of recordings, asking ourselves how a child might hear these sounds for the very first time and encouraging one another to break down any barriers in the way that we present these sounds. We have built on our privileged experiences as professional musicians, knowing the joy to stand on an opera stage or to craft chamber music before an educated audience, but we have fought to bring our understanding to a place that presumes no prior knowledge of musical styles or genres other than the desire to respond. In doing so, we have both found fresh joy in making music: not just in the Little Notes class but in our own performances too. Little Notes families have led us in rediscovering the wonder that is Music and the unbounded joy that it brings.

We’ve also had a lot of fun writing songs for the classes. A particular highlight must be our popular Tidy Away song, that we wrote spontaneously one summer holiday! Surrounded by our team of unwilling children, we decided to take a leaf from our own book and use music to change the atmosphere. It worked! As a family, we tidied together whilst creating the melody for Tidy Away and we do believe many families have thanked us since. It was a wonderful moment when we were visiting friends in North London and we overheard another family tidying up to that very tune.

Over these years, we have learnt again what it is to share our music at a most intimate level. Time and time again, we have met with the wonder of a tiny child, hearing the sound of our instrument for the very first time. I imagine it might be a similar experience to communicating with a Martian for the first time! This child, not yet able to speak, connects with a gaze of wonder as an instrument seems to be speaking joy to their hearts. We have witnessed this so many times and, each time, these moments bring the deepest joy to us.

Like most family journeys, there has also been a lot of crazy! Every Little Notes parent recognises the times when the children are discovering our topic of the day and a child or two can manage to take conversation onto the most extreme tangent, causing the leader to work rather hard to bring us all back on course! Crazy also comes along in the form of dancing, rollercoaster bumping or incredibly noisy dragons.

When we started on this journey, it was important to us that we would be building community. As a young mum, with a husband who was often away on tour, I quickly saw the importance of having other people around me. Our supportive families were an incredible resource to us in those early years and frequently kept us going in our hours of need. We have always been community people, loving to connect and live life amongst others. When we first started out, the current culture of variety of activities for very young babies was only beginning. I found that most activities would only welcome my baby once she was on the move, but I knew that we would both benefit from activities we could enjoy together before then. My heart was for a place where families could experience joy together, as a tonic to the dross (only occasionally, of course!)  of feeding, changing and tidying the house! Dreaming of a place where families could be encouraged to play together, welcomed to come just as they are, was high on the list of priorities. We hope to keep dreaming this dream and are trying our best to welcome those who cross our path but are encouraged by the steps we’ve taken and affirmed by the crazy numbers of families that have journeyed with us. There are so many families who have been with us for years and years: parents and grandparents remaining at Little Notes with their second and subsequent children. We are blown away by this and just so touched that they invest in Little Notes as such a key part of their family life.  We find it incredible that some of our very first Little Notes babies are still coming back every week, in their teenage years, to prepare for their Grade 8 recorder.

Looking back to April 11th 2005, I remember a day when we’d decided to just test the water and run some classes at our local Arts Centre, to see if there were any other families who might enjoy sharing live music with their children. That same day started with the spots of chicken pox plastered all over our toddler and the swift cancelling of her plans to come along too! That day when smiling faces just kept coming through the door and I have never known so much love in one room. That day when a lot of people at our local arts centre had said yes. I’m just so very glad that we gave it a go!

It has been incredible to be joined on the journey by some other awesome musicians who have come to work with us. This new chapter, of seeing Little Notes grow across our nation, is incredibly exciting and we know that we can now dream of seeing many more families experience the wonder of live music, right from the start. Do you know somebody who you think might like to look at joining the team? Simply drop us a line or, give us a call.