Dawkes Music create some brilliant Learn to Play Day success stories!


Dawkes Music have been a great supporter of Learn to Play Day over the years, and they had the great idea of catching up with some new players who started their musical journeys at previous Learn to Play Day events.

Music for All’s mission is to make more musicians, and here Dawkes Music show us that the flagship event of the charity really does inspire people to open up to the world of music making.

Here’s how the musicians are getting on!

“Whatever your age, there’s nothing to stop you picking up an instrument and achieving your musical dreams!” Well said Jinny – over to you…

 “I saw an advertisement in the local paper in March 2012 inviting adults and children to take advantage of The National Learn to Play Day which was being supported by my local Woodwind Shop, Dawkes Music of Maidenhead.

I decided it was an opportunity (not to be missed) to try playing a clarinet, how would it feel? Will I manage to get a note out of it? I went along quite early on the Learn to Play Day; everyone in Dawkes Music was welcoming and the atmosphere was friendly and encouraging.

I had a 20 minute session (with the clarinet set up for me) with one of the staff and I’m still playing the clarinet 5 years later. Having achieved a few notes during the Learn to Play Day session I was completely hooked! With a hired clarinet from Dawkes (not expensive) I started weekly lessons in the April of 2012, joined the Dawkes/MyMusic monthly Sunday play group/band in the autumn and joined Windsor Community Orchestra in January 2013.

I am now working towards my Grade 5, which I plan to take in the Summer this year. It’s been great meeting other people who are enthusiastic about playing their favourite instrument, saxophones, oboes, flutes; well good for them but the one for me is definitely the clarinet!”

Here’s 13 year old Joshua with his story:

“When I was eight years old I wanted to play a musical instrument and I was very keen on the Saxophone. My Dad filled in the forms for me to have lessons at school however we received a note from the music teacher at school saying that I might be too small to play. The teacher suggested going to a music shop to try out some instruments to see if I was big enough. I visited Dawkes ‘Learn to Play Day’, trying out the Saxophone, Flute and Clarinet. The Saxophone was my favourite!

Jon at Dawkes helped me choose my first Alto Saxophone which was a Yamaha 280. I have been playing for about 3 ½ years now and worked very hard with my practising. I have passed my Grade 3, Grade 5 and Grade 6 ABRSM exams all with distinction. I also passed my Grade 5 ABRSM theory exam with a distinction at age 11. I am currently working on my Grade 8 ABRSM and will be taking the exam in the summer of 2016. I am also looking to audition for the Royal College of Music Junior Department.

I currently play in a number of different bands. At the High Wycombe Music Centre I play in the Senior Concert Band, Sax Choir and Big Band One. I am the youngest member of all three bands. At school I play in the First Wind Band and Swing Band. Jon at Dawkes helped me to upgrade my first Alto Saxophone from the Yamaha 280 and I now play a Yanagisawa AWO20. In addition, I play Tenor Sax in some of the bands and again Jon helped me choose which was the best instrument for me. I have a Yamaha YTS62 Tenor Saxophone.

I have played for the Woman’s Institute (WI), Rotary club, taken part in the Wycombe Orpheus competition as well as playing at the Albert Hall with the High Wycombe Music Centre. The highlight of playing the Saxophone was performing at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club which was amazing! I can’t wait to get a chance to go back again!”

Last but not least, here’s Heather:

“Following a chance conversation with a fellow participant on a pottery course, where I related that I had always wanted to learn the saxophone, I discovered that it was now quite affordable to hire a musical instrument on a monthly basis.

Armed with this nugget of information I started trawling the web in early 2016 for information to realise my re-awakened dream. However it was not until I found the ‘Learn to Play Day’ link on Dawkes website for March 2016 that I had the courage to visit a music shop with a view to trying out an instrument.

I booked myself in for two sessions; one for the clarinet and one for saxophone mainly on the grounds that the former was smaller and possibly less likely to annoy the neighbours if I did take it up. When the day came any fears I had were rapidly dispelled as each group was small (about 5-7 people as I recall), most of the participants were adults and it felt very relaxed as the tutor showed us how to prepare a reed and to handle the instrument. Almost before we knew it we were attempting the simple tunes of ‘Hot Cross Buns’ and ‘Three Blind Mice’.

I tried the clarinet first and then the saxophone session. I found the notes slightly easier to produce on the saxophone and the note fingering is at first similar to a descant recorder, reviving some memory from the only instrument I had played as a child.

After the sessions we were free to browse and try the instruments in the showroom. I initially planned on hiring an instrument – but ended up spending the whole afternoon in the shop and became smitten with a silver plated alto sax that I finally purchased in the closing minutes of the day.

I was lucky enough to find a teacher (through Dawkes) living not far from my home and have been taking weekly lessons ever since. After about 3-4 months I could play just about enough to join in the monthly ‘My Music’ session at Dawkes and even played with them for some pieces in the Henley Bandstand in the Summer. I (and my teacher) have worked ‘our’ way through most of one learner book and as well as some additional short pieces such as some James Rae short jazz works. I am now beginning to attempt some longer pieces. Among the current ones I have one piece that everyone knows on my practice list – “The Girl from Ipanema”. It is still an early work in progress, but I am further on than I might have thought when first playing Hot Cross Buns in March 2016!”