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In The Spotlight > In The Spotlight > In The Spotlight: John Mower

In The Spotlight: John Mower

John Mower (1984-2021)
John Mower (1984-2021)

What did you do before you worked at BMS?

I began teaching at BMS in 1984, having taught for a year in Essex. Before that I attended the Royal Academy of Music in London for four years, studying both the organ (with Martindale Sidwell and Alan Harverson) and piano (with Fiona Cameron) alongside my academic studies. I then trained at the Institute of Education, London University.

Julie and I were married in 1985 with Andrew (Roo) and Rachel born in 1988 and 1991 respectively.

Tell us about what you do now. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Since retiring at the end of the 2020/21 academic year I have been kept busy musically by playing for various church services and accompanying students in both concerts and exams. This is in addition to my grandad duties (Edie is four and Joss has just turned one). It’s been lovely to have the time to spend in the garden, going for walks with my wife, or simply visiting friends and family (when allowed), although I still feel slightly guilty when this is done during 'school time'. I have also started some voluntary work at the Chicksands vaccination centre, meeting and greeting people coming for their COVID jabs.

Tell us about your time at BMS. Do you have any special memories? Who had an impact on you?

After 37 years at BMS there are far too many memories to write about here. When I first arrived at the school the Staff Common Room was filled with big characters including DG “Digger” Roberts, Tony Sampson, Andrew Wilson, Colin Furneaux, Dave Berry, Nigel Chinneck, Richard Chadwick et al. There was a smokers’ corner and it was just bad luck if you didn’t smoke (I didn’t) as it seemed to be an accepted part of the day to light up and fill the room with acrid fumes.

A number of us were 'trained' to drive the school coach (this involved going round the block with the Regimental Sargeant Major to make sure we didn’t hit anything!). Several concert trips were undertaken to London using the coach with either Clive Simmonds or myself on driver duty. How I was allowed to drive the coach to Dover (it was an old United Counties single-decker) to collect foreign exchange students, I will never know! The look of amazement (or was it disgust?) on the faces of the French students was something to behold as they jumped aboard for the painfully slow trip back to Bedford.

At the start of my BMS career I was extremely lucky to work with Clive Simmonds as his assistant, alongside the legendary Felix Manning. They both taught me so many things, as did Felix’s successor, Simon Cartledge. As well as my music responsibilities I was also a Head of Year and, later on, one of the Heads of Sixth Form alongside Ernest Carwithen and John Ryan.

When Clive retired I eventually took over as the Director of Music and was lucky enough to work with some wonderful, and inspirational, full-time colleagues including David Shoukry, Geoff Lavery, Matt Gooch, Matt Rees, Danielle Derry and, of course, the current Director of Music, Mary Perry. Not forgetting the many Visiting Music Teachers who trained the students in their instrumental and vocal studies over the years and, of course, Maria Coles, Ann Milburn and Madeleine Pettit who undertook the administration of the Department. I’ve always regarded the Music Department as being a big team, and our greatest successes have been as a result of the team working together whether that be in concerts, services or productions.

My biggest motivation has always been the students, and I have been fortunate enough to teach some of the most delightful young people over the years, many of whom have gone on to become professional musicians or have careers linked to the music industry. I have also been incredibly lucky to work alongside Helen Rees-Bidder, Laura Coleman, Rachael Bradley and the rest of what was the Drama Department (and is now called the Performance Arts Faculty) in many highly acclaimed musical theatre productions.

I am extremely proud of the concerts we have performed and the fact that BMS now has a thriving four part School Choir and also a smaller Chamber Choir with both boys and girls singing alongside one another. When I joined BMS the choir was made up of Year 7 boys who formed the treble line whilst the other parts were performed by the adult Musical Society members. I’m also pleased that we have broadened the musical landscape with the inclusion of jazz and more contemporary styles (as witnessed in the House Music Competition and Open Mic Night).

Are there any other thoughts you would like to share with the OBM and BMS Community?

As I said in my leaving speech I have been incredibly lucky to work in such a happy environment with so many lovely young people. I am proud that I was able to build on the musical legacy of Fred Rawlins and Clive Simmonds, and know that under Mary Perry’s guidance the musical life of BMS is in very safe hands and will continue to grow and flourish. 

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