David Liggins

David – learning and teaching

The pinnacle of my music teaching career was the moment Masquerade Ocarinas played and sang their way to an ‘Outstanding Performance Award’ at the National Festival of Music for Youth, 2005. My group of 8 to 12 year old children played ocarinas and sang. Their Latin mediaeval plainsong, haunting Chilean folk melodies and fairground organ sounds charmed the adjudicators, who described the performance as a ‘rare and precious sight and sound’.

A more recent highlight came in 2013 when, thirty years after first discovering the English Ocarina and developing it for music education, I found myself ‘speed-teaching’ the audience at London’s Royal Albert Hall, ready for them to play along with Primary School children from the UK, Gibraltar and Jersey. They attempted a seven-minute classical piece ‘Ode to a Joyful New Star’ and together created the World’s Largest Ocarina Ensemble in a memorable performance. These 3,081 players and their teachers are an accolade to Ocarina Workshop’s highly successful instruments and teaching methods.

David Liggins Ocarina

As a child, I suffered from life-threatening asthma and only survived primary education by attending Kingsley Special School, Kettering – the only boy in the school’s 100-year history to pass the 11 plus exam. Swimming, singing, and playing the flute helped me through the worst years, along with support and encouragement from family and teams of expert doctors and teachers.

Since gaining a Bachelor of Education degree specialising in Music and Educational Psychology, I have taught all ages. At Winstanley High School & Community College, Leicester (1976 to 1979) I had responsibility for teaching Music throughout the School as well as Maths and Geography. During this time I pioneered methods of Whole Class Instrumental Teaching before it was fashionable. Every child played guitar, tin whistle and keyboard. My well-used guitars were still in the stock room when I visited, 33 years later, in April 2012.

John Taylor English OcarinaIn 1979, I bought a one-way ticket to South America and spent 11 months exploring the length of the Andes, from Ecuador to Tierra del Fuego, busking on my silver flute to earn the fare home. The sight of pre-Columbian vessel flutes in museums in Northern Mexico, Peru and Chile awakened my musical curiosity and stayed in my mind. Then, in 1983, whilst hiking long-distance tracks in remote parts of Britain, I stumbled upon a different type of ocarina – a small, round, four-hole English Ocarina accidentally invented in 1963 by John Taylor, a former student of the Royal Academy of Music. At last I had found the best musical instrument ever for whole class lessons; one that anyone could play with ease… and the rest, as they say, is history!

As well as teaching with Ocarinas and developing their educational use, I have also researched the worldwide history of Ocarinas and contributed articles to Grove Music Online, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2001) and The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (2014).