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Meet Sam (Yeomen, Year 13)

Date Posted: Friday 26 February 2021

Tell us little bit about your experience at Ashford School up to now?  

  • Without sounding too cringey, Ashford School has been a brilliant experience. I have had so many opportunities in and outside of the classroom, met many different people from all over the world and had a great time.

Tell us about your favourite memory at School to date.  

  • Being part of Ashford Youth Jazz Orchestra (AYJO) when we played alongside one of my favourite jazz funk bands, Incognito, who performed in Brake Hall. This marvellous event was set up by our Former Head of Music, Mr John Hall – but more on him later.

Is there a particular teacher who has inspired you and helped you to reach where you are today? Who and how?  

  • It would be so unfair to single out any one teacher when an amazing number have all helped shape me into the person I am today, I count myself very lucky, but Mr John Hall was the first. He spotted me playing my cornet for the Last Post at a Remembrance Sunday service in my local church and invited me to AYJO, then recommended I apply for a Music Scholarship to Ashford School. Without his early mentoring,  I might never have become the musician or person I am today.  He has been one of many inspiring music teachers. Another Former Head of Music, Mr Malcolm Riley opened my ears to a wider breadth of music, while Mrs Helen Powell pushed me to become a better musician. More recently, my current music teachers Mrs Emily Hall and Mr Stuart Sherwood, have supported me not only through academic performance, but by making the most from music during these difficult times. Mr Sherwood is a musical encyclopaedia whose wisdom, knowledge and experience have helped me become a more rounded musician.
  • I must mention my current Economics teachers, firstly Mr Jason Kendall who captured my interest in the subject and offered new thinking and perspectives that will stay with me, and more recently, Mr Alan Masters has added other dimensions.

What clubs do you take part in, and what do you enjoy about them?  

  • That’s the brilliant thing about Ashford School – there are so many more clubs, groups and activities to choose from, as I found when I joined from a state school in Year 9. Activities I might never have enjoyed had I not moved here, would include fencing and rugby, but I have also been able to join jazz ensembles, orchestras and wind bands of varying sizes and styles – and that’s only part of what is available. For me though, it has allowed fast access to many areas of music, many new bandmates and to simply enjoy different things with likeminded people.

What has been your most rewarding moment at Ashford School?  

  • Completing my first concert at Ashford School, being given solos in almost every piece of music I was included in, as well as performing my first solo with Ashford Youth Jazz Orchestra (AYJO) in one of its now regular guest appearances in our school concerts – it’s a moment that will always stay with me.
  • I would also like to take this moment to pay tribute to AYJO leader Mr Tom Vafidis, who has inspired us all, particularly through lockdown, with his cheery emails and musical recommendations, which have kept up spirits when we are all so fed up with not being able to rehearse and play live music together.

As Head Boy what does it mean to you to be a leader at School? What do you hope to achieve in your year in post?   

  • Unfortunately, this year has been unconventional for both Olivia and I, with various restrictions making it hard to be a School Captain. However, it remains an honour and privilege to hold the post and I have enjoyed being called upon to represent the School, albeit virtually, at events and when meeting parents and potential future pupils. As you can see from my earlier answers, I don’t need an excuse to highlight how the school has benefitted me!
  • Assuming we get back to ‘live’ School soon though, I’m sure Olivia and I will strive to ensure that this disrupted year ends on a high note for us all.

What opportunities does Ashford School offer that you feel are extending your skills and helping you prepare for life after School?  

  • I would sum that up with one word – confidence. Some of my friends might not believe it now, but I was very quiet before I joined in Year 9, but everyone around me – my parents, relatives, and friends outside the school – have remarked on how my confidence and assurance has blossomed at Ashford. It has been a tough year academically for everyone at Ashford School, despite the best efforts of all our teachers, but I know I will leave here in July with excellent skills and knowledge basis for my career ahead.

How has Ashford School enabled you to pursue your passions?  

  • Ashford School’s fantastic Music Department has allowed me to enjoy my passion for music way beyond possibilities at my former school, where the repertoire and horizons were much more limited. It has been so easy to explore different genres and different styles with my chosen instrument, the trumpet, and to progress my piano playing through the many high quality Steinway pianos, before switching to guitar as my second main instrument and exploring everything from rock to ‘gypsy jazz’.  The opportunities never end – and Mrs Hall kindly loaned me a school cello as my lockdown challenge!

What are your ambitions for when you leave Ashford School? 

  • It was a dream from a young age to take a ‘gap year’ and travel the world. Unfortunately, this is now unlikely with the current situation.
  • However, I took up sailing several years ago and I am just now completing my instructor training, after which I hope to work and enter regattas across Europe to gain as much experience as I possibly can so I can take my skills and experience with me as I later travel the world.

How have you found the past year, and how have you coped with lockdown? Have you taken up a new hobby?  

  • It’s fair to say that coping with lockdown and trying to carry on studying has been a huge challenge and, perhaps surprisingly, ‘downtime’ has become even more precious.
  • However, I did get far more into cycling during the previous lockdown, although I have undone some of the good work there by experimenting more in the kitchen. My mum is a great cook, so I have been inspired by her.
  • I have also learned a few DIY skills by helping my Dad, whilst also taking some driving lessons.
  • I’d like to think that I have also helped myself and friends during lockdown by making sure we all keep in touch. I don’t know how anyone would have coped with a lockdown without Facetime, and other video call apps!

How have you found  online  learning?  What benefits have there been?   

  • Online learning has been a struggle for all of us, thanks to temperamental technology and adjusting to a new way of life. I found it particularly tough at the beginning as I probably benefit most from the human interaction of being in a classroom and having that atmosphere and ease of conversation between the teacher, other pupils and myself, instead of interrupting one another each time the internet drops out.
  • However, it has been a godsend in disguise. Almost everyone has had to deal with the sudden shift to everything online, but we will look back and see that it has been good for business, learning, relations, and just daily life. Although many can feel quite isolated, the online movement has allowed benefits like less pollution from commuting, better connections between family through zoom, and allowing the world to progress to better connectivity from one person to the next. I have certainly seen this at school. It allows for better attendance, with those who are absent less likely to miss out on crucial work, as well as better connection with your teachers allowing the ease of organisation for a quick Teams call or putting a message in the chat. I think it shows what we really can do with technology when we depend on it, but the ‘new normal’ also needs to keep some of the ‘old ways’ too like classroom interaction.

What positives  and lessons  will you take away from lockdown and recent months?  

  • All three lockdowns have shown me the importance of getting outdoors and that cliché ‘recharging your batteries’. No matter how repetitive that saying is, it’s true. It has made even the most cooped up gamers and ‘stay at homers’ see that going outside does help and a bit of fresh air doesn’t do you any harm!
  • My big thing has been cycling. I used to hate it, trundling along, having to tackle crippling hills and the only enjoyment being able to have fish and chips at the seaside!
  • However, lockdown has encouraged me to explore my local area, reaching targets I didn’t think I was capable of, and getting good exercise which, I needed after being penned in my room all day.
  • Lastly, it has taught me, as well as many others, that freedom must never be taken for granted.

What has been your favourite book during lockdown?   

  • Through my interest in economics, and a recommendation from my teacher Mr Kendall, I have become fascinated by ‘Factfulness’ by Hans Rosling. This is not only a book for economists, but anyone who has a real interest in the way the world works and its current status, giving you a more accurate, realistic, and positive outlook on life. This has led me into learning about macroeconomics outside of the classroom, which is looking at the world’s economies, as well as history, politics and current affairs, to get a more up to date view on what is happening globally.