When I worked as a full time peripatetic teacher for North Yorkshire County Council, I was lucky enough to be allowed to establish a 'Stage Band" or " Big Band" at the Harrogate Area Music Centre. We were determined that the band should be a slick but informal ensemble with good swing and rock feel and plenty of 'blowing' chorus opportunities for those that wanted to play. We wanted to give the students the kind of ethos
at high school level that I had enjoyed at Leeds. The official title we were handed by the powers that be was "The Harrogate Area Schools Stage Band" which we felt was a bit stuffy and we had several barn storming sessions to come up with a name. Finally, when we had some suggestion that we call the band 'Shy Talk' - I always liked that name for some reason! - we settled on Sierra Tango and if anyone asked it was ST - short for Spa Town (which Harrogate is!).
The band grew from strength to strength (mostly because the students were so talented and we had built up a fine library of charts which included a donation of surplus stuff from my old Alma Mater, Leeds College of Music, as well as from authority funding. After four years of rehearsals and gigs we were good enough to be chosen to appear at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank as part of the National Festival of Music for Youth
and at a major fundraising event at Castle Howard for Save The Children when the band was presented to HRH Princess Anne. Both of these were just prior to my leaving the teaching profession in 1983.
It makes me proud that this band is still in existence, now known as HYJO - The Harrogate Youth Jazz Orchestra - and performing to an even higher standard under their current MD, Jose Williamson.
I am equally proud that so many of the students from my band went on to become established professional musicians and teachers. In recent years Steve Rushton and Paul Rock have been thoughtful enough to arrange two reunions of the band in Harrogate. Thanks to them.
Video of Steve and I having some fun on Sing Sing Sing at the Sierra Tango 2005 reunion
Photo Gallery from the 2007 Sierra Tango reunion - courtesy of Andrew Buurman
Photo Gallery of The Way We Were - Sierra Tango 1980 - 83
Sierra Tango on MySpace
In this period of my life also taught some excellent students who have become fine drummers, percussionists & musicians and I hope I contributed a little to their success.