This week, Cumbria’s only standalone independent school for children aged 3 – 11, Hunter Hall, marks a very special anniversary of their longest serving member of staff. Head of Music and Lower School Class teacher, Lynsey Wrightson, celebrates 20 years of overseeing musical excellence at the Penrith-based school.
After having completed a degree in music with qualified teacher status at St Martin’s, Lancaster (now University of Cumbria), Lynsey spent time working in a large Blackpool primary school before following her heart north and arriving at Hunter Hall in September 2003. Here she was tasked with leading the music provision after the then headteacher retired.
In the intervening two decades, every single pupil who has passed through the school’s doors has had at least one class music lesson each week with Mrs Wrightson. In addition to class music, Lynsey also runs a whole host of co-curricular opportunities including choir and band which average 30 and 12 pupils respectively each year.
It is quite unusual for band to be found in primary schools and Lynsey ensures that whatever the makeup (be it 6 guitars, 2 violins, a cornet and a double bass!), all abilities and instruments are catered for. She has spent hundreds of hours over the last 20 years painstakingly creating arrangements that work for whatever band constitutes that year so that every child has a chance to shine.
Lynsey also loves to collaborate and is the lead teacher of the Penrith Schools Music Association, bringing together 400 local children from 14 schools to perform at St Andrew’s every year over two nights in December for the Pernrith Schools’ Carol Concert.
When asked about particular highlights over the years, they are many and varied. Lynsey commented:
“An annual highlight has to be the Upper School production. All children from years 3 – 6 take part in a specially adapted show produced and directed by myself and Deputy Head, Kirsty Fletcher. We’ve done everything from a Midsummer Night’s Dream to Matilda over the years but the goal remains the same – quality in music and delivery of songs, and all children on stage. The children never cease to amaze us with their talent and it’s wonderful to see them all grow in the process. On a personal note, I achieved a lifelong dream when we did the Sound of Music, it was just magical. Neither can I forget the Hunter Hall 30th Anniversary Gala Concert in May 2021. Hunter Hall pupils both past and present came together in a magnificent setting to perform and reflect on 30 years of music-making , 20 of which I’ve joyfully been involved in!”
Hunter Hall pupils have gone on to achieve excellence at leading schools and universities around the country. From scholarships at the likes of Giggleswick and Sedbergh to Chethams School of Music to degrees at Kings College, London and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – the musical grounding offered by Lynsey and her team of peripatetic teachers has been felt far and wide.
At a time when subjects such as music are increasingly being left behind by primary schools due to funding and staffing pressures, the picture could not be more different for this plucky school. In 2023, music is stronger than ever at Hunter Hall with over 40 children currently learning an instrument – some doing two or more. In addition to the year-round both formal and informal concerts that choir take part in, they are often to be found performing outside of school in care homes, libraries, festivals and a festive favourite – the Hunter Hall Christmas Choir tour which sees children performing everywhere from Morrisons supermarket to Keswick’s Victorian Fayre over a furiously festive 10 days.
Hunter Hall Head, Paul Borrows, commented:
“Music at Hunter Hall has an enviable reputation in the local area and that is all thanks to Lynsey’s dedication and hard work. She has such warmth in the classroom, and the children really respond to her passion for music. Lynsey nurtures the musical talent of every child, and over two decades at Hunter Hall she has passed on her love of music to countless pupils.”
Hunter Hall’s next open week runs from Saturday 7 – Friday 13 October. To find out more and register, visit www.hunterhall.co.uk. Hunter Hall is Cumbria’s only independent, standalone school for children aged 3 – 11 years and is located on the outskirts of Penrith.