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Next on the blog we have Hanah Mack
Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.
What is your current role?
I am the founder of Forth School of Music, having recently rebranded from my formerly established teaching practice, which I began in 2016. Myself and my team offer music lessons, and classes, to children and adults of all ages and abilities throughout the city.
What was your journey to get there?
Music has been a part of my life since primary school. I began learning piano at the age of 9 and then picked up the flute at age 14. Over these years I was involved in various choirs, orchestras and bands and I also took part in dance classes and drama clubs, both in and out of school.
I moved to Heriot’s in S5 and was immediately welcomed into the music department by the teachers and the other students. Mr Brownlee and Mr F’s teaching was invaluable, and all the staff made the department such a happy place. I always looked forward to my music classes and I joined as many ensembles as I could cram into my schedule! I loved performing with my friends (still some of my closest friends to date!) in House Music competitions and in all the end of term concerts.
After leaving Heriot’s in 2011, I went on to study music at the University of Aberdeen. I absolutely loved my course and all the opportunities it provided. In 2014, I was awarded the David Nicholson Flute Scholarship from the North East of Scotland Music School and performed all over the city, as well as giving a public flute recital in my final year – something I never thought I’d do! Whilst I was at university, I co-founded the Show Choir (which still runs today) and was on the Concert Band committee from my second year. In my fourth year, I took over as its President and staged our end of year ‘Music from the Movies’ concert in the Aberdeen Music Hall, a 1300-seat venue.
I graduated in 2015 and moved back to Edinburgh but I could not get a job. I ended up working in retail and found a weekend job as a piano teacher at a Yamaha Music School. From there I started advertising for my own students and within 6 months I was able to leave retail to become a full-time, private, piano and flute teacher. I started out by travelling to my students’ houses but spent more time stuck in traffic than actually teaching, so I decided to rent a church hall. After 2 successful years of teaching on my own, I relocated my lessons to Banana Row Music Studios and took on another teacher to cope with the demand. Since 2019, I have taken on another 4 teachers, and we have recently rebranded and expanded further, becoming Forth School of Music – providing musical education to over 100 students of all ages throughout Edinburgh.
What are your achievements?
My biggest achievement, both personally and professionally, is definitely my business. When I left university, I knew that I didn’t want to be a classroom teacher and that teaching privately was my goal. To then land in a retail job was a bit of a knock, however I was determined to do something musical with my life. Fast forward to now and I’m so proud of my whole team, and the fact that we managed to continue teaching during all the lockdowns and we have made it through the other side of the pandemic. It was really important to me that we made an effort for our students during that uncertain time, especially when all their other clubs and activities were cancelled. Our smooth transition to online lessons meant that their musical education was not disrupted, and their weekly lesson or class was a constant that they had to look forward to. We are now fortunate to be operating fully in person again and, whilst it’s exhausting after 2.5 years of working at home, it is so much fun.
What are your favourite memories of Heriot’s?
I may have only been there for 2 years, but there are so many! My standout memory though is a musical one – what a surprise! Performing in the 350th anniversary concert at the Usher Hall in December 2009. It was a completely magical experience and something I will never forget. The best bit? The finale. Highland Cathedral performed by all the musicians, all the singers, and even the school Pipe Band. It was such an incredible night!
Any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?
Make sure you do something that YOU want to do. Don’t let others persuade you otherwise. You will only enjoy your experience and thrive if you like what you’re doing, and if things don’t go to plan – don’t worry, but don’t give up! If you really want something, everything will work out in the end.