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Bangkok Faces: Rachel Stead – Leader of Musical learning at Bangkok Patana School

Bangkok Patana School

This month our Bangkok Faces feature introduces Rachel Stead, the Leader of Musical Learning at Bangkok Patana School

Your Name: Rachel Stead

Job Title: Leader of Learning, Music.

1. What is your nationality and background?  

I am British but have lived in Thailand for many years. My husband, Chamnan, is Thai and I have two grown up children, Carey and Chris. I moved to Thailand and Bangkok Patana was my very first and only school here. I’ve been at Bangkok Patana since 1992.

2. What is your profession?  

Music Teacher – best job in the world.

3. What are the key skills and responsibilities of this role?

The key element is to have fun through music! I make music with children using songs, movement and instruments. The fun is a big thing, children learn more about music and about themselves when they have fun and enjoy what they are doing. 

4. How did you get involved in your profession? 

I have always had a keen interest in Music and begged my parents for piano lessons when I was young. Unfortunately, we did not have the funds for that and so it had to wait until sixth form college where free lessons were available.

After taking cornet lessons at school, I started my own Junior Brass Band when I was thirteen recruiting students from local Primary Schools and giving them tuition.  Sharing music with youngsters as a profession was the next natural step. 

Working at Bangkok Patana has contributed greatly to my professional development with new teachers coming and bringing new ideas but also collaborating with those who have been here for a while. I have attended lots of professional development courses in Thailand and around the region through the school, so I am able to share the very latest in developments in musical education with my students and my team. 

5. How does your role enhance the wellbeing or experience of children? 

The ability of music to bring people together, to affect mood and as a means of self-expression is all well-documented. Some of my favourite moments every day are seeing children soothed by the strumming of a ukulele, moved by the feeling of a song and its words or excited to move to music.

The breadth of experiences available to our music students is phenomenal. Students can learn one to one and they all participate in curriculum music classes. We also have a range of spaces and facilities to enable big musical productions in the Theatre, collaborations with other schools and exciting opportunities with visitors. There is a wide range of music instruments in Primary from boom whackers to orchestral instruments to samba drums, African drums, ukuleles. There is also equipment for pop groups such as mixers and electronic equipment for the older kids in Primary. 

This wide range of diverse instruments gives students opportunities to explore their curiosities, try different types of music and broaden their world view. One of our values as a school is to be diverse and inclusive and thee children get to experience a diverse and inclusive range of music. We offer children exposure to music from around the world, exposing them to such diverse musicians as Cuban singer Celia Cruz and Thai singer-songwriter Phum Viphurit to Yo-yo Ma, a Chinese American classical musician.

I think the idea of windows, mirrors and sliding doors (an idea from put forward by Rudine Sims Bishop at The Ohio State University) really applies here, it’s a famous idea in literature but one I feel can really be applied to music as well. A piece of music can give you the ability to look through a window and see another world.  A sliding door actually allows us to leave our world and go experience that world in real life, such as samba drumming and we participate in that world. However, the special thing about this idea is the mirror, which enables us to see ourselves. Because we are such a diverse school, that is why it is so important to have a diverse range of musicians for the children to learn about so they can see themselves in the artists and feel included.

6. What challenges do your face in this role?  

I am very lucky to have great resources and a wonderful environment here at Bangkok Patana school. The Music department is incredibly well-resourced and there are so many opportunities for the children in music. 

7. What do you hope to achieve within your industry?  

My favourite kind of achievement is when former students tell me that they remember performing in the choir at a concert, or remember listening to a piece of music, performing in class or other ways in which our music-making has affected them.

8. Who or what inspires you? 

Everyday people. I love listening to peoples’ stories about themselves, what they have done, what they have not done, how they feel and how they have made decisions in their lives. Inspiration comes in everyday things as well as in the big stories.

9. Only a Bangkok local would know …
“A walk on Saparn Sukta (Bang Pu Recreation Centre) at dusk is breezy and fun. Go inside the building on Saturday afternoons for ballroom dancing!

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