“We must become bigger…”

“We must become bigger than we have been: more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook” 

Haile Selassie

Whilst not unique in the animal kingdom in forming communities, human beings are particularly disposed to forming discreet groups.  Mostly this spirit is a positive thing, but when threatened, any community can close in on itself, become defensive and indeed hostile to the outside world.   Over the last few years there has been good reason for communities to turn in on themselves, ostensibly for protection and as a reaction to perceived threats. The recent tragic events in Manchester will sadly lead to a greater level of mistrust between and within communities and our society will be the poorer for it.  At the BSP we value our community spirit, largely because it brings together rather than excluding.

Following on from the tragedy that played out overnight on Monday we have been talking to our pupils about the sad events and have been stressing the importance of communities such as ours.  I firmly believe that this School, as a community, has much to offer the wider world.  Proudly diverse we have all world views and many nations represented, our children grow up with horizons that are broad and a cultural understanding that is incredibly sophisticated. Our young people will be the leaders of the future and I have every confidence that they will seek to build communities as strong as this one wherever they go.

Today’s newsletter gives a flavour of last week’s Ardèche and Thoiry trips and the exciting events of this short week.  I hope that you enjoy seeing all that has been going on – it has been a hectic, productive ten days!  May I take this opportunity to wish you a restful half term and I look forward to seeing everyone when we return on Tuesday 6th June.  To those who face the challenge of public exams in the latter part of this week and on the 5th June, may they go as well as you have planned.

Nicholas Hammond


Yesterday in the Junior School concert, Mr Lockwood challenged us the audience to think about the colours of music.  Not something that I had done before, but what a place to start.  The Junior School Summer concert was a riot of colour, texture, sound and joy.   We had recorders playing sea shanties and violinists performing Bach.  The jazz band did Herbie Hancock proud whilst the guitar ensemble strummed splendidly.   The Junior School choir tugged at the emotions of the audience with excellent solo performances.  I never knew that violinists could dance or that flutes were quite that funky!  As you will see from the accompanying pictures it was an uplifting experience and one that you can join in by following the livestream links on Frog.

One of the most exciting elements of any school performance is seeing the relationship between teachers and their pupils, something that we talked about in the Senior School last week.  This relationship is at the heart of a positive educational experience.  Learning through playing in public is something that I can’t commend enough and our music programmes build confidence through performance.  We learn an enormous amount by sharing our playing with one another and lessons learnt on stage can help us later in life.  

And for those in the audience it is an utter delight.  

Thank you to our musicians and to their teachers.

Nicholas Hammond

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

It could be said that we live in an X factor world where fame and stardom come quickly.  For many this is not the case and the road to becoming a world authority takes time and effort in addition to talent.  Yesterday Year 12 students enjoyed a unique opportunity to meet a person “touched by greatness”.  Jay Gottleib is a concert pianist, he has performed with some of the world’s great orchestras, recorded and worked with some notable composers and travels the world to teach aspiring piano maestros.

Yesterday he shared his experience with us a group of non-specialists through word and music.  During his discourse he explained how a mentor can change your life, how authenticity is the key to performance and how a life lived without a passion for what you do is a life wasted.  It was a moment to pause and to think about how we live our lives and what motivates us.  He described the teaching that he had received from the great conductor and teacher Nadia Boulanger, as being ‘her best given to inspire his best’ and how having met Picasso, Shostakovich, Copland and Martha Graham had changed the course of his life.

We are fortunate at the BSP to have access to some inspirational speakers who give freely of their time to work with our students.  In Jay Gottleib they met with a unique artist who has found his life direction as a consequence of the influence of others.  As Headmaster I would hope that all of our pupils find at least one teacher who lights that spark during their time with us, for this is when great education happens.

Nicholas Hammond