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John Witchell, the FMS Chief Executive

John Witchell's Chief Executive blog

Happiness practising scales and cultivating my garden

At the beginning of the self evaluation programme I referred to the concept of ‘eudaimonia’ as a way of describing happiness. I read about it in Charles Handy’s last book, ‘Myself and other more important matters’, in which he reflects on his own life and the principles that made him move from being a high-powered and wealthy executive in Shell, to someone who relied on his writing and lectures to bring in a fraction of his previous income. Handy pointed out that eudaimonia is not just about the surface features of happiness, such as ‘lying on a beach with a glass of wine and a book, or having wanton sex with the person of your dreams’, but is more about ‘flourishing’, or doing your best with what you are best at.

I suppose that is one of the reasons why I am now retiring gracefully as Chief Executive. I have found much happiness in the FMS, even though it hasn’t included lying on beaches or having wanton sex! And I have found satisfaction in doing my best for music services. But there is a but! It is that like many leaders in music education I have let my own musical skills slowly decline - and I remember my predecessor Colin, saying much the same thing. You see I think that what I do best is making music; I’m first and foremost a musician, albeit a rusty one. So, I now aim to renew the musical skills that I once had - tackle the piano music of Messiaen amongst other things! - and contribute to my local music scene.

So with this final blog as Chief Executive it’s au revoir to the FMS - but it is not goodbye, since I will still be around for the MSEP programme. May I thank everyone for their supremely generous farewell gifts and their support and friendship over many years. I would particularly like to express my thanks to the wonderful team at Otley and all my colleagues on the executive. I will have very many happy memories of working with such a superb bunch of people and will reflect on the privilege of contributing to such an important music education organisation. On the theme of flourishing I want to emphasise that, even with the very significant challenges that all music services are facing, you will, I’m sure, always flourish musicially. The current Government has said that it will meet with FMS in the autumn and, even though times are tough, the signals from the DfE and DCMS are that they really want to build on our achievements over the last few decades. So we must remain determined and resilient and ensure that our message is conveyed with power and authority.

That is why I know you will all welcome Virginia Haworth-Galt as your new Chief Executive and support her as she leads music service advocacy on your behalf. Virginia brings a fresh perspective to music education and will apply all her numerous skills and energy to the task of achieving the aims of music services - for the sake of all children, families, schools and teachers. Meanwhile I might spend more time cultivating my garden, as Voltaire suggested in Candide. However Voltaire also said, ‘ How infinitesimal is the importance of anything I do, but how infinitely important it is that I do it.’ So, because we believe that music education is infinitesimally important, let’s make sure that we always do it - we always make music.

John Witchell

A message from our incoming Chief Executive is a more recent blog entry

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