Creative Caversham – Carolyn Nash

Finding new pathways to self-expression – The sound and the silence

AS WELL AS images and creations, we also find artistry in sound.

Elestr Lee talks to Carolyn Nash, who is both a music teacher and a skilled artist

Like many of those interviewed for this monthly feature, Carolyn Nash moved to the Caversham area – in her case around 35 years ago – stayed and, over the decades, has both contributed to and benefitted from the creative riches our area offers. When she was seven years old, her parents acquired a piano and she had lessons for a year. “But I didn’t want to do piano. I

wanted to do ballet, like my friend!” Carolyn recalls. However, as a teenager, she changed her mind; a younger sister started learning the piano and Carolyn decided it was something she did want to do. “Then my piano teacher suggested I should learn an orchestral instrument as well and, as a late starter (I was 14 or 15 by then), it had to be viola, double bass or bassoon.”

Viola was chosen and, once Carolyn started playing in an orchestra with other youngsters, music really took off for her. “I got a place at the London College of Music where I took my graduate diploma. I spent a further year at Trinity College studying for my performer’s diploma in both viola and piano. I did some work as a ‘dep’ (deputy) for the BBC Ulster Orchestra then, instead, started instrumental teaching as a peri back in Lancashire. But in such a vast county this involved more driving than teaching, so I decided to use the PGCE I’d obtained from Manchester University, and spent a few years as a classroom music teacher. This was followed by further instrumental peri posts in North Manchester and Sandwell, where the areas covered were not so geographically spread. Eventually I moved to Caversham, where I started working for BYMT – now Berkshire Maestros – and I taught violin and viola in various local schools.”

Raising a son and twin daughters, Carolyn also teaches privately, as well as being a member of local orchestras and enjoying playing chamber music with friends. Ballet – which she fell in love with as a child – has remained a lifelong passion. “Other people do yoga or meditation. For me, dancing to music transports me. I go to a class in Shinfield, as well as in Caversham. In the past, I have taken exams and been in shows, but nowadays ballet is something I do purely for pleasure.”

However, Carolyn has also always enjoyed drawing, painting and other means of creativity. She has taken part in the Caversham Arts Trail in previous years, and also takes part in the Christmas Art Fair at St Andrews. While she was studying for her PGCE at Manchester, she took both ballet and drawing classes, and later she did an ‘Access to Art’ course. With her busy teaching and family commitments, initially there wasn’t time to complete a full-time degree. For Carolyn, who had long enjoyed watercolour and printing, enrolling for the Fine Arts degree at Reading University was the end of a long journey. “I always wanted to make music – but I also always wanted to create art,” she explains.

“The fine arts degree really broadened my awareness of contemporary art,” she says. “I really value having done it. Nowadays, I do the things I really want to do – and it’s an added pleasure when people appreciate my work and want to buy it. I don’t do it to make money – but as a means of expression.”

Carolyn has a particular interest in collagraph prints – a kind of collage process in which various materials and textures can be combined to create a print. “I have my own press – though it’s quite a small one,” she says. And she has also taken up jewellery making, enjoying re-working old pieces, as well as taking silversmith courses at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation.

Having retired from Berkshire Maestros, Carolyn still enjoys teaching, her artistic endeavours, and dance. “The pandemic hasn’t affected my art. My music pupils all switched to Zoom lessons – although this meant I had to get BT to come and replace my telephone cable, as it was completely inadequate for my broadband needs! I didn’t lose any pupils during this time – in fact I gained some.

“I was able to do a tap-dancing class online. And I even signed up to English National Ballet, who were offering classes during lockdown. It was better than nothing – we all had to be resourceful!”

Carolyn reflects on the opportunities she had when she was growing up. “Instrumental lessons were free, you were even given an instrument to start on. But nowadays the costs are prohibitive, and I do worry that the only children who get such opportunities today are those who can easily afford it. I am concerned about the cuts to both music and arts courses. Art is about experimenting. We all need space to play with ideas – to explore, and to work out ways to express ourselves.”