I read a short exchange between Chris Sharkey and someone on Twitter who people really should follow if they want to find out interesting things about creative music, Cevie, about one of Chris' old teachers. This set me thinking about the only teacher I've ever had, Lewis Dyson.
Mr Dyson [this is how I always addressed him and it feels unnatural to do any different] only gave me five paid-for lessons. In the first lesson, he taught me how to read chord symbols and perform a correct single hit on the snare. The second was spent talking about Beethoven and the stuff he liked listening to. The third was mainly about stuff I liked listening to and the jobs he'd done. The fourth was about being a musician; and on the fifth I got to touch the vibes, perform a correct single hit on the keys, and played Funny Face. He then told me to go and do a session with the free improvisers at the Southampton University, and that was my formal training done: he stopped the lessons. And those five lessons are all still relevant to me today.
I used to go round to his house and he'd just talk about music and life; and how to be. Mr Dyson knew I would be a musician before I did. He told me I had nous for music, which I didn't really believe then; but before my gig with the Tomorrow's Warriors/J-Life in 1997, I called him up—and he confirmed it again, giving me the confidence to go and play.
At the time, I didn't realise he was suffering with cancer—but I got a letter from him a year or so later, saying he'd been knocked over a bit but was on the mend. With various house moves and life, I lost touch—to find that he'd passed away some time ago.
When I got in touch with Chalklin percussion a couple of years ago, Paul Chalklin wrote to me personally and in that letter he said he'd worked with Mr Dyson in Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. And that connection Mr Dyson has had with my career in music came up again.
There's never been much about Mr Dyson on the Internet. But the world contracts; and so, after reading that short exchange this morning I thought I'd look again and see if I could find what happened to him. Turns out he was a Subud practitioner and this newsletter with an article on his wife states that he passed away in 2002. I don't know much about Subud, but the idea of a "helper", someone who explains something, opens up a world to someone and deepens the meaning; those are all things that Mr Dyson did for me in music.