This is an extract from the programme printed on the day and from the commendation for the MBE.
Ken Kelley is the inspirational leader of the Burghclere Primary School Band (‘BSB’). For over 20 years he has led from the front in giving every primary school child, no matter what their background or circumstances, the chance to play in what has become the UK’s most successful primary school brass band.
Under Mr Kelley’s tutelage and example he annually turns a cacophony of sound from a new influx of children into a truly remarkable harmonious chord. Children start from seven years old, most of whom have never picked up a brass instrument before. He achieves this through a unique combination of encouragement, cajoling and discipline.
The children learn enormously from his example. Not only how to play a brass instrument to a high level of competence – virtually all achieve national music grade exams in their chosen instrument, some to level 5 or 6 by the time that they leave – but also many social skills that stand them well for later life. Learning to work together as a team, to be able to listen to others and appreciate what they are doing and ultimately the confidence to stand on a platform and perform in front of complete strangers.
Children have to learn to attend band practice at 8.15am three mornings a week before school, before which Mr Kelley will have already set up the hall with chairs and music stands ready for practice. In the past five years he has, to my knowledge, missed only one band practice – when he let the children off the day after playing in front of 6000 London primary school children at the Royal Festival Hall!
Yet he is still held in incredibly high regard by all those who have had the pleasure of playing in the band – some 250 children over the past 20 years. At the annual village Christmas Carol Concert, in the church on Christmas Eve, previous members come back to play alongside the current band; this year the number totalled more than 60 and spanning nearly 40 years, from when BSB was set up by Mr Kelley’s predecessor. The oldest player had seen his own children go thorough BSB under Mr Kelley; they are now playing in the Newbury Town Band and Hampshire County Youth Band.
Mr Kelley has also been deeply involved with music tuition at the Mary Hare School for Deaf Children, helping them to learn through music. His role with the school has been acknowledged by the Countess of Carnarvon in her letter of support for this nomination.
None of this would be achieved without the enormous commitment, energy and enthusiasm of Mr Kelley. At 72 years of age, we recognise that Mr Kelley can not go on forever, but we would dearly like to see him rewarded for his efforts within the National Honours system. We believe that, as a former military man, recognition through the Honours system would be highly appreciated, and a fitting accolade for his amazing talents.
Mr Kelley’s involvement with BSB commenced with his appointment as Head of Burghclere County Primary School in 1982. From the outset he was, and continues to be, active and hugely respected in North Hampshire and West Berkshire for his immense contribution and inspirational leadership in musical tuition for, and public performance by, children in that area - including those with profound hearing difficulties.
During Mr Kelley’s time as headteacher, between 1982 and 1994, the primary school not only enjoyed recognition from both parents and HM Inspectors for its generally high standards, but it became widely renowned for the teaching and performance of brass band music.
Mr Kelley was able to draw on his skills developed as a musician in the Royal Marines, and on his experience while based with them in Singapore. Whilst in Singapore he spent much of his free time establishing a school brass band from scratch, at the request of the government there. On arrival at Burghclere, he was therefore able to assume the extra-curricular roles of band conductor, manager and brass tuition coordinator, in addition to his duties as headteacher.
First selected to perform at the Royal Festival Hall in the finals of the National Festival of Music for Youth (‘NFMY’) in 1984, BSB has since repeated the achievement in 1985, 87, 88, 89, 91, 97, 98, 99, 2002 and 2004. In two of those years, 1989 and 1991, it was of such an outstanding standard that it was invited to perform also in the Schools Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. This February, (2005,) it was selected to perform in the ‘Primary Proms’ at the Royal Festival Hall, an annual concert organised by NFMY for thousands of primary school children in the South of England to demonstrate the very high standards of music which can be achieved in schools.
Importantly, Mr Kelley has never resorted to audititioning or other selection process for the band; all children wishing to play in it have been welcomed regardless of their natural ability. It has been his inspirational leadership, example, infectious enthusiasm and patient insistence on high standards that have raised their collective ability so successfully.
Now numbering over 30 children, and encouraged by the school’s staff and governors not least because of its value in terms of the National Curriculum’s music teaching requirements, the BSB is an integral part of school life, although the band operates as a complete separate entity to the school and is completely funded from outside school resources. He also conducts their performances at local events to raise funds for good causes, making the BSB a source of immense pride for the school, the local community and especially for the children themselves, who benefit hugely from being active participants in something of recognised and measurable excellence.
BSB is supported financially by an association set up under Mr Kelley’s leadership in 1990, when public funding for music in schools became subject to severe restriction by Whitehall. This association is a registered charity with a committee on which Mr Kelley sits with current parents. He is paramount in arranging events and seeking donations to raise funds for music tuition, especially for children from families of limited means, thus ensuring that all children who wish to play in the band do so regardless of parents’ resources. It was recently awarded a grant from the National Lottery.
Finally and importantly, between 1994 and 2004, KK also deployed his by now immense experience to assist The Mary Hare Grammar School for Deaf Children in Donnington (near Newbury) where he worked as a visiting music teacher, supported its Christmas musical productions and played students’ GCSE compositions for recording and submission to the examination boards. In that role, Mr Kelley has enabled numerous children with various degrees of deafness to develop their musicality.
1947 : Enlisted in the Royal Marines (‘RM’) at Deal as a Boy Musician .
1947 – 1974: Served in the UK, Mediterranean, Pacific, South Atlantic and SE Asia, and latterly on HMY Britannia for three major royal tours.
1964-66 (circa) : Served with RM Commando band in Singapore, assisted the Gov’t there to establish a school band and saw active service in Borneo as a medical orderly during the Indonesian Confrontation
1974 (circa): Retired from RM with the rank of Band Sergeant.
1975 (circa) Graduated as a primary school teacher following teacher training in Hampshire.
1975 – 82 Taught at Gosport where he established a small brass ensemble.
1982 Appointed Head of Burghclere County Primary School in North Hampshire and undertook extra curricular roles as manager, conductor and clarinet teacher for its brass band.
1993 Retired as Head and from full -time teaching.
1993 –2004. Worked as visiting music teacher at the Mary Hare School for the Deaf, Newbury.
1993 to present day. Continues as manager, conductor and tutor of BSB.