Ben Harlan
Ben Harlan
Director of Music, Bedales Prep, Dunhurst & Bedales Pre-prep, Dunannie

BMus Guildhall School of Music and Drama
PGCE Roehampton

What makes a good teacher at Dunhurst and Dunannie? 

After training as an orchestral and jazz clarinettist, my career as a professional musician has led me to be part of explorative theatre productions, experimental improve. groups, song-writing collaborations and a ‘Brahms meets the gypsies’ ensemble. This colourful background enables me to engage with the many different levels of music making going on at Dunhurst and Dunannie – from the high achieving soloists to the all inclusive show stoppers. Nowadays there is a very wide range of musical taste and interest amongst young musicians and my job is to encourage and direct them all.

What are you trying to encourage and instil in your pupils?

Music is primarily a means of expression. This is achieved through the combination of technical skill and heartfelt passion. Anyone can achieve the first of these elements with good teaching and dedicated practice. The second element needs encouragement and space to exist. They can both be achieved at a young age and are in a healthy state amongst Dunhurst and Dunannie pupils.

Apart from your teaching role, what else do you get involved with at the school?

I am a Block 1 tutor at Dunhurst. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know a small group of children very well both academically and socially. Badley Weekend was a great introduction to the ethos of the school – lots of planting and nurturing rounded up with walk to the Poet’s Stone and a thrilling panoramic view – accompanied by pupil’s poetry readings and music making.

In your opinion, what makes Dunhurst and Dunannie special?

This is a school where ideas can be made into a reality. Staff and children are excited to explore and learn together. In my subject I am aware of the rare opportunity this gives young musicians. Children create their own ensembles, our scholars are valued and motivated and there is a shared delight of the excellent and the diverse.

What is your best memory of Dunhurst and Dunannie?

The electric moment when a child looks at me and I know that they are about to give the oncoming performance their best ever shot...

Who or what inspires you?

Birdsong and great puddings – both available at Dunhurst and Dunannie. The Rite of Spring and Thelonious Monk also come high on my list. One of my long-term projects is to find inspiring classic poetry and set it to music for children’s choirs.

Tell us something not a lot of people know about you.

My first paid gig was with a trad. jazz band at Tescos – I was 15 years old and got paid £50, I was very happy! I have not performed there since...

Ben Harlan
Ben Harlan