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As Charlie Wells reached the Andante espressivo of Khachaturian’s Toccata at the start of the Year 11 Group Muster, his peers leaned in, acknowledging this was something special. This was not just pianistic talent on show, there was more behind this high performance – as there often is.

When I reflected, Charlie’s performance reminded me of Sam Warrick’s one-handed catch to dismiss Rostrevor’s leading batsman; of Shreyas Khanna’s essay on Dunkirk, that leads his reader on a journey to greater enlightenment; of Ned Gauvin’s selfless support of a stranger in need at the roadside; of Mrs Iadanza’s inspiring presentation to colleagues on Staff PD Day; and of Mr Sinanis’ closing words to his House. Special moments that reflect, in all of their individual ways, a state of flow, hitting the sweet spot, and – unequivocally – high performance.

It is so important that our students appreciate that high performance comes in many forms.  There were few pianists in the room during the Year 11 Muster, but I sensed that most students felt as much admiration and awe as I did for the rhythm and melody that filled Memorial Hall. And you didn’t need to be a cricketer to appreciate Sam’s catch nor a teacher to be engaged by Mrs Iadanza’s storytelling.

This is the thing about high performance – the performers often make it look easy, but there is invariably a long history of hard work, dedication and commitment to reach it. The performance itself is often referred to as the tip of the iceberg.

And, speaking of icebergs, we should never dismiss nor discount the sense of adventure and exposure in a solo effort. It is this exposure – of being out there on your own with no one else to rely on but yourself – that simultaneously both develops and reveals the qualities of courage and character. Please feel free to ask Jamie Buxton-Stewart who leads our Exploration Society all about this!

A comfort zone is rarely host to a solo performance. And, since we are told that ‘comfort zones are nice places to be, but nothing ever grows there’, we should be more proactive in encouraging our sons to volunteer for the challenge and exposure of a solo act – be it in the music hall, sports field, drama studio or mountainside, or any setting. Indeed, I have most admiration for those boys who, on a daily basis, are prepared to stand apart from their peer group, in a whole host of ways, rather than crave the shade of others which is so often the adolescent way. For some students, raising their hands to answer a question in class might be ‘solo’ and risk enough – and, where appropriate, we should recognise the courage in this too.

I read an article over the weekend about employees in the workplace being confident to be their ‘wholesome selves’ at work. I did not notice which corporation was at the centre of the article, but I remembered and loved the term – wholesome self. I felt, in listening to Charlie’s recital, cheering Sam’s catch, absorbing Shreyas’ text, and admiring Ned’s service, what I was actually seeing was their wholesome selves – revealed in all their splendour, and there for the inspiration of others.

The article made me reflect, care and wonder if all of our students come to school each day free and not fearful to be their wholesome selves. I am confident that many do. But if there are some who do not, what are the reasons for this? Please ask your son this question and feel free to feedback to me. It may be that I recommend a solo performance of some kind to get him started.

Marcus Blackburn
Deputy Headmaster / Head of Senior School