Does Hartlepool music teacher's story strike a chord?

Who remembers Joan Cormack?

Tuesday, 26th April 2016, 2:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th April 2016, 3:08 pm

If you trained in music in Hartlepool in the late 1950s, chances are you knew her well.

Joan was the music mistress at the West Hartlepool High School for Girls and was a real authority on all matters lyrical.

And she was very much an exponent of young trends expressing themselves, especially that new-fangled matter of rock and roll.

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In an interview given to the Northern Daily Mail in 1957, she said: “I think rock n’roll has been taken far more seriously by its opponents than exponents.

“It is quite natural for adolescents to be something of exhibitionists, and apart from that to try and score against old fogeys.

“If the young people did not express themselves in this way, they would assert themselves in another.”

Despite her strong views, she was actually better associated with the Hartlepools String Orchestra and musical arrangements of a more classical type.

And her start in the musical world was as interesting as her views on youth.

She studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London just before the start of the Second World War.

To get extra experience and skills, she conducted choirs, did part-time teaching and gave concerts on her own.

Our report said: “Her student days were particularly happy and the war, although adding many complications to life, especially in bomb-scarred London, did not detract from the experience.”

At the time, she shared a flat with her sister but they were both affected when German bombing took its toll.

Part of the flat’s ceiling caved in and left its mark.

Fate then intervened and when she was due to be called up to the ATS, the principal of the academy she studied at intervened and advised her to take a teaching post.

She did, and joined the staff at the exclusive Queen Margaret’s Boarding School for Girls.

And instead of a role in the war, she was helping the boarding school children to be evacuated to Castle Howard near Malton.

And when she progressed from there to Hartlepool, she brought her piano with her - complete with all the scars it had from those bombing raids in London.

The war was still continuing when Miss Cormack was at Jesmond Road School for a year, just before D-Day.

“She found first-hand evidence that young people in the town, including adolescent boys, were remarkably interested in music,” said our 1957 report.

By 1951, she had taken up post at the High School for Girls and was asked to be conductor of the string orchestra. Her first concert was so successful, she was asked back.

We’re sure Joan had an effect on many families across Hartlepool. Were you one of them?

We would love to hear how you were affected by Miss Cormack’s musical influence. Email [email protected]