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A of A People: Michele Kirsch – Music Education Coordinator at The Premises

8 Minute Read

Name: Michele Kirsch Music Education Coordinator at The Premises
From the time I started to listen to records and go to gigs, I was always the nutter, sticking her head in the bass amp. I thought when I started to grow up, I would grow out of that, but it got worse. I wanted a job that would let me play music (of other people, otherwise I would be condemned to a lifetime of Kumbaya on a starter guitar) while I was doing the job.
This started extraordinarily badly. My first proper job was as an assistant school teacher in a very liberal, folky dokey holistic private school in Greenwich  Village, NYC. It was a class of five-year-olds and when the main teacher would have her break, I would supervise “mat ” time, when the kids would lay themselves out on yoga mats and go to sleep while listening to The Four Seasons by  Vivaldi, not the Frankie Valli ones. It was very boring, and I hated that record, which was what they played when you were on hold on the phone. So one day I brought in Rocket to Russia by The Ramones, and the kids went apeshit, rolling up their mats and boinging each other on the head and just going hog wild. The headteacher had to have a word with me.

Now since then, I have had to do jobs that require a lot of concentration, but also, some jobs that mainly require standing up and chopping stuff (cheffing) and standing up and cleaning stuff (cleaning) and of course, raising my kids. For all the ones that did not need concentration, I needed a soundtrack. Music makes any job a thousand times better. If you are slipping the skins off eleventy-billion broad beans, then it goes faster if you are listening to Boogie Down Productions. Trust me. When my kids and I used to clean the house after wrecking it with art stuff all day, I would put on Little Richard’s Slippin and Slidin. It still brings a HUGE smile to my face. We played air piano to it.
When I worked, not very long, as a kitchen coordinator for a Brain injury charity, the best bit of preparing lunch with people living with brain injury, was the “Let’s DO THIS” music we put on at the end of cooking and beginning of service. This one poor kid had quite bad brain trauma but was WORD perfect to Despacito with Daddy Yankee and Justin Beiber. We would all dance around the kitchen and sing along. I think with hindsight, it was inappropriate.  That’s kind of my middle name.
Who am I, what motivates me:

I have done lots of jobs but the main thread that runs through all of them is writing or some kind of communication. My aim started small, which was to not piss people off, which I did for a sizable chunk of my early working life as a journalist. I mean I DID piss people off. It was my MO.  I have moved up a gear and I am actively trying to be a “people person” and specifically, within the music business. I used to pass by this recording studio pretty much every day on the way to another job, and see people, rock and roll or soul people, just, my TRIBE, loading gear into and out of these recording studios. I thought it must be fun to work there, plus the commute would be a cinch.

I used to work in the music business, first as a writer, then as a tour manager, which was a disaster, but a GREAT story, and then as a PR for an independent label. I had to do some crazy things in that job, but I loved it. I had to dress up as an alligator, and I had to take these five guys, average age, 75, who played a type of music called Mento, on homemade instruments, to a Goth Night in Camden. But we got to listen to music all the time, which made the days fly.
Just before the first lockdown, I saw a local online newsletter that mentioned the formation of a rock and roll book group. We managed about two meetings talking about rock and roll books before we had to just stop everything, but I made friends with this guy, and he turned out to be the CEO of The Premises, the recording studio where I thought it would be fun to work. It turned out there was some part-time work going there, which was to take over running of the education programme, which uses the studios but for lessons, workshops, etc. What motivates me is an understood mutual love of music. The music is at the heart of everything fun, and important to me.  That people might want to learn how to be better on their instruments, or better singers,  or do that and be with equally enthusiastic people, there is no greater buzz than being part of that.
When did I start the job: 

I started in April, and have mainly been focusing on promoting two workshops. The first is a Piano Week with Nikki Yeoh, and working on that has taught me quite a bit about jazz and the jazz scene, which was previously off my radar. Stupid me.  The next one, which I’m working on now, is a Vocal Recording Workshop running the first three days of October, with a professional studio recording on the third day. The people running the course are people I kind of fangirl anyway: Sarah Moule, Simon Wallace and Liane Carroll. It’s about getting the best out of your singing voice without relying on autotune and stuff like that. What’s funny is I would be hopeless, myself. I can’t sing for toffee. Even my own cats cover their ears when I start to warble along to say, a PJ Harvey track, but I bring home the Dreamies, so they have to put up with it. We have a cat in the studio, which to my mind, is the mark of a great place to work. Her name is Doris and she sits at my desk. Cat, music, cool boss, fun place to work. Local business. It’s a great fit for me.

Is your work primarily a means to an end ie money, or the motivating force of your life?
 I like to learn new things and meet new people, always, so this has opened up a whole new area of music that, while I did not dismiss it, it was not my thing. I can’t promote jazz stuff without learning more about it, particularly the current scene, and the young people involved.  There is this brilliant woman who comes in to rehearse, Roella Olaro, and she’s so young, and so talented, and so humble. It’s great to see the buzz around her and when she pops by the office to stick her head in and say hi, it makes my day. Lots of musicians call in to say hi to my boss, Viv Broughton, who owns the joint.
There is a real love there, people like to hang with him, tell him what is going on, and I find that so uplifting. This is NOT a workplace where people come in, in a bad mood. Everyone is chilled and in good form, or excited. We had The Lightning  Seeds in just before the football cup final. They did that Three Lions song and it was thought they might have to do it again if England won. They asked me to get an autograph but I was suddenly attacked by a bout of shyness, something that has never troubled me so that we got someone else to do it. This week, Marc Almond is in and when he was in last, I just listened outside the door and had a little dance and when the tune finished, I stuck my head in and said, “Oh, that was SO GREAT” and they were fine with that. Gracious.
When you were 8, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a scientist who figured out how to stop all pollution. I wanted to plant apple trees on the motorways and I wanted to invent a time machine so I could go to all the concerts I missed for being too young at the time.
What is your dream job?
I like any job where the people are nice and laid back. The work itself is less important than the atmosphere. I still write and would like to write more, for money, but that’s turned into my side hustle.
If UK-based, are you glad, indifferent or disappointed that the official pension age is rising?
I am NOT HAPPY that it has been raised. Because I would like a bit of my life where my health is good, my body is strong and I can spend all my time doing fun stuff. I am 60 now and the thought of working for another seven years, even doing something I like, does not spark joy in my heart. Plus I have not been that smart, pension wise, and will be mainly reliant on the State one if they have not abolished it. I fully expect to live on Dreamies and the kindness of strangers.
You can book a vocal recording workshop with top jazz musicians Sarah Moule, Lianne Carroll on this link:

So Bad It’s Good

1 Minute Read

Finally, as all those rappers implored me years ago, I can throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care. But maybe not to rap music. The other day at one of my cleaning jobs, where my DAB radio is as vital as my bottle of kick ass lime scale remover, to make more tolerable the mundane and sometimes disgusting tasks I must perform to help richer people bath and excrete in a germ-free environment, I heard Tony Orlando and Dawn’s Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree. It is pure schlock, but it makes me tear up every time. I said to my client, young enough to be one of my kids: “I know it’s a corny song but wait for the payoff line. See he’s been in prison and he wants to know if his girl still wants him when he gets out, so he tells her to tie a ribbon round the tree, but she ties 100 ribbons. And the whole ‘damn bus is cheering’ cos they all know!” And here I dab my eyes with a J cloth. And the kid goes, “What’d did he go to prison for? Crimes against music?” and laughs at his own joke as he leaves a 20 on the table for me.
The kid is right. It is a terrible song, and yet I love it, not in an ironic way, not in a hey let’s all wear lots of polyester and platforms and pretend we are in the 70s and play loads of cheesy music and like, make a pineapple cheese hedgehog centrepiece and recite lines from Abigail’s Party. I just love it because Tony Orlando and his beautiful girls, both, to my knowledge, called Dawn (how confusing!) had a TV show I used to watch as a kid in America. And I had this fantasy that they all lived together, and Tony would go, “Dawn,  get me a cup of coffee,” and both Dawns would run and fix him some coffee, and they would just be so happy, drinking coffee, by the pool, writing songs and dance routines for the telly show. I wanted to be a Dawn and join Tony’s harem. Three cups of coffee for Tony, and we’d all sleep together in one happy bed, singing our hit tunes.
For years this was my dirty secret, that I like some really naff songs (don’t get me started on Cher’s Half Breed, same era, also had a telly show with Sonny and her then daughter, now son, Chastity, perhaps now just called Chas) and  pretty much anything by Tom Jones. The other day in the caff where I also work, Tom’s ‘It’s Not Unusual’ came on the radio and I had to down frying pan and dance and crank up the volume. “Stop texting and emailing and facetiming people! Show some respect for Tom!” One camp looking guy high fived me, as if to say, “I’m gay and hipster, and you are insane and menopausal, but we can bond over Tom!”
Songs, good or bad, technically, are imbued with memory. We are constantly making memories, and if you are anything like me, most will have a soundtrack, as evocative as smell or taste. I can’t hear Kate Bush’s ‘Babooshka’ (which is critically safe to like) without thinking of my two kiddies as toddlers, donning sheets to imitate Kate’s interpretive dancing. I don’t much like the song itself, but I love how it triggers the image of my then little ones dancing along with Kate. The critics ( and I used to be one myself) tell us what is cool and what is not, what it is OK to like and what you should never admit to liking, even ironically, but how awful it is to be in the prison of embarrassment, pretending to like music you hate, pretending to hate music you like.
And not everything I love is critical crap. Age frees you up, to not have to hide the David Soul behind the Fela Kuti record. I don’t actually like David Soul, that was my ex husband’s guilty pleasure, but Fela, Fela turns me on something rotten. I’ve got about two hormones left, neither of which make me want sex, but Fela’s Lady is so imbued with my favourite sex memory that well….it’s a very long song. And for that reason, I’m sort of more embarrassed about my reaction to Fela ( cool) than I am to the giddy singalong the likes of Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves (naff) compels me to lead. But as Joey Ramone sang (and yes I loved The Ramones, every single song): “I don’t care!”.
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