Autobiography

Atarah’s Band

A teenage prodigy on the flute, I played my first television concerto live at the Royal Albert Hall aged fourteen. In addition to playing, I have guested on UK television and radio shows, including: Lunchtime Pebble Mill (BBCtv), The John Dunn Show, Start The Week, Kaleidoscope, Good Morning! and many other highly rated programmes.

Atarah’s Music Box was all about children and music, and was networked on BBC Radio Three for three years.

Omnibus devoted a whole programme to my work, as did Blue Peter and Magpie.

My musical stories for little children in Rub-A-Dub-Tub on Sunday mornings ran for over two years. And BRMB (Birmingham), Radio City (Liverpool), Radio Merseyside (Liverpool), Radio Piccadilly (Manchester), Red Rose Radio (Preston, Lancashire) and many other stations carried my radio series over the years.

Chamber Music

I have played in just about every possible combination of musicians where a flute can be found, and also started two ensembles of my own. The Dubois Trio (once in Wales we arrived to find the front-of-house bill read The Dubious Trio, but that’s show business) consisted of myself on flute, picc and alto flute, with Keith Wood (French-speakers will get the pun in the trio’s name) on oboe and Rosemary Braga on harpsichord.

The Ben-Tovim Ensemble was a very different kettle of music: myself on flute, picc and amplified electric alto,
Atarah Ben-Tovim

Colin Kitchin on viola, Dietrich Bethge on cello, John Harper on classical and electric guitars and Paul Mitchell-Davidson on fretless electric bass. The Arts Council and Gulbenkian Foundation funded several compositions for us and a performance by the ensemble at the Royal Northern College of Music was one of the twin highlights of the Omnibus programme on BBCtv about me and my work; the other was film footage of a children’s concert with Atarah’s Band.

Children’s Concerts

In 1975, depressed by how awful most children’s concerts apart from those of Sir Malcolm Sargent and Leonard Bernstein were, I founded Atarah’s Band with my husband Douglas Boyd. Now a full-time author (two of his novels feature musicians). Douglas was then a BBC Television Producer, and helped me produce and put on the road a unique music show for modern children, introducing them to the classical repertoire and motivating them to learn an instrument. The Band filled major halls throughout the UK, from Snape Maltings in the east to Queen’s Hall, Belfast and Theatre Royal, Plymouth in the west, and from London’s Royal Festival Hall and Barbican Centre in the south to Aberdeen in the far north. It was also booked by virtually all the most prestigious festivals in Britain and the Hong Kong Festival, as well as the managements of RLPO, CBSO and the Hallé. By the time the Band came off the road (sheer exhaustion made us stop) it had treated more than three million children to an experience likened to a cross between a symphony concert and a circus, a pantomime and a pop show. Many of the live concerts were special schools’ performances. It also had its own television series on BBCtv Northwest, Granada TV, Thames TV, as well as radio series all over Britain.

Lilly and her oboe

Instruments Played

Throughout my orchestral days, I played on a wooden Rudall Carte, Galway hated it and so did Rampal, and when I played in an impromptu quartet in Israel with Julius Baker, Uri Teplitz and Orel Nicolet they thought I was mad, but I preferred the way a wooden instrument sounds with the oboe, clarinet and bassoon in the woodwind section. I now play on a silver Altus with a superb Oxley gold head-joint. My picc is also a Rudall Carte.

Music Panels

  • Arts Council of Great Britain – Music Panel
  • Gulbenkian Foundation
  • BBC Music Panel
  • IBA Awards
  • Musicians’ Benevolent Fund
  • Children’s Music Foundation in Scotland
  • Music Research

    The children’s concerts gave me contact with thousands of teachers, whose questions led to wondering why so many children fail at learning an instrument. The accepted wisdom is that the failures lack something called musicality, yet nobody, including the Gulbenkian Foundation which did research in 17 countries, has ever defined what that quality is, so it can’t be the reason. To find out what was, we bought half a street of derelict houses in Rossendale, North of Manchester, and converted them into an independent music research centre. Occupying 44 rooms in five adjacent stone houses, the centre was an independent charity, which existed for several years to find the answers to many normally unasked (because taboo) questions about children and music.

    Musical Studies

  • Principal Flute with National Youth Orchestra.
  • Student with Gareth Morris at Royal Academy of Music, London 1958 – 62.
  • French government bursary to study in Paris under Fernand Caratgé 1962.
  • Marcel Moïse summer schools.

    Orchestral Career

  • Principal Flute with National Youth Orchestra.

    Principal with Ballet Rambert and Sadlers Wells Opera.

    I was appointed First Flute, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1963, after Fritz Spiegel left. Jimmy Galway (who studied at the Royal College while I was at the Academy) also auditioned at the same time, but I got the job! Playing under conductors including Sargent, Boult, Beecham, Barbirolli, Colin and Andrew Davis, Simon Rattle, John Pritchard and our resident conductor, Sir Charles Groves, who was also a wonderful person, was to me such a joy that I always wondered why they paid me Рnot that musicians earned much in those days. For twelve years until 1975 I stayed Principal with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, but also played on occasion with Philharmonia, English Chamber Orchestra, Hall̩, Northern Sinfonia.

    During this period, my solo work included concertos with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra.

    Qualifications & Honours

  • M.B.E. Member of the Order of the British Empire (1980) – for services to children’s music
  • Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Council for National Academic Awards (1991)
  • Licenciate of Royal Academy of Music (performing diploma)
  • Associate of Royal College of Music
  • Associate of the Royal Academy of Music
  • Teaching

    At various times, I have been Professor of Flute at Liverpool University, Royal Northern College of Music, Lancaster University, Huddersfield Polytechnic.Even during my years on the road with Atarah’s Band I enjoyed teaching flute too much to give it up entirely, despite all the pressures of 200 days of concerts each year. Except that really I don’t teach the instrument, but the pupil, because every learner is different.In addition to private consultation or assessment lessons, I am much involved in flute courses for children, music students, teachers and adult amateurs of all standards from beginners to Diploma level.

    Flute Courses

    Current Activities

    Artistic Director Children’s Classic Concerts (Glasgow) Planning the programme of the award-winning series of orchestral concerts for children in Scotland and at Barbican Centre, London. I also present some of the concerts which involve audience participation (not everyone can control two thousand children who have brought instruments and want to join in!). At Christmas 1998, BBC2 did a spin-off series planned by me and called Classics for Kids. For this season’s programme of concerts visit the CCC website.

    Representative Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, South West of France. If you want to take one of these internationally recognised exams, which range from Preparatory Grade to professional performing and teaching diplomas (LRSM), call or fax me for details of exams at nine centres in the region.

    Associated Board Diplomas

    Associated Board Diplomas

    Director of Music Studies Bordeaux International School

    Soloist and presenter of the Ensemble Aliénor. Also featuring Stella Marisova (a sublime soprano from Czech Republic, who was soloist with Bruno Opera) and Patrick Hilliard (a dream of a pianist). Repertoire includes works for voice, flute and piano by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, St-Saens, Ravel, Rodrigo, Bax and many Czech folk songs and arias from oratorios and opera. For availability of the Ensemble, call or fax. Check concerts for updated information.

    Presenter the Flute Orchestra of London in ‘A Feast of Fluting’. Check concerts for updated information.

    The Future

    I love programming and presenting live concerts – especially orchestral ones – for children and family audiences. For hosting flute courses anytime, anywhere, and one-to-one assessment lessons, call or fax.

    23 Comments

    • By Elizabeth Suzuma, 2008/05/02 @ 11:55 pm

      Dear Atarah, found you at last.!My son and daughter who so loved your children’s concerts in the early eighties are now respectively 30 and 33, but we all still remember those wonderful stories and musical demonstrations put on by you and your band. I found an old invoice for your bandkit tapes which refreshed your name and image in my elderly head (64) and did just want to say hullo again. Am about to be a first time grandmother in the autumn so, hopefully, will be able to introduce them (twins) to your music making too. My youngest son,incidentally, born long after your tours, actually became a music student (pianist).
      You gave us all a great deal of happiness when the children were young. Thank you., Elizabeth Suzuma

    • By Marie-France Siegler, 2008/09/19 @ 4:52 pm

      Dear Atarah,
      We met again, after several months-years, at the cinema after “Mama Mia” and you said
      you’d send me your e-mail ( I gave you mine ), so please do! There’s a concert here in my
      gentilhomière/château on Sunday afternoon Sept.28, 17h ( Château de Pécany par Pomport,
      12 kms de Bergerac – 05 53 58 42 03 )- Harpiswing. I hope you can come. As you said the
      other night, “we need to talk.” A bientôt, MF

    • By Trudi Higgins, 2008/10/16 @ 9:17 pm

      Hey Marie France if you come back here – hello from me – and hope things are fine with you
      love Trudi

    • By Terrie Chaplin, 2009/01/18 @ 9:48 am

      Hello Atarah
      A friend and I were reminiscing the other day and recalled the time we went to your music school in Haslingden, Lancashire on Saturday mornings in 1976 (approx). Blue Peter were filming one time and Sue and I were filmed entering the building. We both have very fond memories of the times we spent in the ‘Indian room’ and other areas of the school. Could you please let me know if there are archives of the school etc. Warm regards

    • By admin, 2009/01/18 @ 10:04 am

      Hi Terrie

      Funny how everyone remembers the Blue Peter visit!

      Sorry no archives apart from images shown on the website. 1,000 of photos were lost in the last move…or should I say can’t be found.

    • By Jayne Jones, 2009/02/04 @ 11:18 pm

      Wow – Atarah – I came to see you when I was in middle school at Huddersfield and your concert/ music workshop has stayed with me all these years (27 years). I played the flute and we came to see you as a school group and I remember how exciting it all was – so different to everything we had been taught musically upto that point. I am no proffesional flautist and never really did very well, exam wise – but I still have a flute which I get out weekly and play (to my ability) for my children, mainly and for fun. How thrilled I was to have my 6 year old son say he had played on a flute in his music lesson at school – I am in the process of getting him a piccolo as his enthusiasm is amazing. I literally put childrens flute in a search engine and there was your inspirational face. I am bringing my 2 along to the next concert we can get to – thank you for memories and inspiration – I can’t wait for them to see your show !
      Do you have any dates in spring 2009?
      Well done and well deserved on all your achievments.
      JJ

    • By admin, 2009/02/04 @ 11:44 pm

      Aw JJ

      Thank you.

      Just goes to show as long as you enjoy what you are doing, it’s great and just as importantly…fun!!!!

      So glad that you made the effort to help your children to try things out. It does not matter how well they do, just giving the experience is what is important.

      Your enthusiasm in your comment shows through, you must be a fab mum to have.

    • By Neil W, 2009/04/22 @ 11:28 am

      Hello
      I remember seeing you on a school trip in Fleetwood at the marine hall. I would remind my parents and anyone I was with everytime we drove past with the words “I saw Atarah’s band there!” and thats nearly 30 years ago.
      Still remember the fantastic time.
      Thanks for memorys.
      Neil

    • By Kim Lay, 2009/08/10 @ 6:26 pm

      Dear Atarah, I’m glad I found your site and reading it took me back to the time that I watched a TV programme (I think I was off sick at the time and watching the old schools programmes on BBC) where you hosted a programme with the backing of what I recall was called Atarah’s Band. Although I can’t remember what that programme was, I do remember how enjoyable it was and that I wished I’d be able to see more. It gave me a still widening interest in all kinds of music and for that, I thank you.

    • By Arthur Critchley, 2009/09/04 @ 4:17 pm

      Hi Atarah.
      Ny daughter Julie was one of your students in Liverpool back when you where in the Liverpool Phill’. She was at Hudderfield Univercity and playing with the Lancashire School’s Symphony Orchestra at the time. She is now Julie Oade (divorced) and has been a music teacher all her adult life. She sends her regards and remembers you with affection.
      Her daughter Stephanie Oade is just making her way as a professional cellist. We always say that you put both of them on the right track with your comment, ” All children can play an instument, it’s just matching them with the right one.”
      I often come across musicans that have been associated with you in the past. Without exception they all think of you with great fondness.
      Best regards to you and Douglas,
      Arthur & Pat Critchley.

    • By Angela Lamerick, 2009/09/25 @ 2:51 pm

      My little girls used to watch Atarah’s Band on tv and we took them to see your children’s concert here nearly 30 years ago. I took a photo of them with you as you were signing someones autograph book -you just looked down as I took it- but it is still a good picture.
      As our albums were falling to pieces, I am scrapbooking all the photos and have just come to that photo plus one of the sticky brown badges you gave out. I came to the computer to copy another badge (I’m doing two books),and decided to check what you are doing now. I have printed your picture to go alongside their photo and they will be delighted when they see it.
      Well done Atarah, you have been an encouragement to so many children.
      Angela

    • By Hilary, 2009/09/28 @ 4:56 pm

      Hi Atarah,

      I have been yet again looking at the web in the hope of finding a children’s concert in the south east for my children. I’m sure I remember seeing you at Birmingham Town Hall in the mid 1980s and being spellbound by Peter and the Wolf. I went on to take up the oboe. I would love my three children to have the same memories. Regards, Hilary

    • By alison whaley, 2009/11/24 @ 11:24 pm

      Wow – never thought I’d actually find a site by yourself when i typed in search engine!! HI!!!!!! You were my inspiration to start playing flute at age of 12 after you perform in Perth city hall in the late 70′s early 80′s! When the woodwind teacher asked why I wanted to play flute, I said “I enjoyed Atarah’s band so much I wanted to do that too”!! Sadly I haven’t played much since leaving secondary school – though would love chance to get back to it but life hectic just now raising my wee boys aged 4,3, 1 1/2 and 3 months!! The older two already show musical ability (the eldest wanted a keyboard last christmas and a guitar this Christmas!!!) so I do hope they too find inspiration in choosing the way they want to go. Thank you thank you so much for the influence you had in my formative years. God bless. x

    • By Ben, 2010/01/12 @ 11:45 am

      I have vivid childhood memories of seeing you with your band in Hong Kong. You were great. I took flute lesson for a while afterwards :)

    • By Chris, 2010/05/17 @ 12:35 am

      Atarah, I’m now 37 and still remember you having us play the Pied Piper of Hamalin. Thank you for many happy memories.

    • By Katie, 2010/05/23 @ 10:43 pm

      Dear Atarah, I am now 25, we briefly met 15 years ago in a small school called St Margarets in England. I played clarinet and we performed Lotus Talk. You really inspired me and I continued with my music. It is still a very happy memory for me. Thank you.

    • By Iona, 2010/10/26 @ 9:57 pm

      I remember you at the Liverpool Phil; i was a pupil of the then leader Peter Mountain. My brother David learnt flute with you. Happy times.

    • By Karen, 2010/12/06 @ 7:04 pm

      Hi Atarah, I was fortunate enough to be invited up to the converted houses in Rossendale, back when I was at school in Manchester(about 1979). We all played for a local radio.It was one of the most exciting experiences I had at secondary. I have played in a folk band in recent Years but haven’t really kept up with courses etc.

    • By Mike, 2010/12/07 @ 11:07 pm

      Hi Atarah, I remember coming to see you in the late 70′s at The Grove School in Market Drayton, Shropshire. I’m now 40 and remember it as if it was yesterday. I’ve grown up with music and play drums primarily. Imagine my surprise when my wife told me that she had seen you in the 80′s in Ipswich when she was a girl and that we had BOTH chosen the Blue Album to take home after the concert. The Posthorn Gallop, Robot Rock and War of the Puddings are now on the top play list in the car for our 2 year old son, so your work carries on.
      God bless you for everything you have done and continue to do, you’re one in a million

    • By Pat Mac Mellow, 2011/01/05 @ 6:33 pm

      Dear Madame,

      I’m emailing you as I picked up a copy of your Atarah and Friends album recently. I wanted to express my pleasure with your playing, especially your take on Summertime, hence this email.

      Best wishes,

      Pat

    • By Janet Peel, 2011/03/29 @ 10:32 pm

      Hello Atarah

      I can and you coming to Haslingden County Primary and teaching the recorder. I didn’t keep up music but have recently started plaing keyboard at age 46. Very late beginner and enjoying it.

    • By Janet Peel, 2011/03/29 @ 10:35 pm

      I can remember when you sat on the kerb with my Grandad on Regent Street Haslingden, just passing the time of day.

    • By Jennifer Miller, 2011/07/14 @ 8:37 am

      I too remembered your face and voice but not your name (until today). Loved seeing/hearing you again on youtube at your 70th.
      I came to all your concerts in Edinburgh in the early 80s. My son and I loved you and felt loved right back without ever meeting you.
      You were a special and strong support to me as a single parent at a particularly vulnerable time after an unpleasant break up so just wanted to say ‘Thank you’ from my heart.
      You are a unique and wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all!

    Other Links to this Post

    RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

    Leave a comment