11-PLUS failure Trevor Green has been honoured by the Queen in her Jubilee Honours for his services to music – and he says he owes it all to wonderfully inspiring teachers he had at Barden Secondary Modern School.
Mr Green, chief executive and deputy chairman of the Leeds International Piano Competition, was awarded the Order of Australia, the equivalent of the OBE, after an international career in music that had its roots in a school brass band.
His citation says he has been honoured “for his service to arts administration, particularly through the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, to Australia’s symphonic sector, and as a supporter of young artists and composers”.
“I owe it all to Burnley”, said Mr Green. “All the people that supported me gave me the world. I am very lucky”.
Life was at a low ebb when young Trevor turned up for his first day at Barden School in Abel Street.
His father, a publican, had died, and, as a consequence, the brewery had thrown his family out of their home at the Waggoners.
He was devastated at being labelled an 11-plus failure, and losing friends who preferred their new grammar school mates.
But his world took on a new shine when the school began a brass band and he discovered he could play the trumpet.
“Barden was a tough school,” said Mr Green. “The education authority in Burnley gave it a lot of brass band instruments, and being taught by the teachers there gave me my whole career.
“If you failed the 11-plus you were written off, but Barden gave me the best education for life and a career in music. None of the teachers were music specialists, but they shared their interests, and we owe them a great deal.”
He fondly remembers Jack Burrows (woodwork), singer Peter Walker (maths), Albert Smith, Mabel Holgate, Brenda Holland and fiddle-playing headteacher Jenkin Thomas.
On leaving school Mr Green went to be a motor mechanic at Tillotson’s, but his heart remained in music.
He played with Burnley, Nelson and Colne Orchestral Societies, and when he was 20 he left his home in Colne Road to train at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.
“I went on a scholarship from Burnley Education Authority,” said Mr Green. “I couldn’t have gone without it. That’s something else I’m very grateful for.”
At the Royal College of Music he expanded his skills to piano and conducting, and played with the Halle Orchestra.
The college awarded him an honorary degree a few years ago in recognition of his services to music.
He studied at the London Academy of Dramatic Art before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford and later went on to play with and manage the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, which he saved from closure.
His career then took him to Australia as the music director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation before becoming head of music for the BBC in the North-West.
He returned to Australia, where he lives in Black Rock, Victoria, to be the director of the National Academy of Australia in Melbourne and, before his “retirement” he was with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
A grandfather of five, Mr Green is in Leeds for a year to run the international piano festival and is enjoying catching up with two of his children who live in the UK before returning to Australia to see his daughter and his partner Mary Nicholson, a broadcaster with ABC.