Learning from Ivy:
(Remembered by Gill Burgoyne
Alto Sax -1972 to - 1975)

What has not been written about the famous All Girl bandleader is negligible. What's missing for me in the obituaries is the personal angle that I assume every one of us who played, lived and learnt under her direction experienced. Its important for me to share a few things about the woman, the musician, and how the two combined, provided me with understanding, and insight in to what musicianship really meant to Ivy, and how she strove to project that quality in all her musicians. How did I learn about that elusive quality?

As a young saxophonist/clarinettist, my little world comprised of nothing but positive acclaim, from those around me at King John School, Renfleet. I had studied hard, and I knew my stuff, The news of Ivy's telephone call to the school in my fifth year. had Melvin Beddow speechless for days, other than mutterings of "Ivy Benson rang...can you believe It?" Arranging the audition was as simple as placing a bet (one of Ivy's passions). I played a poor version of 'Whispering, on Alto sax; shaky, out of tune, terrified to impress. Ivy played the piano, the poodle howled in the corner, and West Ham scored a couple of goals, as the TV was still on, during my audition. "You're in!" she said, and waltzed past me calling out to her faithful father, Digger and chattering with my parents, probably asking Dad to fix a plug, or Mum to fold the washing, as if she had known them forever.

Ivy Benson bullied us youngsters but there was also praise when it sounded good, or good enough, until the next time. It was never a question of if the dress fits wear it - more like, play like a man, but for God's sake. BE A WOMAN,

At 16, l didn't know much about the world: less about discrimination, and marginalisation. Both these offensive behaviours were something Ivy put up with for many years, and we too learned that the only way to be accepted as a musician was to become one through hard work, determination and humour, qualities she possessed in abundance.

I'm a bit older now, (steady on..) and her funeral on May 13th 1993 was attended by girls spanning years of the Ivy Benson Band. We cried on the day but we also laughed a lot, knowing we bad been part of something very special, being an "Ivy" girl. As the organist closed the service with the first 16 bars of "Lady be good" we smiled at first, then roared with laughter, as bum notes sounded out,


Now if that had been ME playing duff notes...!

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