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Jane (Sadler) Helbo  

musician, wind instrument repairer, Poland / Denmark

Interviewed by Sonja van Kerkhoff

I grew up in the late 50's in the north of England and began with music as a nine year, joining a recorder group in the lunch hour. I'd always loved music and danced to music as a child but because my family moved around a lot it had not been possible to have any musical lessons until then. My mother's father was a pianist and a clarinet player. An encouraging music teacher at my high school taught me the oboe and helped me improve on the recorder. I played in small groups and in the high school orchestra, taking music as one of my school subjects.

After this music was a hobby for me. I continued to perform but I never studied it to a very high academic level. Then I started going to folk clubs and loved the way music was improvised and often played by ear. I had been trained to play exactly how the music was written without variation and this exposure at folk clubs loosened up my performing.

At teacher's college I majored in English and Drama with music as a teaching subject but not a major. I felt that if I had music as an exam subject, that I'd be restricted in my playing and then lose my love for it. After teaching in primary schools for 8 years, I quit. I felt unfulfilled as a primary school teacher. I gave private lessons in music, English and maths for another two years, while taking painting and decorating classes, and trying to decide what to do with my life and I encountered the Bahá´í Faith during this time of growth and reflection, and it happened through music!
In 1980, while still teaching, I joined a folk group. They thought I was wonderful because I could read everything at sight and I thought they were wonderful because they knew everything by heart. It was mutual adoration, and two of the band members were Bahá´ís. I needed the music to free myself spiritually after a day of teaching children with special needs. Later I discovered that a lot of my ideas which clashed with the education system, were Bahá´í educational ideas, such as education being progressive and infinite instead of a series of finite packages, and training children to inquire instead being taught to memorize facts.

Svk: In the folk music scene, I rarely see women performing...

I know that this factor contributed to my growth, because I joined the band as a competent performer and came in with a lead instrument (flute), although I was never the leader of the band. In the beginning I found it difficult being up front by the microphone, and now I love it. The experience helped me to gain confidence as a woman and to believe that I had something to offer or say without jeopodising my attractiveness or feeling uncomfortable.

I generally play English or Irish music out of laziness. It is what is at my fingertips. Also I prefer it because it is more socially orientated. It is also linked to dance, another love of mine, and it also gets more people physically involved. And it is music for all ages!

I don't have the sort of drive to be a good musician and it's not important to me. What is important is communicating with people. That's my main aim with anything I'm doing whether through music or another medium. So my music is really a means for communication rather than for self-expression. This used to worry me sometimes because I knew that I had the potential to be a good performer, but I am now comfortable accepting that this is something I have chosen not to develop further.

I moved to Northern Ireland, after some Bahá´ís from Craigabon mentioned needing some new blood in their community and while there looked at ways I could combine my musical interest with a practical skill and came up with training to be an instrument repairer. This meant returning to North England to do the 3 year study. I was 33 when I started and was worried at being so old, but the years flew by. As well as learning all about fixing instruments, we also made some from scratch.

On graduating I decided to move back to my home area and gave myself two years as a goal to build up a business as an instrument repairer. It worked and then at the end of those two years, I decided to pioneer to Katowice in Poland in 1992.

Excerpts from Arts Dialogue, December 1992, Pages 10 - 11.

Jane moved to Denmark in 2000.

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