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Jamie Cullum breaks record and raises money for Age UK

Singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum, sat in a chair next to a fireplace

“Music connects the head with the heart, and us to one another. ”

Singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum loves bringing people together through music. That's why he decided to lead a record-breaking piano lesson with a Christmas twist, with money raised going to Age UK. We spoke to Jamie to find out more.

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As well as releasing a festive new album, The Pianoman At Christmas, Jamie Cullum recently broke a world record while raising money for Age UK in the process. Earlier this month, the singer-songwriter and radio presenter led a global piano lesson, teaching some 2,282 students to play the carol 'In the Bleak Midwinter' virtually, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest piano lesson live stream ever held. 

But where did the idea come from? We caught up with Jamie to learn more about the inspiration for the feat and why the work of Age UK is close to his heart. 

Congratulations on the world record, Jamie. Where did the idea originate from? 

“During this time of us all being apart and disconnected, I really liked the idea of doing something that would have the opposite effect, bringing many people together in the name of music. Music education is something I'm becoming more and more passionate about as I get older, especially as I've started to study music for the first time in my life. The initial plan was therefore to do a very big music lesson, with the Guinness World Record attempt idea coming later.”

Did that bring a nervousness to proceedings?

“No, the nerves for me came from elsewhere. I'm a self-taught musician, rather than someone who grew up in music education, so I was nervous about pulling the lesson off. I really wanted to teach people something and I knew that there would be people from a lot of different experience levels taking part, from total beginners to much more advanced. I wanted everyone to get something out of it, so I was more nervous about my own performance. Then, once I'd taught everyone to play it, I became nervous that I was going to muck up playing the sound myself!”

You donated the money raised from the event to Age UK. Why is the work we do important to you?

“I passionately believe that the older members in our community are those with the most to teach us in life. Unfortunately, older people can be those who can be forgotten, particularly at difficult times. My grandparents were incredibly important figures in my life. My grandparents on one side were from India and Burma, and on the other they were Prussian Jews, and they all had fascinating stories to tell. I witnessed them suffer with Alzheimer's and other forms of cognitive decline later in life, so I know the challenges that age can bring. And while my grandparents were looked after within my family, I know that not all older people have that support structure available.

“I was also really interested in Age UK encouraging older people to use technology as a connecting force, which is great modern thinking.”

How can people support now that the event is over?

“We made a t-shirt [in youth and adult sizes] to say that people had taken part in the record-breaking music lesson, with all the proceeds from sales of the t-shirt going to Age UK.”

Why is performing music communally, regardless of age or ability, so powerful?

“Music connects the head with the heart, and us to one another. It's a great unifying force, and we all deserve a piece of it.”

Photos of Jamie by Ed Cooke.

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Last updated: Jan 06 2021

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