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Music teacher swapped drumsticks for oven gloves

May 20th, 2021
Percussion teacher, Mr Jonathan Helm, enjoys working with his students, including Sabrina in Year 13

A percussion teacher and self-employed musician, whose work was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, successfully swapped his drumsticks for oven gloves.

Mr Jonathan Helm, a Visiting Music Teacher at Monmouth School for Girls, rose to the challenge he faced while he was furloughed from his teaching role.

To keep busy, active and focused, Mr Helm, who lives near Monmouth, started to bake sourdough bread regularly from the kitchen at his family home.

“Baking has always been something of a hobby of mine,“ explained Mr Helm, who once auditioned for The Great British Bake Off television series.

“I run Hill Farm Barn Sourdough and I am part of Wye Valley Producers.”

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the arts and music scene across the country, a world that Mr Helm has immersed himself in since leaving college.

“I first became involved with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera in 1994 and, as freelance musician, you can expect to travel up to five times a week in the evenings and fit in work and concerts wherever you can,” he said.

“However, when the coronavirus pandemic hit 14 months ago, that freelance music work dried up immediately and it had such a terrible impact on many people and the sector.”

When the pandemic struck last year, the musician threw his creativity and efforts into increasing his sourdough production, a labour intensive 24-36 hour process involving three ingredients – organic flour, water and salt.

“I started to supply my local farm shop (Square Farm Shop) five days a week with sourdough deliveries during lockdown last year and it gained momentum from there,” said Mr Helm.

“My kitchen has been properly inspected and certified and I was able to build up a regular customer-base, producing up to 100 loaves each week.

“I have received some wonderful comments from people and lovely feedback from those who have enjoyed the bread – and it has connected me to the area.”

Now that restrictions have eased, Mr Helm is delighted to have resumed teaching percussion to pupils, including Sabrina, at Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools, and starting to return to performances, as theatres and venues begin to open.

“I enjoy working with the girls – they always show so much willingness to listen and learn and we have got some very talented drummers across the schools.”

Mr Jonathan Helm threw him into baking sourdough bread during the lockdowns
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