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An Unconventional Teacher


BBC Radio 3

TX Date

9th Oct 2022


Leah Broad


Caroline Donne


Ewan Newbigging-Lister



Matthew Dodd, Head of Speech Programmes, BBC Radio 3

Almost singlehandedly, Ralph Vaughan Williams nurtured an entire generation of women composers.

Among others, Elizabeth Maconchy, Ruth Gipps, Ina Boyle, Grace Williams and Helen Glatz all benefitted from his teaching, either privately or as students at the Royal College of Music, where he was a Professor of Composition from 1920 to 1942. His laid-back approach that focused on developing the individual’s voice allowed them to flourish, and between them they produced outstandingly original music. And even when his students had left his teaching rooms, Vaughan Williams untiringly offered them his support.

As part of Vaughan Williams’s 150th anniversary season, music historian Leah Broad goes in search of his legacy as a teacher of women composers. She asks, what was it about his personality and teaching that produced such an astonishing variety of styles from such diverse individuals? Was Vaughan Williams’s support of his women students unique or unusual? And what has happened to the music by the women Vaughan Williams taught? Among others, she will hear from Nicola LeFanu, daughter of Elizabeth Maconchy and herself a composer; Victoria Rowe, who is keeping Ruth Gipps’ archive safe in a garden shed; and she visits Trinity College Dublin library to see the diaries and notebooks kept by Ina Boyle recording her lessons with Ralph Vaughan Williams.