On Saturday piano teacher Julie Johnson-Little hosts a special evening at Redhouse Community Centre, in which pupils past and present will showcase their achievements for loved ones. A staunch believer in the power of music to improve the lives of creators and hearers alike, Julie, 62, is based in North Swindon and has three grown-up children

“MUSIC is the road to the soul and at the very heart of my existence,” Julie Johnson-Little cheerfully admits.

“It’s such a pleasure to teach the Swindon children and adults who come to me.

“I have an absolute passion for it – it comes naturally to me.”

That love of music dates back to her childhood in Cornwall, where her family had moved from Sutton Coldfield when Julie was seven. Her father sang in a male voice choir and an uncle was a concert pianist.

“Whenever I went to visit, it was impressed on my mind – music. I inherited that love for music; it was all around me.”

It was natural that Julie would learn to play music herself. Her early piano lessons were with a teacher called Mr Champion in Helston.

Julie remembers her very first lesson, which she took the week before the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

Her second was on the day of the funeral, and she remembers her teacher glancing from the keyboard to the live broadcast on a black and white television.

Mr Champion was an inspirational teacher with an inspirational piano. “He had a Steinway – that was when I first experienced my love of Steinway pianos. It’s the piano of pianos, the best you can get, like a Rolls Royce.”

Last year Julie bought a Steinway of her own. Her pupils mostly use another instrument, an upright made by Broadwood, itself a highly respected manufacturer, but students who practice a piece to near-perfection are given the chance to try the Steinway.

Under the guidance of Mr Champion and later teachers, Julie passed her Grade Seven examination in piano. She dearly wanted Grade Eight but was unable to find a teacher locally. Grade Eight was ultimately to come in 2004.

In the meantime, Julie also discovered another musical passion, which began when she was invited to become involved in the brass band scene with the acclaimed St Keverne Band.

“I started that in 1976, the reason being that the band had a social aspect, whereas the piano did not.”

She played first baritone, an instrument which looks a little like euphonium.

Today Julie is a musician with another acclaimed band, Swindon Pegasus, as well as being its publicity officer. “Even though I’m a music teacher I love it because I’m always still learning myself. You never stop.”

In spite of the countless thousands of hours spent practicing, performing and latterly teaching music, Julie has had a successful career in the Civil Service, beginning in 1973 as a typist and rising through the ranks.

From 1985 to 1998 she was in a senior office position with the Coast Guard in Falmouth, and today she works in facility management for the Ministry of Defence.

“I like to keep busy. I’m one of those people who likes to keep occupied. It’s the way I was brought up – if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”

She enjoys the Civil Service but candidly describes the job as a means of paying the mortgage.

Julie’s real passions are music and – since 2003 – teaching music to others. She holds a prestigious teaching qualification, the CT ABRSM, as well as the insurance and legal clearances needed by people who give private music lessons.

She has had about 300 students over the years, including young children, older ones who’ve discovered a favourite piece played by an idol and want to try for themselves, and many adults.

Some of those adults come to her because they regret letting their childhood music lessons fall by the wayside, others because they simply wish to explore an interest and still others because they want nothing more than enough skill to impress and amuse guests.

All are welcomed, and Julie has a simple message for any older person who wonders whether the time for learning has passed.

“It’s never too late. It doesn’t matter what shape your hands are – if you want it you’ll do it.”

Julie insists that anybody with the time, the motivation and the wherewithal to pay for lessons can succeed, and that a complete novice can be playing recognisable classics within a very few months.

Where younger musicians are concerned, Julie cites studies which have concluded that piano lessons can improve performance in everything from maths to other branches of the arts.

As a teacher, Julie experiences more moments of job satisfaction than she can describe, but she finds herself especially impressed while working with students in exam prep rooms before their tests. “I’m amazed at the standards they push themselves to right before the exam. I can’t believe the standard some reach.”

Julie’s Facebook presence is Piano Lessons in Priory Vale.