1988: Fleur Rickford is born in Solihull, England.
1991: At a concert with her mom, three-year-old Fleur points to the harp and says, “I want to play that.”
1994: At age 6 Fleur starts harp and piano lessons.
1997: At age 9 Fleur is the pianist in Primary.
1998: At age 10 Fleur is the ward organist.
2003: At age 15 Fleur gets into Chetham’s School of Music in England, a boarding school for musically gifted students.
2005: Fleur talks about the challenges of living away from home:
“It’s really hard because I’m the only Latter-day Saint in the school. It’s quite hard to fit in prayers and scripture study. But you put your mind to it. You have to organize your time.
“I’ve decided to make prayer, scripture study, and home-study seminary a part of my schedule. I can’t get through the day without them. You have to have the Spirit with you, or you start doing the things everyone else does.”
At Chetham’s, Fleur is doing something everyone else is doing: studying music. Fleur says music has come naturally to her because she grew up in a musical family. Her father sings, and her five older siblings all learned to play musical instruments.
Fleur remembers the first time she played the organ in sacrament meeting. She had played the piano in Primary, but when the ward organist was called to be the bishop, he encouraged her to play the organ. He asked her to play the closing hymn one sacrament meeting. Fleur was nervous.
When it was time for the hymn, she went to the organ, and the bishop sat beside her to work the pedals for her. From that day on, Fleur served as the ward organist, from age 10 to 14.
She says, “It was scary sitting up on the stand with people staring at me.” Her willingness to serve, however, brought a blessing: “After a while I got better at sight-reading the hymns. I could just go in and play them.”
When she was 15, Fleur auditioned for and got in to Chetham’s School of Music. If music wasn’t her life then, it is now. Her classes, which include regular academic subjects, begin at 8:00 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. Outside of class, she practices her music for several hours at a time.
On the harp, she plays solos, ensembles, and jazz and classical pieces. Last fall, the orchestra she is in performed three symphony concerts in nearby cities. At home she accompanies her father when he sings, and she plays the piano, harp, and organ for the ward. She also plays for community events.
At Chetham’s, surrounded by people whose values and standards differ from her own, Fleur is determined to keep her Young Women values. Although students aren’t allowed to smoke or drink at school, some of them do so when they go out to Manchester, a nearby city.
Fleur explains: “When they say, ‘Come to the pub with us,’ I just say, ‘No, thanks. I don’t drink.’” Now that Fleur’s fellow students know her standards, they respect her for not drinking or smoking.
When she goes out, Fleur spends time with friends who don’t drink, or she goes shopping or to the cinema. “I make my own sort of fun,” she says.
Fleur says it takes self-mastery and strength to live the gospel when you are away from your family and Church friends. She says living away from home has strengthened her testimony and adds: “You have to learn to control yourself in an environment where you could just go out and do a lot of things you wouldn’t do when you were at home. You have to think about what the consequences would be if you do things like that.”
At home, she found it easy to take her friends’ and family’s support for granted. Her Church friends were nearby. She could have family home evening with her parents. “When you go through difficult things, you can just go and talk to your parents. Or you can just ring up your Church friends,” Fleur says. “The problem with being at school is you’re on your own. You have to find a place to read your scriptures. I have a few Church CDs with me. It gets me through. It builds my testimony.”
Still, every weekend, she takes the one-hour train ride home to be with her family and Church friends. If she has exams in the coming week, Fleur asks her father for a priesthood blessing. The weekend passes quickly as she goes to youth dances on Friday nights, youth activities on Saturdays, and church on Sunday in the Bradford Second Ward, Leeds England Stake.
At school Fleur’s good example has rubbed off on others. Last winter, the mother of Fleur’s roommate died of cancer. Fleur’s roommate returned home to South Africa for the funeral. After she returned to school, she had a hard time readjusting because she missed her mother. Fleur told her about the plan of salvation, which brought her a lot of comfort.
On another occasion, this roommate told Fleur she was surprised at how many friends Fleur has. Fleur explained that she knows them from church. A couple of friends from school have now gone to church with Fleur.
Others have noticed the gospel’s influence in Fleur’s life, like her housemother, Mrs. Brun. She said Fleur “is very self-controlled and always gets on with what she has to do quietly and calmly. She is positive and a reliable member of the community and copes admirably with all demands made on her. This is, I am sure, due to her church background.”
During her first year at school, when she lived with four roommates, Fleur had a hard time finding time alone to pray and study scriptures. “There wasn’t much privacy to pray, unless I got in the dorm early. The other option was to pray in the bathroom. It wasn’t the greatest place, but it was private.”
Fleur makes time for gospel study because, she says, “reading the scriptures daily for seminary helps me to live Church principles away from home.” Fortunately, this year Fleur has her own room, making it easier for her to pray and study.
Fleur says prayer helps her do well in school. So far, she has received the highest scores possible on her music exams. “Being a musician, I have a lot of exams. If I just went into the examination room and played my instruments, I probably wouldn’t do as well because I wouldn’t be in a spiritual state. I pray before I go in, and I seem to come out with good results. I see these as blessings.”
Living far from family and Church friends has taught Fleur to count her many blessings. One is that people respect her for living her standards; they see what good the Church brings her. Another is that making time in her busy schedule for gospel activities invites the Spirit to accompany her.
Besides playing music, Fleur enjoys using her musical talent to serve and teach. She has some advice for those who want to learn music:
“If you have musical people in your ward, they might be willing to teach. I’ve taught piano before to Primary boys. I used to teach songs in Young Women. I played the piano for them and helped them learn new songs. It was fun to be involved like that. It’s good for you.
“Stick at it. Develop your skills. It takes practice and discipline and self-control. Music has helped me be a better person because you have to work very hard.”