New school for students who are ready to rock

Sheffield School of Rock
Sheffield School of Rock

SHEFFIELD is about to get its first School of Rock and Pop.

Preparations are being made to launch the venture at Birkdale School in Broomhill in January, aiming to encourage the talents of 13-to-18-year-olds from across the city.

Teaching will be given in voice, guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboards, saxophone and trumpet, and students will be helped to form their own bands, compose their own pieces and to make demo recordings.

“There is so much talent out there who never get any kinds of support,” said Dr Spencer Pitfield, who is launching the initiative with another Birkdale music teacher, Greg Bish.

“We are very much hoping that the school will become a dedicated hub for young aspiring rock and pop musicians.”

The venture is designed to cover its costs, with courses charged on a half-termly basis. The cost of a Friday session between 4.15pm and 6.15pm will be £12.50.

“It’s a not-for-profit venture. Every £1 raised from the fees will go to the staff,” said Spencer.

“Sheffield has long been recognised as a national centre for rock and pop, and we feel there is a real interest among youngsters, but the city doesn’t have a school like this,” he added. “There are youngsters who would like to have teaching but can’t.”

Birkdale already accommodates the Sheffield Music Academy, Hallam Chorale Society and Sheffield Symphony Orchestra.

The school has a strong musical pedigree. As well as its pupils studying music, performances have been given by guitarists Eric Clapton (his daughter Ruth was in the sixth form in 1993) and, earlier this year, Steve Hackett (his brother, John, teaches flute there).

John Hackett is a tutor on the course, with Spencer, who teaches clarinet and has played in professional orchestras, Greg, a member of the European Guitar Teachers Association who has his own band, Jonathan Kirwan, who plays guitar and bass, Peter Taylor, who teaches singing, and Johnny Hunter, who teaches drums.

The directors intend to announce a patron towards the end of the summer term, with the hope that he or she will join other leading musicians in giving masterclasses.

Greg Bish, an accredited Rockschool teacher, said: “We will be offering Rockschool-accredited exams, together with the opportunity for emerging groups to make demos of their compositions on Friday afternoons in term times.

“Sessions will be two hours long and consist of individual instrumental tuition held in a masterclass format together with the coaching of bands.

“We have worked hard to keep the costs as low as possible as we want as many young people from across the city as possible to benefit.”