The Blackpool Gazette’s major new appeal to get everyone involved in music

Pictured is student Caroline Cooper
Pictured is student Caroline Cooper

The Gazette today launches a major new appeal as we ask our readers to help give everyone – young and old – the chance to become music marvels.

For close to a decade Blackpool Music Academy has been helping children, teenagers, the disabled and the elderly learn to play musical instruments.

We want to give children, the elderly and those with disabilities the chance to play instruments. It is so crucial – for children it gets them off to the best start

Thousands of pounds have been raised to support the academy as its tutors give students the chance to develop their creative talents.

But a decade on from opening, the academy needs your help.

It wants to provide more instruments for hire, more affordable tuition and to help give people new skills.

It is a major task and to do so more than 50 instruments as well as more than £20,000 needs to be donated – and this is where Gazette readers come in.

We want generous Fylde folk to help Give Us A Tune and do something truly special to help boost music participation across the coast.

That could be by donating unwanted musical instruments or donations of cash.

Music academy boss John Shaw, 67, said he wanted to give a new generation of people the chance to develop their untapped musical talents.

He told The Gazette: “The academy wants to build a legacy that is there for the community.

“We have 50 to 100 students who visit the academy but we want to double that.

“To help do this we need keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, saxophones too.

“We are in such a deprived area. We’ve had parents coming in asking about our instruments.

“Some people can’t afford it and the child loses out.”

Mr Shaw added: “We want to give children, the elderly and those with disabilities the chance to play instruments. It is so crucial – for children it gets them off to the best start.

“It gives them something to move forward with.

“For someone to learn music and play an instrument it lasts a lifetime.

“We want to make it affordable. It would give young people, those with disabilities and the elderly a fantastic opportunity – where else can you do that in Blackpool?”

If the £20,000 is raised, it will help subsidise 10 classes of six musicians for a year, with lesson fees which normally cost £10 dropping to £4 per person.

Founded by Mr Shaw in 2006, and funded with Lottery cash, the Academy was created with the aim of making music accessible to people from all walks of life – young or old, experienced or novice.

Classes cover a range of instruments from the keyboard to the ukulele and no experience is necessary, which is good news for anyone wanting to give something new a go.

Now a community interest company and charity, the Academy’s members range from age 11 to 93, with home tuition available for students with special needs.

How you can help

• Anyone interested in supporting our Give Us A Tune campaign can drop instruments off at the Academy in Waterloo Road, Blackpool

• The academy can collect items from homes if required

• To donate money to the Academy, visit www.blackpoolmusicacademy.com

• For more information contact (01253) 695398

• Gazette reporter Gareth Vickers will be covering the campaign – so get in touch with your music stories or how you can help by calling (01253) 361879.

‘Music academy helps you meet other people - it’s just fantastic’

Famous names from the world of music gave their backing to The Gazette’s Give Us A Tune appeal.

Singers, DJs and stage stars lent their support for the campaign, which aims to help get more people into music.

Radio One DJ Danny Howard, called the appeal “amazing” and urged readers to back it.

He added: “If you have a musical interest it helps to learn to play an instrument.

“When I was younger I learned the piano – later on I became a DJ.

“There was nothing around giving people the opportunity and to give them the chance is amazing.

“When I was younger I had to borrow old equipment – anything I could get my hands on really. So this idea makes it more accessible.”

Danny, a former Lytham St Annes High School pupil, added: “Playing music helps with your confidence.

“I’m lucky enough to play in front of quite a lot of people. I would never be able to get up in front of them and talk, but put me behind some DJ decks I’m a different person.

“I’m fully behind this – anything that gets people into music. I wish when I was younger I had something like this.”

Blackpool rock star and journalist John Robb, bassist and vocalist in The Membranes and Gold Blade, added: “I fully support the access to music for everyone. Music should be available for all people from all walks of life – this is something I fully support.”

Entertainer Bobby Ball, who lives in St Annes, said: “I think it’s a wonderful idea, marvellous.

“If you learn an instrument it helps your confidence in all sorts of things.

“It gives you another string to add to your bow. You carry it for the rest of your life.

“I also think you go to a music academy it helps you meet other people and bring you out of your shell.

“I think it’s wonderful, and I’ll help in any way I can.”

And Blackpool Coun Tony Williams, who played in British rock bands Jethro Tull and Stealers Wheel, said: “It is a great idea. Anything that supports how young people take up music and learn an instrument is brilliant as far as I am concerned.

“There are musical instruments lying around in homes across Blackpool and it will be a fantastic gesture for anyone who can spare an instrument.

“It’s a big thumbs up to The Gazette for launching this.”

‘I think this campaign is great and will really help’

As we launch The Gazette’s Give Us A Tune, we meet up with one of Blackpool Music Academy’s longest-serving students to get her take on the music-inspired appeal.

Caroline Cooper, 19, first started piano lessons nine years ago at the Waterloo Road venue.

In the years since she has gone from a novice to one of the academy’s best students – earning a place at the Leeds College of Music as she works her way towards her grade eight exam – the final test for any pianist.

The former Blackpool Sixth Form College student told The Gazette about her love of music, how she started at the academy and why she is backing the campaign, which is asking readers to donate instruments and money to help others.

Caroline, of Regency Gardens, Bipsham, said: “I would like more people to get involved with playing. A lot of children do not get involved because the cost of buying an instrument can be high.

“My first keyboard was donated to me, but my latest keyboard piano cost almost £1,000.

“I can see why it would be difficult to get started – I think this campaign is a great idea and would really help.”

The Gazette and Blackpool Music Academy have joined forces to try and raise £20,000 to subsidise lessons for students. It is hoped the money will allow budding musicians across the Fylde coast to get involved in playing – giving them a chance to meet new people and learn a skill.

Caroline, who says Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi is her inspiration, said she started playing after being introduced to music by her parents, Les and Diane.

She added: “My parents suggested coming to the academy. I must have been the first child here. I tried it and thought I would give it a go. I practice at least an hour everyday.

“When I come to the academy I work with my teacher Stephen Austin and am currently progressing towards a grade eight in piano.

“I hope to be a performer one day, but I’m not going to set it in stone.

“I do know though that I would not be where I am without the training and lessons I’ve been given here.”

‘Playing the keyboard keeps my brain active - I really enjoy it!’

Musicians are often seen as young and fresh-faced, but as pensioner Rhoda Clemson proves, you’re never too old to learn a new skill.

At 91, Rhoda, of Courtfield Avenue, North Shore is Blackpool Music Academy’s oldest student.

A veteran of the centre, the keyboard player visits once a week to play hits from the back catalogue of Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Tom Jones.

Despite suffering with ageing limbs and needing a wheelchair to get about, Rhoda said lessons at the academy help to keep her mind sharp.

She told The Gazette: “Playing the keyboard keeps my brain active and keeps my fingers going. It helps keep the brain functioning.

“And it also gives me something to do.

“ I really enjoy it as well.

“I get company here so I am not on my own.

“It is nice to see a few friends and have some companionship.

“It gives me something to look forward to each week.”

As The Gazette launched its Give Us A Tune campaign, Rhoda gave her backing to the appeal, hoping others would support the Academy by donating unwanted instruments or cash donations.

Rhoda, who also enjoys playing swing, rumba and cha-cha themed music, said: “I think it is a very good idea. Music keeps the children off the streets.

“It is company and helps with their confidence as well.

“I enjoy coming here and you are never too old to learn.

“I hope to keep coming here for years to come.“

‘Music is as important as maths or English’

According to a famous 1983 study by a psychologist at Harvard – and Harvard’s posh, right, so it must be trustworthy – music intelligence is of equal importance to being good at mathematics or English.

It is one of various studies since the Second World War into the importance of music in a child’s development.

The conclusions in each differ but they all agree on one thing – music provides huge benefits for youngsters, the main being that it boosts brain power and makes them more likely to achieve in other academic subjects.

Now I’m no expert in all that but what I do know is I could not imagine my life without music in it.

I listen to music each day, I play my guitar and sing daily, I play in a band, I run a monthly folk club in St Annes.

Without music, life would be pretty joyless.

As is usually the case with these things, I got my enthusiasm from my parents. My dad played guitar and sang, my mother warbled her way around the house. As a result my sisters joined the school choir and learned piano, and I got the bug myself.

Thank the Lord I did.

Music can give an individual so much pleasure.

Most important is the sheer joy of it – it’s a way of getting away from the daily grind of life – then there’s the self-confidence it brings, the social aspect (being in a choir or a band), and the fact that it is a skill that lasts a lifetime.

So to every parent, even if you have no interest whatsoever in music, get your children involved, encourage them to learn an instrument – and you never know, it might encourage you to get involved yourself too.