Don’t Stop the Music!
Blackpool Music Academy hits a significant Milestone of 15 years
Music has an amazing ability to touch people in so many different ways. It can make you sing; it can make you dance; it can make you happy or sad, and it can take you back in time to when you first heard a particular song or remind you of certain people in your life. It can also be the source of great inspiration and motivation.
Music inspired John Shaw to not only battle back from a severe disability but also motivated him to share the joy of music with the local community. A self-confessed workaholic, John has grafted all his life, and has owned three garages and two hotels, when he was told that his spine had worn out and he wasn’t fit to work again. If that wasn’t bad enough, things took a turn for the worse in 2002, when he collapsed in pain whilst walking his dog in the park. He was rushed to hospital and was operated on to partly remove three and five discs from his severely damaged back. The doctors told him that he would never walk again and he spent the next eight months in a wheelchair. His world was shattered.
Rather than sitting about feeling depressed about his disability, John resolved to make positive use of his time and decided to learn to play a musical instrument. He enrolled at Blackpool College and began to learn how to play the keyboard. Sadly, the next year, the college decided that they weren’t going to continue with the music courses and John was left deflated again. John was determined to overcome this latest setback and by now the music bug had bitten him. Encouraged by the positive impact the course had had on his rehabilitation, John had his eureka moment. Why not start up a music school himself for disabled people and give them the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument at a minimal cost? Why not help bring some happiness to lives through music and help enhance their convalescence as well as their social life?
He initially sought guidance from CVS, who advised him to form a committee and a constitution to enable him to apply for funding. With the help of a local bid writer, John secured grants from Blackpool Council and the National Lottery, raising £9,000.00 and his dream was starting to become a reality.
By January the 16th 2006 the music academy was born, and with media help from Blackpool Gazette and others covering the first story, BMA opened its doors at the Springfield Methodist Church on Bispham Road. Under the tutelage of retired college teacher, Jim Lomas, the academy soon grew from 22 students to 50 students in 6 months. Private tutor, music examiner and music shop owner Steven Austin soon came on board to help, as the demand increased. In 2007 the academy became a registered company Blackpool Music Academy Community Interest Company Ltd by Guarantee. Within a year, John decided that he wanted to enrol younger students to gain the benefits of his group sessions. He recruited Tom Vernon as a specialist tutor for students aged 7-16 years of age and attracted over 80 youngsters for his affordable musical classes.
In September 2008 Blackpool Music School was born, becoming a registered charity 1120716, this helped in acquiring future funding for the community and the BMA/CIC became the trading arm for the charity. By 2009, Phil Roberts had come on board and was putting the younger students through examinations to gain their Rock School qualification. Tragedy struck in May 2011 when Phil died of leukaemia. Such was Phil’s dedication to the Academy; he was still teaching his students two days up to his death, as he had just put 15 students into their exams and hung on until he got the results that were distinctions merits etc.
Always looking to improve and develop, John and the committee decided to relocate the BMA/CIC to its own premises and with the help of Roy White and the social enterprise loan fund, took possession of a former insurance brokers on Waterloo Road in South Shore. The premises were derelict and required a lot of work to bring it up to scratch inside and out, as well as a total refit. It also needed work to comply with health & safety and fire regulations. The building costs would be enormous and so with finances stretched to the limit, John decided to make some phone calls to seek some free legal advice about the mortgage. He phoned over twenty solicitors and one after another declined to help or simply didn’t return his call. Eventually he got a positive response from Banks Carrington Solicitors on Edward St, in Blackpool town centre. Not only did they give John the free advice he was seeking, but also helped him set up the mortgage agreement and waived their legal fees.
Boosted by this act of generosity, John’s belief in human kindness was restored and he went on a mission to approach local businesses to appeal for any products, materials and labour to help transform his new premises, into an academy to be proud of. Undeterred and unfazed, John walked straight into various businesses and respectfully asked for any contribution, small or large, to help his good cause. To his amazement, 48 local businesses generously donated to John’s academy at cost only or completely free of charge to the tune of approximately £45,000!
On the back of this overwhelming support from the local business community, the Blackpool Music Academy CIC, along with Blackpool Music School (charity), opened its doors at the Waterloo Road site in June 2012. Included in the academy`s building is a conference room with projector, stair lift, disabled toilet and Phil’s Coffee Shop dedicated to the BMS’s deceased former tutor, who helped so much in making the school the success that it is today.
BMA has a music instrument lending library. A few years ago, the Gazette covered a campaign for donated instruments. We received 55 instruments helping the school to set up the lending library. Instruments were donated from the community and also a local music station, and a keyboard from the Pet Shop Boys. In 2019 BMA built a sound proof, purpose built recording studio costing £45,000, that the community have the use of for a small charge, including the use of instruments. If students can’t play their instrument at home, as a member of the school, they are welcome to practise as BMS, subject availability. A small charge is made to non-members.
Blackpool Music School tutors are highly qualified music professionals. They have different teaching styles but all are delivered in a very friendly way, making it the perfect place to learn an instrument. The Blackpool Music School has students aged from 7 to 97 years. We have 11 fully qualified musicians/ tutors teaching at the school, helping the community in learning new skills. The school compliments itself by having a 100% pass rate in all exam qualifications. Examinations are optional, the main purpose of the school, is to provide leisured learning within a relaxed atmosphere. Wellbeing groups have proved to be very popular, combining learning with social interaction.
Blackpool Music School offer affordable music tuition for any age from 7 years upwards with no age limit. We provide a variety of different musical instruments, including keyboard, saxophone, drums, ukulele, singing lessons, music theory, guitar and many more. Blackpool Music School offers group sessions and one-one sessions at the School, as well as one to one session in your own home, if you are disabled and unable to get in for them. We also cover on line tuition with skype, Zoom, FaceTime and others. Our tutors have become very knowledgeable with the internet and cover all teaching techniques. All teaching is subject to Covid-19 guidelines; safety is our priority.
Blackpool Music School endeavour to keep costs minimal, allowing us to offer value-for-money tuition, for those on low incomes, those disabled, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, children excluded from full time education and children who unable to cope with busy classrooms. Friendly, calm environment makes it perfect for learning in an informal way, allowing students to embrace all the advantages that the therapy of music can give.
BMS currently has two projects in the pipe line, one for on-line entertainment with Care homes and the other helping those in the community, who have breathing difficulties. The second project will be for students with asthma and other registered respiratory problems, using an instrument called the (Aerophone Go). BMS is looking for students young or old to help with this project.
Over the last 15 years the school has gone from strength to strength, purchasing its own building, and regularly upgrading its instruments. BMS/BMA could not run without the support of the community, volunteers, tutors and admin staff. BMS/BMA-CIC has invested approximately £375,000.00 over the past 15 years into the community of Blackpool. For further info call 01253 695398 or go to www.blackpoolmusicschool.org