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Hidden gem for Wolverhampton's musical youth

By Harriet Evans | Wolverhampton | Music | Published:

It’s no secret that Wolverhampton is home to some big names in the music industry, from Slade to Beverley Knight and One Direction’s Liam Payne.

Youngsters with their instruments in the new string section, conducted by teacher Corinne Walters at Graiseley Music School

Something Wulfrunians may be unaware of is the huge amount of talent brewing every day at the city’s very own music service.

Each week the school’s team of 24 dedicated teachers inspire more than 5,000 of Wolverhampton’s young people to pick up an instrument.

On a wet and windy Wednesday it is no different, pupils come along full of excitement to gather in the 19th-century Graiseley Music School, which has seen thousands of budding musicians pass through its doors for more than 50 years.

As you enter the building, you are met with the hustle and bustle of hundreds of children filing into classrooms preparing to practise, under the watchful eye of their tutors.

Phoebe Watson, 12, from Finchfield with her band No Added Sugar

Before long the quiet corridors are bursting with a variety of sounds emerging from the classrooms; from rock and pop to classical guitar and strings . . . and it doesn’t end there.

Depending on when you pay a visit, you could find yourself listening to Indian drums, wind instruments, orchestras, choirs or jazz bands. Every night of the week there is something different on offer, with hundreds of youngsters attending the huge variety of classes.

There truly is something for everyone here, and pupils are taught that there is much more to learning to play an instrument than the skill itself.

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Head of the music service Ciaran O’Donnell

Head of the music service, Ciaran O’Donnell, says: “Music emboldens the learning behaviours and skills needed to learn other things in schools. In an era where everyone has a mobile phone, how are young people supposed to gain the patience and determination needed to enter the world of work in adulthood.

“Perseverance, memory, confidence, the ability to fail and try again. These are all things that we see in our young musicians and we’re seeing that these transferable creative skills are the things being asked for from employers and recruiters. It’s an investment in their future.”

Alex Hill, aged 10, joins in the new string section on his violin

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If you speak to any of the children here you can feel their passion for learning and also see first-hand the benefits of the school’s tuition on their well-being and self-esteem.

Gregary Burnsen-Hicks, aged 15, who plays clarinet, said: “I played at a Remembrance Day event in November. We performed to hundreds of people and it made me proud to be a part of such an occasion.

“Learning to play clarinet is a commitment and has really helped my concentration and confidence. I can’t imagine a day without music.”

Precious Ogunbodede, 13, from Low Hill

Precious Ogunbodede, aged 13, who plays guitar, says: “It gives me confidence and I have learned more techniques here and have a deeper understanding of music.”

Phoebe Watson, aged 12, who plays in the band No Added Sugar, adds: “You can be yourself here through music.”

The traditional red-brick school has been a fixture in the city since 1910 and was originally Graiseley Council School. One of the music service’s aims is to bring affordable music tuition to young people.

Pupils listen intently to classical guitar and lead guitar tutor Adam Moffatt

As well as the out-of-school tuition, they also offer group teaching models in schools with professional teachers, free long-term loans of musical instruments and practice diaries, a annual programme of concerts and even trips abroad in the summer to give the youngsters an opportunity to showcase their talents overseas.

The school is the leader of the local Music Education Hub and receives funding through Arts Council of England and support from Wolverhampton Council.

But as with any service, there are everyday challenges the service faces to stay afloat, but Ciaran, teachers and the school’s trustees are doing all they can to preserve it.

For more information visit wolverhamptonmusicservice.org.uk

Harriet Evans

By Harriet Evans
Community Reporter - @HarrietEvans_ES

Community Reporter at the Express & Star, covering the issues affecting young people across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Contact me at harriet.evans@expressandstar.co.uk

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