Celebrating a year of learning to rock

The launch of School of Rock one year ago
The launch of School of Rock one year ago
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Students will take to the stage at a leading town centre venue to showcase what they have learned at a school where everyone can’t wait to get to lessons.

School of Rock, which has been teaching a new generation of young Wiganers how to create a band which can succeed in the town’s music scene, celebrates one year in operation with a public gig next month.

A collaboration between The Old Courts and Wigan Music Service, School of Rock sees groups of young people aged between 11 and 17 given expert tuition in songwriting and stagecraft.

Currently the project has formed around four bands and these will perform at the Crawford Street arts hub on March 21, with organisers hailing the scheme as an unqualified success.

The Old Courts director Jonny Davenport said: “It’s going very well.

“It was totally unknown territory at first when we collaborated with Wigan Music Service.

“They obviously had the grading system covered.

“But they felt they were possibly lacking a bit on providing real gigging experience and I said I could offer that.

“It’s developed really well and there’s a real sense of togetherness within the group, so hats off to the kids, really.

“I was actually quite surprised because we had a lot of interest from drummers.

“Normally with something like this it’s 90 per cent guitarists and a few people who want to sing, but we’re quite blessed really.

“I’d like to think The Old Courts is an inspiring setting for the School of Rock, rather than being in a mundane building.

“We have got all the events posters up and they keep asking me who we’ve had play here.

“We’ve got a really good relationship with Wigan Music Service and we’re looking to build on it.”

The showcase will put the School of Rock students centre stage in the Grand Vault, The Old Courts’ biggest performing space, performing a range of original tracks and covers.

The project’s groups have already racked up a prestigious appearance at Robin Park Arena on the same stage used for the Wigan Jazz Festival, winning prizes for songwriting at an event celebrating rock music and bands in the borough’s schools.

In preparation for the gig the young bands will be rehearsing on the Grand Vault stage in the weekly practices so they know what to expect when they face an audience at the venue.

The weekly sessions are run by Jonny and tutors from Wigan Music Service, with the young musicians developing their craft as band members in the venue’s two performing halls The Grand Vault and The Bailiff Bar as well as its rehearsal rooms.

Jonny says the organisers are keen to expand School of Rock beyond the 16 or so young people currently there.

And he hopes as more new musicians sign up the first groups will be able to take on mentoring roles.

The project meets at the Crawford Street venue every Monday.

And Jonny says new musicians are always welcome to join, though they will need to fill out an application form.

School of Rock will hold its first birthday showcase in The Grand Vault at The Old Courts on Monday, March 21, with doors at 6.45pm. For more information about the venue or the School of Rock, ring 01942 375859 or visit the website www.theoldcourts.com.