MusicStation is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. SO’s music guru Paul Dunton talks to co-founders James Sedge & Julie Parker about its history and why it’s such a valuable organisation for budding young musicians to get involved with
James Sedge and Julie Parker are the directors of MusicStation in Tonbridge. MusicStation is the biggest contemporary music school in Kent. They both play in bands that have appeared at the Local & Live festival and at the Tunbridge Wells Forum, and also on world wide tours. James Sedge is also the drummer for the actor, writer and musician Matt Berry…
So James what inspired you to start MusicStation?
My co-director Julie Parker and myself had written a BMus Hons degree, ‘Popular Music Performance’, for the University of Kent and we’d been running it very successfully for many years. We felt it was time to move on and use our skills and expertise to create a way of teaching rock and pop music that was thorough, rigorous and properly designed, as well as being fun, enjoyable and creative.
Why does music motivate you so much?
Julie and I have dedicated our whole lives to improving contemporary music education. We have both worked in schools, colleges and universities for the past 30 years, we’re very familiar with all the music qualifications available, and all the ways music is currently taught. We wanted to bring together the best of everything we’ve experienced and been involved with over the years, so we could design the most successful tuition method for learning rock and pop music.
When and how did you open your first MusicStation site?
We were inspired to start our own music school and to write a new syllabus fit for the 21st century. With help from local businessman Rod Clark, whose son did our BMus Degree, we opened MusicStation in Tonbridge in 2013. We started with just one student and we now have over 500 per week – we have now taught over 150,000 lessons!
Tell us more about the lesson structure and types of tuition available…
Students can learn guitar, ukulele, bass, drums, keyboards/ piano, vocals, songwriting, music theory and music technology, after school and at weekends. We have developed a successful small group tuition method over the last 10 years. And with up to four students per group, it brings down the cost of the lessons to only £14.75 as well as providing many benefits such as improved confidence, collaboration, new friends, and a fun atmosphere. Students are carefully streamed by age and ability.
Does the school run alongside the academic year?
Yes we run weekly lessons aligned to school terms, but we offer extra events during the holidays. We have 17 specialist teachers and two full-time administrators to keep things running smoothly. We also provide online lessons for students who might live too far away to get to our teaching studios. Some of them live in rural areas, we also have students in Cyprus, Africa and Spain. We also provide lessons in many local schools across Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
What do students learn with you?
If you follow the MusicStation method and the Trinity Rock & Pop syllabus you could go on to play professionally, or, just as important, to have a life-long association with music through playing for fun and listening to music on a much deeper level. Our tuition promotes all-round musicianship, ear-training, improvisation and creativity, as well as knowledge of popular music styles. Lessons are designed to make fast progress in small steps – and our supporting lesson materials include online resources, apps and video play-alongs, to help you progress at home. We like to work closely with parents, and we provide every student with a free practice diary with reward stickers, so they can track work set and progress. We also run a Parents Week every half-term where they can sit in on the lesson and have a chat with the teachers. We can also give expert advice on instruments/ equipment, and we can get special deals for our students.
Can your students study for graded exams?
Fairly early on, we developed a relationship with Trinity College London and we became the lead consultants for their newest Rock & Pop graded exam syllabus. This syllabus now provides the foundation for much of our teaching. We’re also a Trinity Exam Centre. We have a 100% success rate for the Trinity Rock & Pop exams with a very high proportion of distinctions.
Can you tell us about your teachers?
We only use highly trained rock and pop specialist teachers. Their music industry knowledge and experience is an invaluable resource. They are friendly, knowledgeable and committed to the students’ success. Many parents have commented that they are excellent role models for their children.
Are there courses for adults?
Adults are always welcome to have any lessons we offer, and some parents are now having lessons with their children. We also run ‘Play it Again’ evening sessions that are designed especially for adults who have previously played an instrument and want to start again and play in a band.
Congratulations on your 10th anniversary. How does it feel?
We are absolutely delighted to be still teaching and growing as a business after 10 years. We have met so many wonderful students and their parents along the way, and we feel so proud to have helped so many people to learn and enjoy popular music.
Telephone: 01732 350629
Address: 3 Bank Street, Tonbridge, TN9 1BL