Author Archives: Sue McCall

James writes about his musical experience

Performing and writing music is a vocation to me. Having performed in school shows, Harrow Arts Centre gig nights, folk clubs and small rock venues since I was aged ten, I have always viewed music as more of a way of life than anything else.

I started out playing the classical guitar at Cannon Lane Primary School at the age of 8 and progressed to the electric guitar at Nower Hill Secondary School under the most enthusiastic, motivating and encouraging guitar tutor, and mentor, Otis Wolstenholme.

I attended the BRIT School since year 12, which I can confidently say has been the best two years of my life. Being an out of catchment student with a chance of only 1 in 5 places. Having to travel 1 1/2 hours to school everyday did not deter me.

The line between music as a study and music as a hobby has merged into one, I spend a lot of my own time setting up musical projects such as my band Flood (a my previous band – Life of Empire), writing and gigging around London. For the past three years, I have helped setup and run 100 Percent Club, a gig night at Harrow Arts Centre for young musicians. I have performed many gigs from small folk clubs to open air festivals such as Lovebox Festival. At the age of 14, I successfully auditioned for a place on the What’s Next project in London, attending a series of workshops on songwriting and performing, culminating in a performance of original songs at Somerset House on a bill headlined by hip-hop act N-Dubz. This fantastic experience was the inspiration to pursue music as a career.

I have recently returned from Guitar teaching, for a band called The Tones on their UK tour supporting the 1980’s band The Specials. At present I am studying for a BMus degree in Popular Music at Goldsmiths University, London and hope to continue as I started, to pursue a career in music.

After School Clubs

After school clubs can offer motivation and excellence to your children’s musicality. The Harrow Music Service offer varied opportunities to learn in out of school learning groups:


Harrow Childrens Choir : 4:40-5:30 @Harrow Arts Centre

Harrow Junior Steel: 4:30 – 5:30pm  @ Harrow Arts Centre


Harrow Youth Brass Band: 6:00-7:45pm @ Harrow Arts Centre

All After School Clubs are £35 per term. Concessions are available. Please email for more information.

For full list of ensembles and choirs please click on PLAY then ENSEMBLES AND CHOIRS

Summer composers competition!

Our new catchphrase is ‘In tune, in harmony, inspire!’ and we are asking you to produce a jingle or melody for this phrase and win a fabulous prize!

The competition winner will be chosen and then the prize will be awarded. We will be considering entries up until the start of the Autumn term. The deadline is Sunday 7th September 2014, so you have all of the Summer holidays to complete the mission!

1st prize: A Ukelele
2nd prize: A fife
3rd prize: A recorder

Not only the above but the winning jingle will be used for the new log-in music. Anyone who ever logs in will hear your jingle and know it was your composition!

Please send your MP3 files to

Get composing!

Student Voicebites – ‘Practising’ Pt 3

Young lady who has achieved Grade 8 Merit Bass Guitar

Fully involved in bands, school shows and festivals

Both attending my guitar lesson every week and practising every day at home, have contributed massively towards my achievements. In my lessons, I have been able to ask any questions about how to play different techniques, learn how to read and perform challenging rhythms, and also train my ear. All of these skills have helped me within my Rock School grades, A Level Performance and the soul band I attend outside my school. A home, I am able to practice playing pieces with my Dad, which has especially helped my ear for music. When my Dad learns songs at home by ear for his bands, I often try and learn them with him, mimicking how he learnt the bass when he was young and by learning songs with his father (my Granddad). Learning songs by ear has helped me with my timing as I can try and hear where the chord progression is going within a piece.

In order to achieve my grade 5,7 and 8, I have created methods to help solve my weaknesses. For example, I am not very confident when it comes to a solo section, so I decided to write a melody line using a combination of different scales that would fit with in the solo. I then memorised this written solo until it felt like I was not soloing, but just playing the written music provided like the rest of the piece.

As I am not a very confident player, I believe I have to be mentally strong to achieve high. Although some say I am very harsh on myself, I use the idea that I can always perform better to help motivate me, in order to get the nearest to perfection that I can.

Student Voicebites -’Practising’ Pt 2

The second part of our Student Voicebites on Practising is by a young bass guitar player who has achieved Grade 8 distinction (95%) and a bass guitar performance certificate. He gives his straight forward sound advice:

Fully involved in bands, school shows and festivals.

Play what you enjoy playing so that playing becomes a hobby rather than a chore. Don’t wait for your teacher to teach you what you want to learn. Try and teach yourself and then impress your music teacher.

Joining school bands gives you a specific time of the week at which you will always play. Joining bands also means you can be forced to play a range of different styles and pieces you may not have otherwise played. For an exam make sure you can play the pieces well consistently so that the theory is the only part you need to revise/learn.

Student Voicebites – ‘Practising’

Young man at Grade 8 Distinction and Level 4 diploma on the Bass Guitar.

(Involved with bands, school shows and festivals)

”Music to me is an important part of my life. Otis asked me why I practise, the answer is pretty obvious, it’s because I enjoy it! Why else play an instrument? If you’re playing an instrument just to help your C.V or because your dad’s a musician or because some other reason that isn’t ‘because I enjoy it’, then quit the instrument. You’ll never feel inclined to practise. Also you’ve got to enjoy the music you play. I listen to progressive death metal, so guess what, that’s what I play. It’s bass and guitar based music. If you play trumpet and you don’t even have a favourite trumpeter, then you’re playing the wrong instrument. As the great rapper Eminem states: ‘‘Lose yourself in the music’’. These words are wisdom because to enjoy practising, you need to be able to enjoy music made by your own instrument. Even if the stuff your teacher sets is boring make sure you’re aspiring to something greater on your instrument. Go and buy all the records of your favourite players and jam along with them- even if you can’t play half the stuff. I try playing along to veil of maya guitar, yet I’m nowhere near good enough to play it properly! If you can’t afford the records, just go on Youtube! If you’re a classical instrument player, don’t settle for the mainstream electric pop that’s all over the radio. See k out some inspiration, and trust me, you’ll find an inspiration worth practising for. If you find your running out of stuff to practice, go and join a band so you HAVE to practice. Go and transcribe some songs, film yourself covering them and put it on YouTube. Go and buy a songbook and learn the whole book. Jam with your mates. These are all forms of practising. Music shouldn’t be a chore.”

Band Festival

Monday 25th November Band Fest Day 1 started with the chaos/excitement of preparing the hall in time for the 170 school students to arrive. The stage had to be cleared, blocks removed and chairs laid out. Drums and percussion had to be moved onto the stage and set up . Boxes of music stands were brought in and set up for our whole class groups, and their clarinets and trumpets had to be prepared.

By 9.15 all staff and pupils had arrived with instruments.  For a lot of our students this was a new experience – playing their instrument with others in a big concert hall, counting bars rest, following a conductor, blowing for 5 hours! Some were excited, some were understandably apprehensive.

We also had some new staff this year Kirsty Broadmore (clarinet), Chris Rand (sax) and Becky Waite (trumpet) and welcomed back Mick Blake (trumpet).

We started the rehearsal with what became their favourite tune of the day – “Cossack Dance” composed by James. They loved it! I then rehearsed the “Jersey Boys Selection” which they coped with very well indeed. We started to notice how strong our trombone section was during this. Later when we rehearsed ” I Got Rhythm” the trombones came into their own, playing some fantastic glissandi – all the kids looked round to see where that sound was coming from, not quite believing their ears! Some of them were quite small ![/one_half]

Other highlights:”Pirates of the Caribbean” rehearsed by Pete Shelley.  Dave Longman working very hard with our percussion novices on the stage ably assisted by Harrow Young Musicians percussionists who were playing drum kit for us (thanks HYM!)   ”Forget You “which raised a cheer being a relatively recent tune sung by Ceelo Green. Stuart Carruthers conducting” Tijuana Trumpets” (nice and easy once you get used to going back to the beginning!) “Pep Rally Rock” conducted by Alison Bell – an old favourite which always works well and it sounded great with our fab trombones and  tuba virtuoso Dave Eaglestone who’d been brought in to play for both days.

After the pupils had left, we ran through our staff items “Splanky” and “Les Miserables” which we were to perform later –  you can hear an extract if you click here!

The standard of playing  was good this year. We always worry unnecessarily that this year they won’t manage the music but they always rise to the challenge and we have got used to writing and arranging at the correct level.  The students learnt about how the geography of the music can vary and they soon got used to using repeats and da capos.  James must be thanked for his great arrangements.

The next day it started all over again… different children,  same music.

Band festival day 2 was every bit as successful as day 1 . We had slightly fewer children but the standard was just as good, if not better than day 1. Stan Lord, a retired member of staff,  popped in to listen in the afternoon and heard us play one of his own arrangements which was nice. Concert 2 went well . Staff were happy but exhausted and discussions began about next year’s repertoire…

Find the Band Festival photos here…

African Drumming Group

One of our new music clubs this term is our African Drumming Group. You could learn- authentic drum and percussion rhythms; how to keep in rhythm and play with others; varying African percussion instruments and the different techniques needed to play them.

Course dates: Every Wednesday during term time.

Times: 4.30pm – 5.30pm in the Rayners room (along the side of the car park).

Ages: 8 +

Cost: £25 per term or £5 a session. You can register your interest by calling the office (0208 416 8960) or just turn up on any Wednesday during term time.

You will be taught by professional Ghanaian drummer John Akoto Annan and a Harrow Music Service teacher.



Community Gospel Choir wants you!

The Harrow Music Service and Director of the new Harrow Community Gospel Choir CeCelia Wickham Anderson are looking for new candidates to join the choir now! It is not necessary to take part in an audition. If you love singing, working towards goals and meeting new people, this is for you!

There are a few spaces left so please email . Then turn up on a Wednesday evening at 6.20pm at St Dominic’s Sixth Form College. Simple!

There are two gigs coming up at the Harrow Arts Centre’s Elliott Hall, and you could be a part of this!