The over-arching vision of The Blues Rock Academy is to provide a centre of excellence for learning – about blues music and its heritage. Blues as a music form provides the foundation for all the modern popular music. Without blues there would be no jazz, rock or pop: no rap, no modern contemporary music. Blues is the bedrock of it all.
Blues music was born out of pain, suffering, slavery, exploitation and racial prejudice-from the field hollers of the slave gangs to the impassioned gospel choirs of churches in the southern states of America. Blues and gospel singing provided an effective antidote. Blues music is cathartic. It is empowering. It gives back a sense of personal pride. It encourages participation which leads to an appreciation and valuing of community.
Blues music is all about enabling people to develop their individual talents – as singers, instrumentalist, choir members, band members. Blues music is also all about collective achievement.
Blues music is rooted in reality and real-life experience. As such, today it can be seen as the antithesis to the X-Factor and all other blatantly commercial examples of so-called popular culture with its unrelenting emphasis on money, fame, fashion and ‘anorexic’ notions of beauty.
Blues singers don’t need to conform to such shallow notions of the formula for media success and celebrity.
The best blues singers and musicians sing and play from their own experience … from the heart. Blues music can (and does) change lives for the better. It is inclusive not exclusive. It is music that is made to be shared. It is more supportive than competitive.
Ultimately the Blues Rock Academy would become a centre for exchange – with its hub in Norfolk but reaching out to other educational centres in the UK and the USA providing a safe environment where children from all backgrounds could be brought together with a sense of common purpose where they can gain and develop their creative and practical talents to the full. A structured student exchange programme is central to long-term strategy.
There is also the issue of “the special relationship” between the UK and the USA. The reality of this concept is evident in Norfolk in particular with the recent history of World War 11 and the crucial presence of the USA Airforce in this region. There are many examples of living links e.g. UEA, UEA American Studies Department, 100thBombGroupMemorialMuseum and many more plus family history. These strong links should be fostered and developed to support the establishment and future development of the BluesRockAcademy.
So who will benefit from teaching and training that the BluesRockAcademy will deliver?
While we will be inclusive and encourage all with a genuine interest in learning about the blues to get involved the centre will focus initial efforts on recruiting young people in the region – including those from challenged backgrounds e.g. rural poverty; abusive backgrounds, mental and physical disabilities etc.
What will we deliver?
- Musical training in a practical ‘hands on’ way where students will sing and play instruments from day one.
The main instruments will be: vocals, guitar, bass, drums, piano and harmonica.
- Practical training in the realities of being a musician e.g. how to safely move and set up musical equipment for rehearsal and performance.
- Creative development in the playing of chosen instruments and in song writing individually and in collaborative partnerships.
- An understanding of the history and development of the blues in the USA and in the UK (and globally).
- This will extend to other music genres e.g. rock and roll, country, folk, rock and a variety of contemporary modern genres like rap. Those students who wish to use their initial training in the fundamental skills of the blues musician to move on to other musical areas will be encouraged and supported so that they can achieve their personal goals.
- How to develop as an individual musician
- How to form a band
- How to get gigs
- How to make a CD (recording)
- How to design a CD cover
- How to publicise your gigs/your band
- The fundamentals of the music business as a business
- Marketing and PR skills
- Stage craft
- Sound management (PA)
- Lighting management
- Transport planning
- Tour management
The teaching of musical skills and business and marketing skills will be delivered by the core BluesRockAcademy team. Stage management, PA and lighting skills will be delivered in close partnership with CEG.
The BluesRockAcademy will be based at Unit 23 in Diss.
Unit 23 was established by CEG who also operate out of purpose-designed warehouse premises in Diss, Norfolk. The BluesRockAcademy is a founder member of the creative hub that is Unit 23.
The Blues Rock Academy will provide teaching and training that is complementary to programmes like those delivered by Access To Music, The Academy for Contemporary Music and music teaching in schools but the emphasis will be on the practical issues and challenges faced by real musicians. The skills and other life-experience learning will not only develop individuals as performing musicians but encourage students to focus on their strengths and potential.
Some may become musicians. Others will become skilled in stage management, tour management, business, communications, sound and lighting, recording and technical support. Many of the skills learned will enhance competencies and personal development and career development in other areas or professions.
The BluesRockAcademy will reach out through schools and other institutions in our region. This will form an integral part of our recruiting programme. David Thomas, the founder of the BluesRockAcademy has 50 years experience of being a professional musician, marketer and teacher (of both music and marketing). He headed a team of professional performing musicians delivering practical training programmes in blues-based rock skills in nine primary schools in South Norfolk in a special course he had developed specifically for Norfolk County Council’s Music Service in 2008, 2009, 2010.
David has recorded and released 10 albums and performed at major festivals and venues in the UK, Europe and the USA. He has also had a parallel career in marketing and advertising spanning 30 years-including the role of Diploma Director for The Institute of Direct Marketing.