On the right Tracks
Sheffield’s prosperous musical heritage is well-documented (not least in these pages) and one of the features that has made it so great over the years is the diversity of artists involved. Against cuts and a cost of living crisis, access to affordable music in the city has never been more needed and in order to help preserve that multiplicity of backgrounds across our musical landscape, an inclusive music school project, called Tracks is out here making sure the next generation of talent have equal access to a top-notch musical education.
Tracks isn’t just about making the next Arctic Monkeys though (although it wouldn’t be a surprise), it’s aim is to provide as many kids as possible with the skills to make the kind of music they want to make.
The program is supported by Sheffield Music Hub, who provide musical opportunities and lessons to over 10,000 children and young people in the city every week. They commissioned Sheffield Music School to create a project funded by HAF (Sheffield Healthy Holidays), aimed at engaging kids who have an interest in music through the school holidays.
From there, Sheffield Music School director, Lucy Revis, along with Sheffield Music School manager, Tessa Sawyer, created Tracks, putting together a passionate team of local musicians and music teachers to create an inclusive, free music project which offers free, day-long music lessons to kids aged between 11 – 18, from all walks of life.
Following a recent Leadmill Tracks show, which saw some of the Tracks pupils perform alongside the likes of Teah Lewis, Ed Cosens and Franz Von on the famous stage, we sat down with Lucy in The Showroom to find out more.
Lucy said: “I took over directing Sheffield Music School just before the start of the pandemic and I realised that there was a gap in music education for free music lessons that incorporate projects that children really want to do, and could co-collaborate on. Tracks is basically making music with the children, but the music that they want to make.
“We don’t have to run to any curriculums, which gives us a certain amount of freedom. The rap scene in the younger generation is incredible and the kids on the course teach us so much. Their lyrics are just so mature, heartfelt, and positive.
“For me, I find it amazing when a child who might not necessarily engage in music at school, or even go to school, comes to Tracks every day and goes out with a smile on their face, being really buzzing about what they’ve just created. Every time I see and listen to the songs and the videos that the kids are creating, well, there is literally no better feeling than seeing what they can do.
“I think that the talent in the city amongst the young people is limitless. Not all children get the opportunity to show that, and I think all children have the capability to do it. After the first course in 2021, we learned about what Tracks could be and realised that there was a big gap in the market for teaching rap and creating bands.”
Since that first incarnation, there have been three more Tracks courses, welcoming hundreds of kids from across the city. Tracks gives them the opportunity to work closely with a who’s who of the city’s music industry, thanks in the main to Lucy’s extensive contact book.
“A lot of the people who work with us are people I’ve worked with over the years as a session musician,” says Lucy, who is also cellist in the fabulous Sheffield band Before Breakfast, “and just from being out and about on the music scene.
“We have Franz Von, who is one of our lyrical rap teachers. Phillipe Clegg (Oh Papa) who can turn his hand to loads of stuff, including production. Gina Walters (Before Breakfast), does our singing teaching.
“Steve Edwards (house music producer and former singer in Lords of Flatbush) has done some teaching with us. We’ve got Dave Sanderson (Sheffield-based producer), Ed from Reverend and the Makers, and a guy called Producer WEZ, who I met playing gigs in London – He’s an amazing rap producer.
“Tenn is another producer. He does a lot of production with the kids. Then, there’s Sam Griffiths (The Howl & The Hum), Teah Lewis, Barney Miller, Paul Sparshott, Louis Barclay, Chris Noble. There’s absolutely loads of incredibly talented people and I’m probably forgetting a lot of them!”
As well as the amazing tutors, Manor Lodge Primary School, The Leadmill, Red Tape Studios and The Sarah Nulty Foundation have all been hugely supportive of the work Tracks is dong, and Lucy is extremely thankful for the incredible support from these great Sheff institutions that help make Tracks possible.
It is at this point in our chat, and right on cue, that Lucy and I are joined by Will Smith and Bobby Barlow, the singer and guitarist from Sunburst, a band who met and formed at Tracks and are now writing and gigging their own music (check out their full interview here)
As they sit down next to Lucy, it’s easy to see the respect they have for her, and the feeling is very much mutual (Lucy has even booked them to play at her wedding!). It’s also easy to forget that these boys are just 15-years-old (making them the older heads in their band!), such is their maturity and the passion with which they speak about the music and course that has inspired them.
Will said: “It’s not like other music schools. That’s not just me saying that. You’re not talking to teachers or people that are just there because they need a little bit of extra cash, it’s actual professional people that work in the industry still.
“They are willing to give up their time and want to help kids. We recorded with Dave Sanderson and he’s definitely helped us. He actually understood us. He listens and that makes you feel respected.”
Bobby added: “It’s nothing like your normal school. When you have professional musicians, at Tracks it’s a lot easier, not just for bands, but for all of us to learn.”
Sunburst formed at Tracks sessions over the past couple of years, as musical chemistry and friendship between the lads blossomed. Will and Bobby are joined in the band by Joe Cuff and Alex Dyball. Talking about Tracks, Joe told us that: “Having the space and support to be able to make music with my mates and learning about music from great teachers,” is what he has most enjoyed.
Adding: “It allows young people to go and make music; make friends and be taught by people in the music industry. They really let everyone’s talent shine.”
Alex added: “It’s given me the opportunity and space to express myself in a musical way. Tracks gives kids opportunities and opens doors for them.”
For more info and to get involved in future Tracks sessions head to sheffieldmusicschool.org.uk
Check out sunburst on Instagram at @_sunburstofficialband