Witchwood School of Rock
We are always looking for great local organisations that make a real difference to our local community. We took some time out to have an online chat with Michael Dove from The Witchwood School of Rock to discuss their Rock School and to find out what's its all about.Hi Mike - Where are you based in Oxfordshire and what actually is your Rock School?
We are based in Shipton-under-Wychwood & Witney. The Rock School is a music school for youngsters between the ages of 7 & 17 years old. We welcome children of all abilities. We encourage them to form bands although we do have a few solo artists. The main aims for us at Rock School are to develop the kids musical ability, increase confidence and give them the opportunity to be as creative as possible with their tutors in a safe and friendly environment.It sounds like a great outlet for youngsters who love music and also for a place for a lot of 'bedroom musicians'. What is the set up like at a Rock School? Isn't it a bit chaotic with lots of kids playing their instruments?
It certainly is a great outlet for youngsters who love music. We have had loads of kids join Rock School who have literally practised an instrument in their bedroom but did not have the confidence to do so publicly until they joined Rock School. We have a great set up at Rock School to allow up to 6 bands per session to work with a tutor without causing a huge amount of noise. We have what we call 'rock pods' which are essentially small mixing desks. They allow the band to plug in all the instruments, mic and a drum machine. They all wear headphones along with the tutor who can work with them through a mic. They could be playing a full on set and you I could be sat having a chat next to them and not hear a thing!
That sounds like an ideal set up. You mentioned your Rock School is open to all abilities but is there an 'entry level' that the children need to be at musically, and do they have to own their own instrument? - Or is it an open house to anyone with an interest in music?
Ideally the kids would have some sort of musical knowledge but it’s not essential. If they are very keen to become part of the Rock School we also offer private music lessons at our studio. So if a new student for example wants to learn the guitar he/she can have a few private lessons before joining a band properly at the weekly Rock School sessions. With regards to the instruments it is not essential that they have their own as we are able to provide all equipment, however the majority of the kids do like to have their own and tend to bring them along.So I guess its not just 'Rock Music' that you guys tutor in? Are you guys open to other music genres?
Although we are called the Witchwood School of Rock we welcome and encourage any kind of musical genres, whether it be Rock, Indie, Folk, Classical, Thrash Metal, Hip-hop etc etc. We never put our own influences onto the kids. We want them to play the music they enjoy and are inspired by!Fantastic. Other than song writing / band practice with the tutors do you provide any other schooling, like recording or performance?
We certainly do. Those are some of the main features of our syllabus. We always offer the bands the chance to record their material at Rock School or at our studio. It’s great for the kids to be able to hear what they have recorded on a CD! We aim to provide all the bands with as many opportunities to perform live. We have a very close relationship with Fat Lil's in Witney, which is a very well known music club. We hold gigs there 3 or 4 times a year and it always a complete sell out, which is the most amazing experience for the kids and also is another way to boost their confidence whilst learning stage technique! We also have performed at a number of local events and festivals, which not only gives them the chance to play live to a different audience, but it promotes the Rock School very well.
Once the bands have recorded their song do you help them with the next stages, like promotion or even a music video?
We have made loads of videos with the bands, mainly during the holiday workshops because we have more time. These are great fun to do because they all come up with such great ideas and pour in all their different influences. We have always encouraged the bands to set up their own band facebook pages and develop a following amongst friends and other people who enjoy their music. Its gives them a sense of pride that they are promoting their band to a wider audience. We have always actively promoted the bands that are at a level whereby they are ready to play stand-alone gigs. Some have played gigs that we organised at the 02 Academy in Oxford, at The Witney Music Festival & on the main stage at The Alex James Presents Harvest Festival!It just gets better and better! As your school is aimed at 'school children' are you operating during term time only or do continue during the school breaks?
We run weekly sessions every Thursday in Witney from 5.00pm till 6.30pm and another session at the same venue from 6.30pm till 8.00pm. We also run a session in Shipton-under-Wychwood on Thursdays from 5.00pm till 7.00pm. Midweek is not always possible for some children and parents so we also run a session every Sunday at Shipton-under-Wychwood from 1.00pm until 3.00pm (although some come to both Thursday and Sunday sessions!)
The fun does stop during school holidays! We run workshops during all the school holidays which are very similar to the weekly session but are run each day so the bands are able to achieve a great deal more in the time they have. At the end of each week we always put on a mini gig so the parents can come along and see what their kids have worked on throughout the week.
We also try to arrange workshops with well-known musicians to pass on their knowledge and experiences to all the pupils. So far we have been lucky enough to have Juju from Little Fish & 80's icon Tony Hadley come along to Rock School. But to date the biggest coup for Rock School was to have members of rock legends Guns N Roses come and spend the day with us. They jammed with all the young rockers and passed on their musical experiences, which totally inspired all the youngsters.Fantastic! Are there any success stories or bands we should be on the look out for?
Yes we have a lot of bands really bloom and make a success of themselves. The Reaper have been making a name for themselves for a year or so now and have played at the O2 Academy, The Alex James Festival to name but a few, Colour Change for Camouflage have enjoyed similar success, our grunge outfit Weatherwax have played a number of great gigs with very established bands, Twsited State of Mind & The Brink of Reason have made a name for themselves at metal clubs, a young indie band called Otherkin have played stand alone gigs as well. We have a number if Rock School bands though who are showing amazing potential and look to have bright futures if they keep enjoying what they are doing! Wow! Excellent. So, the big question to finish up is how much does it cost and how does a potential pupil or parent get in touch?
Yeah the important stuff now! It costs £10 per week to come to Rock School. We always offer the first session free of charge so the new pupil and parents can get a good idea of what we do before they fully commit. Anyone who is interested in joining Rock School or may just have some initial questions can call me (Mike Dove) on 07896 423712 or Lee Wyatt-Buchan on 01993 832216. Our website is www.witchwoodrock.com and you can find us on Facebook, just search for The Witchwood School of Rock or we are on Twitter as well - @WitchwoodRock
Thanks very much for your time Mike - I'm sure our visitors to this website will be really interested and some may even be in touch.
You’re very welcome!