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Halls are alive with the sound of music

Social media appeal for instruments means music enrichment is back.

A note of approval has been sounded to the Reading community after a social media appeal prompted ‘unbelievably generous’ donations of musical instruments to a school that had fallen silent to the sounds of music.

Thanks to the donations, students at UTC Reading are now able to enjoy music enrichment alongside their regular studies. Anyone from novices to guitar players to wannabe DJs and producers are invited to take advantage of the new equipment and give their creative side a chance to blossom.

The idea came about when a parent of a former student who maintains regular contact with the school noted the lack of music provision at the STEM-specialist school. Pete Doyle, who teaches music in his spare time and has also run charity events such as Battle of the School Bands and the Reading Rock Academy, spoke with Principal Jonathan Nicholls about his plan, who embraced the idea with bells and whistles.

“I sent a Facebook post from my account and from some of the local groups I am part of asking for urgent donations of instruments to a school,” says Pete, who runs his own social media agency.

“I wasn’t sure anyone would be listening but the response has been unbelievable, we’ve been overwhelmed with donations. We’ve had people donate amps, mics, a drum kit, guitars… so much it has been a good few car-fulls.”

The donations meant that Pete was able to begin phase two of his masterplan; setting up a music enrichment programme for students better known for their love of technical subjects. And so TechRock was born!

“We’ve been running a few weeks now and numbers are growing – we’ve got around 24 students who are doing all sorts from singing to playing to producing and looping. There’s even a talented English teacher – Russell – who is a total legend, playing guitar and supervising the lessons.

“I suspected there was an appetite for music here, and the take-up has been amazing. I overheard Jon (Nicholls) saying to one student when the instruments arrived: ‘See, dreams do come true’.

Pete, who is volunteering his time to teach and guide the music enrichments, is keen to point out that the lessons aren’t just for those who know how to play. “As well as giving some of the more experienced musicians a chance to practise, this enrichment is for everyone, even beginners. A lot of the students here are very intelligent, high functioning young people and music is the ideal way for them to exercise their creativity and let off steam. That’s not just learning chords on a guitar; they can play around with live looping, DJing and producing.”

Pete is convinced music is great leveller. “I’m convinced that the school will see an improvement in behaviour with some of the students who might be struggling. After nearly two years being stuck at home with the pandemic, the lack of social interaction, simply being in a practice room working with others is so beneficial. Being able to express yourself creatively through music is for everyone.”

“The plan is to encourage the students to take ownership of TechRock – so looking after the instruments, planning the music they want to create and if and where it is performed. I’m also hoping it will become a more formal arrangement, embedded in school life.”

The great news is we will be able to see what the students have been up as to a performance is on the horizon… As to the types of music, expect anything from 70s rock to hip hop and grime. And of course, as is the way in any school of rock, there will be Zeppelin.

Principal Jonathan Nicholls said: “Pete been part of UTC Reading since we first opened in 2013 having seen his son progress through the UTC out into employment. Pete has always been incredibly generous with his time that he gives to the UTC in different ways. This new project with music at UTC Reading is a wonderful addition. While we have a focused and response curriculum, it is important that we find ways for our students to express their wonderful diverse array of talents. In just a few weeks, I have seen students in a state of flow, expressing themselves through music and more than anything, having fun. This is thanks to Pete’s commitment to the project and his connections who have very kindly donated an incredible array of equipment to help the growth of this project. “

UTC sends a rock star sized thank you to Pete and all those people who donated their instruments to such a worthwhile initiative.


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