ROCK n roll parents have opened up their home to budding musicians stranded after the closure of Stratford Music Centre (SMC).
Clare and Mike Thomas from Bearley invited their son Sam’s friends and fellow rockers to practice at their home when the centre, based at Stratford School, closed in summer following rent increases.
The centre, which opened in 1973, was renowned locally for its ‘SMC Rock School’ which helped fledgling bands in the area.
Now ten of the centre’s former students, who have formed two bands, The Ripchords and The What, use the family’s home as a practice base along with help and advice from a mentor.
Clare, who works as an artist, told the Observer: “Stratford Music Centre were very happy that we were trying to keep music alive in the town in this small way and allowed us to buy their speakers and keyboards.
“My son Sam plays guitar and that’s his main passion but he plays piano and drums too. He wants to be a professional musician and study music production so playing alongside other musicians is very important for him.
“However what the kids get from this is about so much more than making music and improving their skills in that area. The comradeship between the kids is great. Making music together is such a brilliant creative outlet for them, encouraging working together, compromise and friendship.”
Clare explained the music sessions also helped some of the youths cope with emotional struggles, including bullying and medical conditions, in everyday life.
She added: “Several of them have had both physical and mental health issues themselves over the last couple of years so the mini rock school that we have each week at our home in Bearley has been invaluable in increasing the confidence and self-esteem of these kids. To see their confidence grow each week is incredible. They feel a sense of belonging and that they are in a safe environment with like minded kids who are supportive of one another with a similar goal.”
And it is clear the teenagers are grateful for the opportunity to keep playing.
Charlie Gregory, drummer with The What, said: “I really enjoyed playing drums at the original rock school in Stratford and so was happy when Clare tracked me down to ask me if I wanted to carry on as drummer with one of the bands and rehearse at her and Mike’s house every week. It’s brilliant to have gigs set up like that. I also want to be a professional musician so jamming and gigging with other musicians is so important.”
And guitarist Benedict Harrison added: “Since joining the band I have improved my guitar and piano skills. I love playing as part of a group and feel inspired to practice at home all the time. The atmosphere is great when we meet on Mondays.”
And not only has the parenting duo provided a practice space, they have helped organise their first gig.
Live music concert ‘Rockin’ the Playhouse for Children in Need’ will feature both groups, alongside fellow rock band Pure Drop, at Stratford Playhouse on Sunday November 17, from 7pm.
Tickets are £5. Visit www.stratfordplay.co.uk to buy.