We spoke to drummer, Matt Furness, about his experiences of teaching, how Rockschool inspired him, and why he loves the 100 Club.
A big thanks to Wendy Aitken Photography for her photography used in this blog. Explore more of Wendy's photography here.
Can you give us a brief explanation of your teaching business? Include any achievements you’d like to highlight.
Principally I teach from home where I am set up with an acoustic kit and an electronic one. This gives the student different options, although I tend to encourage them to use the acoustic primarily. I then play along with them on the other kit to demonstrate what is required. I also visit schools to teach students during the school day where I use the Rockschool Grades.
How long have you been using Rockschool, and why has it worked for you?
I was taught using the Rockschool grades from the age of 8 through to 14, when I passed Grade 8 with a distinction. The Rockschool method worked so well for me and gave me a structured programme to learn a variety of genres and rudiments. This has been essential for my development as a drum teacher as well as a performing drummer. Because of my positive experience, I encourage all my students to take exams as this also helps in the development of their own social skills and learning.
What’s your favourite performance piece to teach, and how does it improve your learners?
There are so many. I use tracks from the Rockschool grade they are studying for, together with a total mix of songs: some of which they will be familiar with and others not. These songs may be tracks from the band I perform with or the musical I am playing in at the time. It is extremely important to keep students' minds open to a wide selection of genres.
One song I definitely enjoy teaching though is “Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson as it is full of both percussion and drums.
What’s your favourite test (sight reading, improv etc) to teach, and why is it important for your learners?
I teach the students how to sight read right from the very first or second lesson so that it becomes an integral part of their learning process. It is more difficult to introduce if a student comes to me having had previous experience in drumming, but none in sight reading.
What’s your favourite learner success story?
EVERY time one of my students passes their Rockschool grade exam, especially the youngsters! For someone who is aged only 7 or 8 to walk into a room with a stranger watching them perform is massive - not only for their drumming but also for their social skills development. They do so well.
What musician(s) inspired you to start playing, and why?
I have grown up with music being played in my parents’ house or car quite a lot, so there wasn't really one musician who inspired me to start playing. But to continue playing and develop myself further it has to be Steve Gadd. There are many excellent drummers out there and I have been fortunate to see several play live, and even meet up with them, but technically Steve continues to be the best. He is very encouraging to the next generation too.
Do you have any favourite personal experiences as a musician?
I have played three times now at the legendary 100 Club in Oxford Street, London and it never fails to bring home to me how music is for everyone. The photos on the wall include the likes of Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Alice Cooper, the Sex Pistols, Paul Weller and many more playing on the same stage as myself.
Do you have any goals for the future of your teaching business?
To continue to build my business and proudly watch as my students enjoy success with their drumming.
What reasons would you give to encourage young musicians to teach others?
As with any learning situation, the student/teacher relationship is key and from my experience, being closer to the age of my younger students helps me explain to them where they could be in only 5 - 10 years time if they are prepared to put the time and effort into their drumming.
Overall I think the key is to do things in a professional way. This will include a good looking website, smart business cards, liability insurance, an enhanced DBS check and suitable course work for the students, as in the structured learning offered by Rockschool. Finally, to teach others, having good communication skills together with the ability to play a variety of genres to a high standard are essential. Having all these in place will help achieve success in a drum teaching career.
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