What. A. Year. As another wonderful twelve months comes to a close, we have decided to dedicate a post to a few of our favourite moments from 2018.

2018 began anew with a new-look website, some new recruits at HQ, some new partners around the globe, and a myriad of new products due to hit the shelves (more on that later!).

New Instruments

2017 saw the release of our inaugural Ukulele syllabus, ideal for learners looking to pick up their very first stringed instrument. In order to see how it was going early on, we decided to visit one of our venues to see how they, and their students, were getting on with the new material.

The Ukulele is also the ideal instrument for ensemble playing: enabling students to both learn and succeed as a unit. This is why the Rockschool Ukulele syllabus incorporates duet arrangements at every grade, which allows all students to perform with the support of a teacher or fellow learner.

Here’s a video we put together with the folks down at Bournemouth School of Music, where their youngest learners are taking their first steps in music education... name that tune!

Thanks to everyone who took part, it was really nice of you to let us come and see you practice. For those of you who’d like to see us produce material for Grade 4 upwards: watch this space!

New Recruits

With the diary already bulging, we thought it was probably best to get some more hands on deck. Our office has expanded greatly over the last few years, with 2018 seeing us bring in some fantastic new recruits, such as:

Tim Bennett-Hart – Director of Academic

Previously Head of Teaching and Learning at the Academy of Contemporary Music, Tim has played and toured extensively, before moving to composition where he had considerable commercial success in writing for advertising and pop music. Prior to taking up his senior post at ACM, Tim was a teaching fellow at the University of Sussex, where he was responsible for the writing and validation of the BA in Music Technology.

Favourite artists: Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Jon Hopkins.

Matthias Postel – Director of Global Operations

With an initial background in sound engineering, Matthias has worked in education and training for SAE Institute, Britannia Row Productions Training and the Chartered Institute of Linguists. His career to date has taken him from Germany via New Zealand to the UK. Matthias plays Bass and counts performing on New Zealand breakfast TV among his musical achievements!

Favourite artists: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses and Tori Amos.

Joshua Morton – Marketing Manager

Josh recently joined Rockschool as Marketing Manager having spent the last four and a half years at Metropolis Studios and the Academy of Contemporary Music. He has also worked for several start-ups including a digital music aggregator and television analytics company. Outside of work you’ll find him playing (badly) the guitar and watching (cursing) Everton.

Favourite artists: Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak and Jordan Rakei.

Hamsia Yonis – Communications Executive

Hamsia Yonis joined RSL end of January 2018 with a background in various creative fields including; theatre, publishing and film. Work includes production at the Tricycle Theatre and the Piccadilly Apollo Theatre for Mamma Mia. She is looking forward to growing with the RSL team.

Favourite artists: Lauryn Hill, Nas and Goldfrapp.

Kirsten Cowan – Business Development Co-ordinator

Kirsten had previously worked in the Vocational Qualifications team at RSL and has now joined the Business Development Team in the role of Co-ordinator. With an extensive background in music and significant knowledge of the full range of RSL products, as well as a serious baking habit, Kirsten will be a strong addition to the team.

Favourite artists: Arcade Fire, Sampha and Yeasayer.

Chau Lok – Senior Software Developer

Chau joined RSL in November 2018 having been in software development for over 20 years. He has previous worked in variety of different sectors, including; software house, an employees benefit provider & construction.

Favourite artists: Ed Sheeran, Rod Stewart and Queen.

Dan Latham – Vocational Qualifications Manager

Throughout Daniel’s career he has had the opportunity to work with some of the most challenging (and ultimately rewarding) young people in the South. He has worked with young people in the care system, unaccompanied asylum seekers, and those who have been excluded from mainstream education. The perspective gained has created a passion for educational engagement that has been further developed through work at BIMM Brighton. Daniel firmly believes creative education can be one of the best tools for unlocking young people’s potential.

Favourite artists: M83, 65daysofstatic and Jurassic 5.

Dan Clark – Business Development Manager (UK & RoI)

Hailing from New Zealand, Dan is a qualified teacher and has worked in primary education in NZ and the UK. Since moving to the UK, Dan has gained valuable business development experience within the healthcare, charity and data analytics sectors. A trumpet player (grade 8) Dan is currently learning to play guitar and is a keen athlete and sports coach.

Lewis Morgan – Vocational Qualifications Officer

Lewis joined RSL in February 2018 after recently graduating with a BMus in Music from Canterbury Christ Church University. With a background in a variety of administrative and customer service roles including working at the 2012 London Olympics (where he met Arnold Schwarzenegger!), he is keen to combine his previous experience with his love of music.

Favourite artists: The Beach Boys, R.E.M. and Jonathan Richman.

Calum Harrison – Rockschool Exams Officer

Our most recent addition to the Exams team, Calum graduated with a first-class honours degree in Music Performance from the London College of Music. Calum has worked as a session musician for both studio and live performances.

Favourite artists: John Mayer, Charlie Parker and Fat Freddy’s Drop.

Ana Boogaard – Finance Officer

Ana joined RSL in July 2018. With a background in Business Management from the EU Business School, she has held various admin and finance roles in international companies. She is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, which helps.

Favourite artists: Elis Regina, Van Halen and Kings of Leon.

Oliver Goss – Exams Officer

Favourite artists: Sigur Ros, Brian Eno and Radiohead.

GBD ’18 Photoshoot!

In the build-up to the release of our new Guitar, Bass and Drum books we were really keen to involve Rockschool fans, of all age groups and abilities, in as many ways as we could. So, in May we organised a competition to be the faces of GBD ’18 with a Rockschool photoshoot arranged at a secret London location.

The 8 winners were assigned a distinctive musical look upon arrival. Once assigned they went straight into make-up and costume, ready to step in front of the camera as a new Rockschool Hero! Whether it was jazz, Funk, Hip-Hop or Rock, I’m sure you’ll agree that they all looked great!

The imagery was used throughout the GBD ’18 campaign and we were thrilled with the results. We’d like to thank everyone involved again. You’re heroes!

Battle of the Bands ‘18

To boost the celebrations at the official GBD ’18 launch event, we also decided to organise Rockschool’s inaugural Battle of the Bands competition! With entrants from all over the UK, our finalists were ready to rock the crowd at London’s Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.

Not only were we impressed with the level of performance on show throughout the day, but at the mix of age-groups that entered from all over the UK. Meet them all in the video below!

The judges on the day included house band member Paul Elliot, drum legend, Steve White, and our very own Rockschool examiner, Kirstie Smith.

and the winner is…


The Sound, who performed the track ‘Geek’, travelled all the way from Blackpool and consist of band members: Katie Hill (Guitar), Megan Delves (Keys), Max Fish (Drums) and Will Hooper (Bass).

We’d like to thank each of the bands (and their supporters) for taking part. It was a humbling experience to see so many of you enjoy yourselves playing tracks that we hope will be memorable parts of your future development as musicians.


After over a year of development, recording, testing, and more testing; Rockschool’s brand new suite of performance pieces, for our biggest selling series’, was finally ready for release. Featuring over 170 new songs, from 100 world-renowned artists, across 7 decades: each performance piece has been commissioned, re-arranged (appropriate to grade), and recorded to reflect popular music’s heritage, evolution, and most contemporary incarnations. From blues, rock, pop, soul, funk, R&B, jazz fusion, reggae, punk, and alt rock; to producer led genres such as RnB, grime, hip hop, dub-step, and various other digitally produced genres.

We had an absolute blast recording for these releases in the world-famous Real World Studios, and hope you guys have had as much of a blast learning, teaching and playing them wherever you are.

If you’d like to send us any of your own performances, you can always share these with us via our social channels (links at top of site).

Queens Award for Enterprise 2018

In April this year we were really excited to discover that we had been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade. The award is a well-recognised, tangible representation of how much RSL has accomplished, and everybody at HQ were happy to see all their hard work being recognised by such a distinguished prize.

“Our music teachers were always searching the world for the best text books and exams to keep their students interested as they learn key skills step by step. Once they found the Rockschool books, they never needed anything else.” Lillian Lan, Rockschool China

Like our favourite musicians, our progression is a product of meaningful collaborations - and as we reflect on all we’ve achieved in the past few years, we’re proud to say that we can only think positively about what the future has to offer. Thank you to everyone in the RSL family worldwide.

“RSL have become the benchmark qualifications in modern music in Spain. It has helped us to develop and grow a network of music schools that have been able to structure an educational programme to meet the demands of the modern music student, for the very first time.” Antonio Olazabal, Rockschool Spain

Rockschool Founder Norton York and CEO, John Simpson attended the Queen’s Award Ceremony, which was held at the royal residence of Buckingham Palace.

John (left) and Norton (centre) meet Prince Charles (right)

"Since we started Rockschool in 1991, Rockschool has always led the way in British music education. I am so proud and honoured that our achievements in the past few years in establishing our exams as a global leader in our field in more than 40 countries has been recognised with this Queen's Award. Thank you to our staff and to all the young musicians who have come on this journey with us." Norton York, Founder & Chairman

“It was a real thrill going to Buckingham Palace! We had a splendid night and meeting Prince Charles was a lovely experience. We’ve long-been in association through the Prince’s Trust, so it was extra special for us to see Prince Charles’ enthusiasm and genuine interest in what we are doing here at Rockschool.” John Simpson, CEO

Alumni '18

There is nothing better than seeing students who have succeeded in their RSL qualifications then go on to acheive great things in the music industry itself. Below is a few of our best RSL Alumni/Grad moments from 2018.

Let’s Eat Grandma

Let’s Eat Grandma – formed by students and childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth – released their debut album ‘I Gemini’ in 2016. Jenny and Emma were awarded their Level 3 Extended Diploma for Musical Practitioners at Access Creative College, Norwich. By all accounts they have had an amazing 2018, including a Best Album award at this year’s Q Awards!


There’s also some great feedback from ex Kidderminster College students, Marsicans, who studied for their Level 2 and Level 3 Subsidiary Diplomas in Performance. They describe their music as upbeat indie meets dirty pop and have performed at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds festival, respectively.

Kidderminster have been churning out high quality candidates for years and we’d like to thank the whole team for their consistent high standards.

The Night Cafe

The Night Café (Level 3 Subsidiary Diplomas) have also gained recent success post-graduation. The band garnered a lot of interest last year after their debut single ‘Growing Up’ appeared on SoundCloud. Since then, The Night Café have released their summer anthem ‘Mixed Signals’ and have announced their tour around various parts of the UK and Europe.

Wolf Alice

Last month we were excited to announce that RSL Alumni Joff Oddie and his band, Wolf Alice, were nominated for the 2018 Mercury Music Prize for their second album, ’Visions of A Life’. The band went on to win the illustrious prize as well as the Best Live Act award at the Q Awards for 2018.

If any of our education partners would like to inform us of their own graduate success stories, be sure to hit us up at: marketing@rslawards.com and we’ll get back to you asap!

Music Production: Coursework Edition

November saw Rockschool release their brand-new Music Production: Coursework Edition books for Grade’s 1–8. This was an update to the original Music Production syllabus, published in 2016 as the very first of its kind.

Rockschool’s new revision takes the practical element out of the exam and back into the hands of the creator: to be completed in their own time, on any production software, wherever they are.

We recently visited Twyford School to see what their A-Level students thought of our Grade 6 books. Check out the video below to see how they got on!

Thanks to the whole gang at Twyford! We can’t wait to see how you all get on in the future. Best of luck to each of you.

RSL International

With trips all over Europe, North America, Asia and Africa; our International Team have never been so busy! With too many trips to mention here, the gang have listed a few of their favourite moments from this year below.

South Africa

Destinations: Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria

"It was fantastic to meet with Naome and Corne, as well as a variety of examiners and schools in so many regions. It was also a great opportunity to introduce the entire suite of qualifications to the schools and teachers who have been dedicated to Rockschool exams for many years." Dan Phelps, International Operations Manager


Destinations: Lagos, Nigeria

"This was the first ever Rockschool presentation in Nigeria in early December and several of the guys in the picture have already taken our music production exams since! Things move fast in Africa!" Alistair Platt, Director of Business Development


Destination: Santos

"Anderson and Carol from Blackbird Music School are going to be starting with our Graded Music Exams in 2019. It’s always really exciting to be able to watch a project grow from the beginning, so I’m really pleased I’ve been able to come out here at this early stage. With over 250 students across two schools all raring to go, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this group." Helena Pieroulli, International Business Development Manager

South East Asia

Destinations: Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, China (and more!)

"The highlight of my year was undoubtedly my epic 5 week South East Asia tour. Whether it was visiting the gardens in Singapore with Lee Ching, Miki, Joan and Samelly, Vietnam with Minh, Thao Le and Quan, signing up new representatives in Cambodia, sharing the hottest hotpot with Frank and Marvin in Hong Kong, sampling the local whiskey with Daniel and Yin Yin in Taiwan, presenting the GBD syllabus in an open air mall in Metro Manila with Lilly and Michele or watching the sunset over a Bali beach with Andy. I am forever grateful to have experienced such incredible moments and with such wonderful people." Conor Burns, International Business Development Manager


Destinations: Here, There and Everywhere!

What an amazing year. I have visited multiple countries across Europe, as well as a few trips to India that included 12 different cities. I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite trip, as no matter where I was I was energised by the same thing: seeing how excited the students were to learn all of the new songs! It is always fantastic to see the impact the product has in all of the schools worldwide, and being able to see it in person is the reason why we do what we do. Henriette Madsen, International Business Development Executive


We don’t know about you guys, but we’re very much looking forward to taking some time off with our friends and families before gearing up for another fun-filled, beyond-busy, 2019!

Warm wishes and a Happy New Year,

The RSL Team

To give you a sneak-peak of what’s in store for 2019, check out the video below.