"I drove up to Benslow Music with a completely open mind. My position on the ‘Introduction to Songwriting’ was a gifted to me as a birthday present. My family had always looked on to me as a singer who never had the confidence to move away from his comfort zone and start creating fresh material.
I knew that I was in for some top quality education though. I knew CEO Peter Hewitt through my time at the Royal College of Music and had no doubt that whatever lay in store for me, would have been approved by one of the most experienced and influential experts in the industry.
It was not straight-to-work though. My experience started with a brilliant feast, taking my seat at one of a number of large tables full of keen musicians, each with their own story to tell.
We all had a wide variety of experience, and there was a very real crossing of generations. Some people were dedicated life-members, coming regularly for decades; some were like me – completely new to the scene and feeling the nerves.
There was no boundary between student and tutor. We talked indiscriminately over a brilliantly tender salmon about our history in music, our strengths and our weaknesses, our hobbies and our vocations, and as time ticked (without me realising) I began to eagerly anticipate the start of my course that very evening.
I confess that my biggest concern was how on earth we would manage to fit an entire introduction to songwriting into a few days! It was a small class of students, of varying levels of experience and very contrasting tastes in music. I did not envy our tutor Keith Ayling and the challenge that befell him!
I needn’t have worried though. He had done it all before and it showed.
He immediately put everyone at ease, and gave them the right to explore their own musical identity. His own readiness to whip out his guitar and, where we didn’t have the confidence, turn our creations into songs was particularly inspirational.
Over the entirety of the course, we covered all aspects of songwriting from structure, to lyrics, to melody, to harmony. Every session was staggered with tea or food breaks where we could either merge with the other musicians or explore all the techniques we had just learned in one of the many piano rooms that are set aside in the campus for musical self-exploration.
Keith was particularly effective at making us feel comfortable, such that in contrast to our first session where many of us were too shy to even write a single phrase down, we all were able to perform short songs we had written over the Course, in a friendly farewell concert to the rest of our fellow songwriters.
I would highly recommend Benslow Music to anyone and everyone, whatever your musical interests and background. You too will enjoy the family atmosphere that makes learning so much more natural, and you will undoubtedly leave having learnt much from tutors and students alike."