Song king Eliot Kennedy today writes exclusively for The Star to tell us how he has teamed with with a South Yorkshire college to help tomorrow’s music makers follow in his footsteps.
And it’s giving them a chance to work with some of the world’s biggest stars.
Pop idols Donny Osmond and Spice Girl Geri Halliwell have both recently been recording at his Sheffield city centre based Steelworks Studio.
Eliot is the man who wrote and produced much of the Spice Girl’s chart topping first album, he got an Ivor Novello Award for Boyzone classic Picture Of You and a Grammy with pal Bryan Adams for writing Aretha Franklin hit Never Gonna Break My Faith for the movie Bobby, abut the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy
The names just trip off, not forgetting best pal, Take That’s Gary Barlow. The duo are currently writing a new musical for the West End and Broadway, about Peter Pan author JM Barrie, called Finding Neverland.
That took them to an Oscars party this year, to showcase some of the songs in front of the likes of Oprah Winfrey and U2, They did the same at the Tony Awards, where Bryan ‘Heisenberg’ Cranston, a winner for his portrayal of Lyndon B Johnson on Broadway, admitted he was a big fan.
Eliot, who recently added Stevie Wonder to a track for Donny’s 50-years in showbiz album, is now now opening the door to that amazing world of A-list celebrity to South Yorkshire’s budding new musicians, songwriters and producers.
He has had long time links with Sheffield Hallam University, who gave him a honorary doctorate. He’s also launched EKSA, Eliot Kennedy’s Steelworks Academy, offering artist development courses. But now he has announced a partnership with Rotherham College of Arts and Technology (RCAT), which will see accredited courses in Artist Development and Studio Engineering delivered under expert tuition at his Steelworks Studio.
The two 24-week courses, which start in September, will cover areas including studio recording, sequencing and computer systems, live performances, composition and the music business. Students can progress onto a Level 3 in Music Performance or Level 3 Music Technology following the course.
Martyn Howells, Head of Performing Arts at the College said “This is an amazing opportunity to learn in the famous Steel Works studios with one of the leading producers in the world, alongside professional engineers and artists.”
Luke Filsell, Academy Manager, said: “Rotherham College likes what we’ve been doing and wanted to work with us. We are really excited about working in conjunction with Rotherham College to offer these special courses to budding musicians and engineers. We feel the nature of the course really offers a lot in the way of experience and knowledge due to the uniqueness of the surroundings.”
Eliot, who will be personally overseeing the courses, today writing for The Star explained why he’s taking time out of his busy schedule to help others.
He wrote: “One of the questions I often get asked is why am I still based in Sheffield, why am I still here?
It is actually one of the things I am most proud of. I may go off and write for Broadway, the Tony awards or perform at the Oscars but I love that I am still based here.
This is my home, I love being from the North and from Sheffield.
It was the fact that I love being here and that I love music that was one of the main factors I started my Academy.
The whole idea behind starting the Academy was to give opportunities to artists in this area that I never had, I had to do a lot of years of learning to learn what our artists can in a matter of months.
For many, starting an Academy is something that they might have done at the end of the career, when they were winding down, but for me it’s always been about real world experience.
How can I show artist what it is really like if the studio isn’t buzzing with successful artists?
Our students have been lucky; some have already performed with Donny Osmond, Boy and Dolphin, Heaven 17 and Tony Christie.
Usually as they are working in one studio, the other is being used for an album or song we are working on, whether it is Geri Halliwell, Laura Wright or Pino Palladino working next door we want them to be in the thick and involved.
Being around people who are better than you is the best way to learn, to be challenged, not to compare yourself with your peers but the best in your field is the only way you can make it.
Having the right guidance is paramount as well as having access to the right facilities. Our academy artists are doing amazing things. We are already doing what we set out to do; natural talent is gravitating towards us.
The whole points of the RCAT courses are that they cross the border from being a hobby to a potential vocation, a proper job, a career.
Most people think music is just something you mess around with, I am living proof that this isn’t. This is a proper vocational choice. By using this amazing facility and our staff, students of all ages can really learn the industry.
That is why we are running the courses that we are- the artist course, perfect for singers, musicians, anyone who wants to be on the performing side of the industry. Then our Engineering course - perfect for sound engineers, producers, anyone who wants to bring out the talent in people and make music.
It’s actually like a real music brief, based around projects, all the aspects linking together, the same way I would approach and album or song. For me it’s always been about creating opportunities as well as developing talent.
Two of our 17-year-old students Tom Donaldson-Badger and Max Restaino are great examples of that.
I set Max the challenge to write a song for Tom and produce it. Now Tom and Max have very different sounds. I wanted Max to really find Tom’s sound and to challenge him.
He did just that, I am constantly being amazed, in the right environment and when artists are pushed that is when the true magic happens.
We work the same way with all our courses, as Aaron Slater, of songwritingmagazine.co.uk, wrote in his latest article, our courses are not conventional.
It’s not about modules and ticking boxes. It’s about being in a real, working space and you either get it and are turned on by it and you get in with it, or you don’t. We don’t really do work experience, so there is no way you would usually get through the door, but you can now and the best bit is, it’s free to under 19s.
Everyone who applies- whether an artist or producer will get an interview or audition. No one else is the industry is doing this, what can I say, I never did go with the crowd.”