World Class Musician at Eagle House School (Sutton)

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Thursday, 17th March 2016

What an amazing day it has been! Earlier this morning I walked through the top corridor of Eagle House and heard music coming from downstairs – the whole building was jumping with powerful bass beats and curiosity got the better of me.

Standing at the front of the school hall facing a packed audience of eager pupils was Tommy Emmerton, a world class guitarist who has toured with the best and biggest names in the business –jazz legends Eddie Henderson, Gary Bartz and classical singer, Katherine Jenkins,. He is a regular in the West End having played numerous shows including; ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Billy Elliot’, ‘Joseph’, ‘Hairspray’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Shrek’, ‘Ghost’ etc.  His own West End gigs have included ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, ‘Fame’, ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Hair’ (playing rhythm guitar for Steely Dan alumnus, Elliott Randall).……and here he was standing in our school hall!

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He is now doing ‘The Book Of Mormon’ in the West End, which means he’s on the late night shift, but he still managed to make it to us bang on time. I stood at the back and watched as Tommy and Iain led pupils through the ‘blues’ with Tommy explaining about musical ‘shapes’ and ‘colours’ and how the blues have metamorphosed through the years in to other musical styles influencing our music today; from jazz, bee bop, rock ‘n’ roll, rock, heavy metal and hip hop to garage etc. We learned a considerable amount.

Music is a big deal at our schools and this is down to our brilliant music teacher, Iain MacDonald, who is himself a masterful musician (many of you will have heard him on his sousaphone, “Bessie”). Iain believes that inspiration is the way to go – “there’s nothing more inspiring for our budding musicians than to see professional musicians in action”.

Iain invited Tommy to stay for the day for individual sessions with each of our talented guitarists – what an opportunity. They were taken through Tommy’s rigorous practise techniques, new riffs, great stories and memorable jamming sessions. I’ve never seen so many guitars around the place! There were pupils with instruments tucked in every corner and an excited buzz around the whole school that was palpable for the entire day.

I managed to corner Tommy, albeit briefly (as Iain had such a packed agenda arranged for him), to ask about his story. He told me how he, as a twelve year old classical guitarist, had won the Vale Of Glamorgan Young Musician Of The Year competition and went on to receive the Michael Pritchard Award for Welsh rock guitarists at seventeen years old. He went on to study jazz at Trinity College Of Music and then attended the Royal Academy Of Music.

He told us about his personal musical journey from rock to jazz, heavy metal and blues to classical. There was enthusiastic audience participation with questions being asked throughout. He couldn’t be outdone, however, by our own Yr 13 music buff, Louis (what Louis doesn’t know about music is nobodies business!), who managed to haul him up on a couple of key points. Tommy took it in excellent grace.

In the afternoon, he moved over to another full pupil audience at Eagle Court where he jammed with many of our home-grown musicians – some of our audience just had to get up and do some ‘moves’ out of sheer joy and appreciation of the electric atmosphere captured with in that room.

Afterwards, I asked Tommy how he had enjoyed his day at Eagle House and he looked truly moved – he said he had had such a great, fulfilling day that he wanted to come back. I am delighted to say that he has offered to come and play with us on Celebration Day in July. We can’t wait ……and, it seems, neither can he.

Iain is arranging for other musicians to visit, so we can do it all over again! Watch this blog!