West End composer returns to call the tune at music centre he joined as a kid

A West End composer has returned to where it all began after he was named the new head of the Leighton-Linslade Music Centre – more than 35 years after he first walked through the doors as a student.

Tim Hammond is back at the Inspiring Music-run Saturday morning centre at Vandyke Upper School, which kick-started and developed his talent and would lead him on to musically directing major productions, such as We Will Rock You, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Grease and Bugsy Malone.

And though he went on to work with music theatre royalty, in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and rock guitar legend Brian May – of 1970s and 80s supergroup Queen – his time at the music centre was never forgotten.

“I still vividly remember the very first day I arrived at the LLMC in 1983 because of the overwhelming enthusiasm and friendliness of the staff and children,” said Tim. “I barely played an instrument but found myself playing with other musicians within minutes of arriving. LLMC also became my main social life and I am still friends today with many people I met there.

“My early experiences at LLMC taught me how to combine the fun social element of making music, with the deep commitment to practise and self-improvement required to be a professional musician.”

Since making the grade Tim has also become the composer of West End ballets and more than 100 songs for television and radio, including Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location.

Tim said: “Two particular events standout in my memories of the LLMC. I remember having my very first ensemble composition 'Suite For Strings' being performed by the main string orchestra, 'Camerata', conducted by Dafydd Billinghurst. It was an unforgettably special feeling to have my composition played by a live ensemble for the first time in my life.

“I also remember writing an Opera called 'Natasha' for the entire music school. The performance included over 200 staff and pupils, and three professional opera singers were drafted in too.

“Having a piece of this size successfully staged in front of a large live audience gave me the much-needed confidence to go on to write another six full-scale ballets, plus more than 100 other published works.”

Now back where it all began, Tim will be joined by jazz artist Mitch Perrins – who honed his talent during 12 years in New York – and he is expanding the LLMC curriculum, introducing a new Junior Producer course. This is designed to introduce students to the recording techniques needed to produce their own music, using Apple software and the latest mixing equipment.

The centre, which welcomes adult members and takes pride in the fact that families can learn together, offers a wide choice of activities such as learning an instrument as a beginner, African drums, guitars, ukuleles and keyboards.

Students can also play in a folk and rock groups, a jazz ensemble, as well as the traditional choirs, bands, orchestras and learning of music theory and practical musicianship.

LLMC is also unique in that it offers a mini music class for children from the age of four. The ‘Reach for the Stars Choir’ and ‘Mish Mash Music’ classes are also taught by a specialist teacher for students with learning difficulties.

Tim said: “One of the best reasons to come to the LLMC is to play your instrument with others. Not only does it improve your playing, but it gives you the opportunity to make new friends and helps you reach your potential in developing your musical skills, or try something new.”

At the end of each term parents and friends are offered the chance to attend an open morning and concert where they can listen to some of the music which the students have been performing together.

Students regularly perform in the wider community, taking part in the Oxjam celebrations, launching the festival with live music in the High Street and putting on a concert in the May Fayre and Carnival.

If you play an instrument or would like to start, enrol online at www.inspiringmusic.co.uk and then pop along from 9:30am on Saturday mornings.