A talented young drummer is having the ‘year of his life’ embarking on a dream career, helping lead a musical summer school and looking forward to becoming a first time dad.
Alfie Ellis,18, has spent the August heatwave as one of the leaders of the popular Schools Out 2022! summer school run by the award-winning Wrexham Music Co-operative.
Helping to run the course at Ysgol Bryn Tabor in Coedpoeth is one of several important new roles he has had to step up to over the last year.
According to Alfie, he couldn’t believe his luck when he was selected to be the first ever candidate for a jobs mentorship scheme launched by the not-for-profit organisation which is part of the North Wales Music Co-operative (NWMC).
After years of being involved with the pioneering co-operative as a pupil, he was recruited by them as a trainee music coach giving him the opportunity to teach his beloved drums to more than 130 students a week across 23 schools.
The NWMC was founded by Heather Powell who is Head of Service for both the Wrexham and Denbighshire music co-operatives.
Heather is keen to introduce new projects like the mentorship scheme and in-school classroom projects including music-as-therapy sessions into the curriculum.
She said: “We hope to see these projects develop more fully over the start of the new school year term as a new revamped curriculum is rolled out, backed by the Welsh government.”
Wrexham Music Co-operative matches potential students to freelance music tutors registered to deliver instrumental and singing lessons across the region.
Lessons are offered through a combination of in-school and after-school lessons, but the co-operative also runs a number of ensembles and choirs, plus well-being courses during the school summer holidays.
According to Scott Lloyd, manager of the Wrexham Music Co-operative, Alfie was living proof of the life-changing qualities of music.
Scott said: “Alfie is just fantastic, a very talented drummer and his dedication to improving his music skills is second to none. He is a real role model and that’s why we thought he would be perfect for a mentorship.
“We are all very proud of him. He has the promise to make a fine name for himself in music teaching. You only have to look at the way the kids at our summer school react to him to see that.”
For the second year running, the Wrexham course was booked up almost as soon as the dates were posted online.
Heather added: “Our summer schools have been a real success story, with parents clamouring to secure places for their children. We have done our best to accommodate everyone but numbers are limited, which is why we asked people to apply early.”
Funded by the Welsh Government with support from Wrexham County Borough Council, the summer school is free for participants and offers a mix of music sessions, sports and fun games for children aged from seven to 12.
Participants Tomos Rhys, aged nine, Ethan Roberts, 11, and sisters Erin, 10, and Fiyin, Akinyandenu, eight, said they were having a great time enjoying all the activities.
Tomos said: “There’s so much to do. You can play football, but if you want you can play music too. I’d like to try the double bass.”
Erin and Fiyin are both learning to play tuba but they also welcomed the chance to have a go at other instruments, including the PBuzz freestyle trumpet.
They especially enjoyed joining other children and adults in group marching sessions while playing the PBuzz.
Cllr Phil Wyn, Wrexham Council’s lead on education, said: “It’s great to see the level of enthusiasm among children attending the summer school. The co-operative is doing a great job and I know plans are in hand to extend its reach over the coming year to make music lessons more accessible and a key part of the schools’ curriculum.”
It was a sentiment endorsed by Cllr Mark Young, chair of the NWMC, who added: “Wales is the land of song and has a long tradition of music and eisteddfods. It’s vital we maintain this enriching aspect of our culture and encourage children to enjoy music. The co-operative is doing an excellent job promoting this cause and deserves credit for bringing the importance of music lessons to the fore again.”
The summer schools are run in partnership with Commando X-Fit which leads the sports and fitness element of the free daily sessions.
Founded by ex-Royal Marines, Adam White and Dan Harrison, Commando X-Fit tailor exercise programmes to suit different age groups and abilities. As well as contributing to the summer schools they have their own gym and H/Q at The Old Pump House, Rhos-on-Sea, where a number of the NWMC music teachers have their fitness sessions.
Adam said he was pleased to be back for Schools Out 2022! and recognised some of the children from last year’s summer school.
He said: “It’s so rewarding to see that some of the children have really taken up our advice and kept up with the simple exercise sessions which we recommended or changes to their diet.
“As well as sports activities our CFX teams also focus on mental wellbeing techniques and the way that keeping active and mobile can be uplifting for the state of mind, even at a young age.”