Hereward Kaye’s Rok Skool returns to Haywards Heath for inspiring music lessons
Rok Skool has returned to Haywards Heath after months of Covid restrictions and owner Hereward Kaye is keen to spread the word.
The music tuition centre, which quickly became part of the community when it opened in 2006, is based at Bridge Road industrial estate.
It teaches guitar, bass, piano, drums, singing and songwriting, and it runs bands with a recording studio for people who want to make EPs and albums.
Hereward, 68, lives in Lindfield with his wife Pat, a vocal coach, and came up with the idea after seeing the film School of Rock.
“I loved it and I thought I could do it for real,” said Hereward, adding that he now runs the family business with his son Leon.
Hereward, who has had a successful career in pop and musical theatre, said his life was heavily influenced by seeing The Beatles play live when he was a child in 1963.
“I totally remember the excitement of that night,” said Hereward, who wants Rok Skool to give modern kids that same buzz.
“It’s that feeling of your first electric guitar or your first drum kit and the whole excitement of music,” he said.
Aspiring musicians can sign up whenever they like and can request to be put in a band or simply get individual tuition.
Students also get to play in the community and are putting on a show at Lindfield common during the village day on September 11.
The school is not just for children, said Hereward, adding that it caters for musicians aged seven to 70.
“We have three adult bands, people in their 40s and 50s who basically had that guitar that’s been gathering dust in the attic,” he said.
Rok Skool teaches everyone from ‘absolute beginners’ too, having a ‘loose partnership’ with BIMM Brighton where they find enthusiastic graduates who want to become teachers.
Hereward said the school encourages a passion for music with its unique approach.
“We teach people how to play by ear, rather than boring formal musical notation,” he said.
“We do teach that as well,” he added. “But we like to teach people how to find their own way through a tune.”
‘Musical mentors’ run the bands, he said, focusing on each instrument to help individuals and the band as a whole sound better.
Hereward said some amazing singers have attended the school previously, pointing to former student Gracey, who has just performed at Reading and Leeds Festival as well as Latitude.
“I think she’s going to be huge,” said Hereward, adding that she attended Rok Skool for singing and songwriting from age nine to 14.
Sadly, Hereward said that the recent Covid pandemic has caused ‘every sort of problem’ for Rok Skool.
It was forced to close for months, he said, which took away an important part of the Mid Sussex community.
“It was very difficult for us so it’s incredible to be getting going again,” he said, adding that returning students can trust the space at the school.
“It’s completely socially distanced and responsible and we’ve followed all the government guidelines,” he said.
Hereward is ambitious about Rok Skool’s future and said he wants to serve his talented local community.
The school even offers a choir and vocal pop groups if people do not want to play an instrument.
And Hereward knows a thing or two about singing, having been in The Flying Pickets – who had a 1983 Christmas number one with ‘Only You’ – where he performed 100 shows a year for 13 years.
He was also Rick Wakeman’s lead vocalist and sang on the album Cost of Living.
Hereward said that one of his best experiences was co-writing the musical Moby Dick, which was picked up by star producer Cameron Mackintosh in the early ’90s.
It was first put on in Oxford and then brought to the West End.
“To be there as the composer of a Cameron Mackintosh musical on the first night in the West End back in 1992 was the most incredible experience for me,” said Hereward.
His other theatre credits include Goodbye America, Cramp and Primeslot Frontcloth.
“It’s that kind of real experience that I wanted to bring to Rok Skool,” he said, adding that his career has also given him plenty of ‘silly stories’ to tell.
Hereward was born in Middlesbrough in 1953 and got into playing music at the same time as his pal Chris Rea.
He also made friends with David Coverdale who went on to be in Whitesnake.
“When I worked with these guys Dave worked in a clothes shop in Redcar and Chris Rea was the burger chef at a club run by our manager,” he said.
Hereward added that all of his tales have been collected into a memoir, which is ‘a huge string of anecdotes’.
One, for example, is about Hereward meeting Elvis Costello in Liverpool while he was in a show called Are You Lonesome Tonight?
“I didn’t realise it was Elvis Costello,” he said. “It was about halfway through our conversation when I thought ‘oh my God’.”
Other stories include Hereward being on the receiving end of Rick Wakeman’s practical jokes, a man he describes as ‘quite the character’.
Hereward has also written a couple of tuition books, one for guitar and one for piano, which serve as Rok Skool’s own in-house training manuals.