Ringsend Rock School Relaunched

Dylan giving guidance to one of his students. Photo courtesy Dylan Clayton.

By Peter McNamara

Have you been looking for a fun and rewarding hobby? Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to try something different? Maybe you want to express yourself – and believe you could be the next rock superstar. Whatever your reasons, if you’ve been thinking about learning an instrument or training your voice, the timing is perfect: the Ringsend Rock School has just relaunched, bigger and better than ever.

Dylan Clayton is the man behind the school, and he’s offering lessons in guitar, bass, drums, and singing. Students can start from scratch or go back to an instrument they’ve been tinkering with in the past.

“I’m very excited about the relaunch,” he tells me, “and I’m feeling good about how things will go.” He probably has reason to be: with 10 years experience in the field, Clayton knows all the ins and outs of the business of music teaching.

An Authentic Learning Environment

There’s a great atmosphere in the Rock School. The spacious practice room is lined with instruments of all kinds, as well as colourful lighting rigs, snaking cables and wires, and hard-wearing music stands. At one end of the space, the drum kit is all set up and waiting for the next Keith Moon. On the walls are concert posters and pictures of rock legends.

It’s inspiring stuff. There’s a kind of authentic live feel to the school, that would make a beginner feel something like a pro. All that’s missing is a surly roadie.

The Rock School is conveniently located at the back of the Ringsend Community Centre. “Lorraine at the Centre has been very helpful,” Dylan is quick to say. “She’s been great all through the years. There’d be no Rock School without her.”

For anyone interested in learning an instrument from scratch, Dylan recommends starting with group lessons first. And with the guitar.

“A person can go on to learn any instrument,” he explains, “but it all stems from the guitar. You learn the theory, the basics of playing music, and then you can go on and work on your singing or your bass or whatever.”

The group lessons cost €60 a month. This gives you four lessons of at least 45 minutes to an hour, depending on what’s available. One-on-one lessons are also on offer at a fee to be arranged. These might suit people who feel more shy, say in the case of someone learning to train their voice for the first time.

“And I do a reduced rate for multiple bookings,” Dylan adds. “If someone has one child doing the lessons, they’ll only pay €50 for the next one. Or the parent can get themselves a lesson for €50, and so on. I want to keep prices as low as possible. I know we have working-class communities around here.”

Indeed, when compared with other music lessons, the prices at the Ringsend Rock School are very affordable.

The age range is six to 600. Dylan tells me that he’s even organised a class for toddlers.

“It’s a good idea to help develop rhythm and creativity at a young age. It can get a bit noisy though,” he says with a smile.

As part of his teaching, Dylan also facilitates students that want to form a band, and he gives these bands an opportunity to play a live concert at least twice per year.

The Rich Benefits of Playing

When it comes to learning to play, you need not be aiming for world domination. Playing guitar or bass or drums is a wonderful hobby and life-skill. It can be great for party pieces, for sing-alongs, or simply for your own personal satisfaction. Playing music can even show you a side of yourself you didn’t know was there.

“I’ve seen the effect it has on some of my students,” says Dylan. “In the beginning a person might be as nervous as anything, but after a bit of time and practice you can see their confidence grow. Some people really flourish. I’ve gotten people playing and singing in a way they never thought they could.”

Learning to play an instrument not only gives children a chance to be creative, it also teaches discipline and commitment. And with the group lessons at the Ringsend Rock School, there’s an added socialising element. Friendships are made, as well as bands and musical partnerships.

“So long as the parents keep the kids practising,” says Dylan, “there’s no telling how far I can go with them.”

During my visit to the Rock School I sat in on two of Dylan’s lessons. One (as yet unnamed) rock band was composed of 11-year old boys, who played with the skill of teenagers aged maybe 16 or 17. Later, a band composed of 14 and 15-year-old girls arrived. This band, tentatively called The Grandmas, jumped straight into a rendition of Edge of Seventeen. Dylan told me that they’d performed this song back at the annual Rock School Christmas show at the Community Centre. Without any rehearsal or reminder in the time since, the girls belted out the hit pop song with precision and flair.

Plans for the Future

When I ask about the future, Dylan isn’t lacking in vision. Alongside the group and one-on-one lessons, he’s also looking to set up curriculum-based classes, to tutor anyone studying for the Leaving or Junior Cert. “I’m even planning on doing a mobile Rock School unit,’ he tells me, “that could go into schools to give lessons after-hours.”

Along with the two annual Rock School gigs, the teacher is also looking at setting up a few more live events. Some of the gigs might be in partnership with Dublin City Council. It’s something he’s passionate about. “I want to give the kids as much opportunity to perform live as possible,” he says. “It’s great training. And a lot of fun.”

In the past, Dylan hasn’t been shy of creating his own opportunities. On one occasion a few years ago, he brought nine of his students over to London, to see the smash-hit musical The War of the Worlds. This double-album-turned-musical was written by Jeff Wayne and based on Orson Welles’s infamous radio broadcast. Since the album’s first release in 1978 it has sold nearly three million copies in the UK alone. Dylan’s students loved the music and he wanted to give them a chance to get involved with it.

“I reached out to Jeff,” he says, “to ask him for some sheet music and guitar tabs. I didn’t know what he’d say––none of that stuff is available for the album anywhere. He was the kindest guy, gave me everything I needed. The students were delighted,” Dylan adds. “We performed our own special War of the Worlds concert after that. It was brilliant.”

Dylan has also done a nine-part-guitar Bohemian Rhapsody show with some of his students. With the Rock School, he’s aiming to keep things going in that fun and creative vein.

Ready to Rock?

If you’ve been meaning to pick up an instrument, or are looking to try a new hobby this year, there’s no better place to go than the Ringsend Rock School. It’s conveniently located, the lessons are well priced, and you might be hard pressed to find a teacher as experienced and dedicated as Dylan Clayton.

From what I saw during my visit, the students – be they girls or boys, children or teenagers – clearly respect him. They have fun while they learn. And they keep coming back: Dylan has had students for three, five, and even 10 years. One of his long-term students, a local singer and musician named Robyn, has gone from strength to strength in her craft and is now studying at the prestigious British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) in Dublin.

“If people want to learn,” he says, “I’d love to teach them. And when I’ve the help of the parents, I can chase after anyone to practice. We won’t be long getting the best out them.”

Contact Dylan Clayton at the Ringsend Rock School at ringsendrockschool@gmail.com.