Shropshire Star

Shropshire music school to help struggling families

Learning to play a musical instrument from an early age can be helpful for children in many ways.

Alison Dodd, who runs Long Mynd Music Academy

Not only can it be a fun activity but it can also improve their coordination and motor skills, boost their self-esteem and confidence and provide them with a creative outlet.

Husband and wife team Alison Dodd and Ryan Foulkes who run Long Mynd Music Academy in Church Stretton believe music should be available to all children who want to learn to play an instrument.

After witnessing the rising cost of living having an impact on families, they have decided to set up a new scholarship fund to ensure money isn't a barrier to young people who would like to have lessons.

"Our ethos is music is an inclusive activity that should accessible to everyone," says Ryan.

Pupils taking part in last year's summer recital

"We've noticed many families are struggling to afford music lessons at the moment with the cost of living being so high.

"So we're putting together a hardship fund to help all children access high quality music services."

"We don't want finances to be a barrier to children learning music," says Alison. "We've seen how tricky things are at the moment with the rising cost of living and we want to support children and families through this."

Pupils taking part in last year's summer recital

To help raise money for their scholarship fund, the couple have signed up for Mammathon - a tough 26-mile course starting from Craven Arms discovery centre and heading out over the Shropshire Hills.

Participants following the route, which takes in Wenlock Edge, will pass through Acton Scott, home to BBC’s Victorian Farm, climb Ragleth Hill, before carrying on to the Long Mynd itself via the beautiful Ashes Hollow, to reach Pole Bank, the highest point of the course.

Ryan and Alison have set themselves a target of raising £500 from the event, which takes place as part of the Shropshire Way 80K Festival on April 1, towards the fund.

Pupils taking part in last year's summer recital

"I've run a marathon before and Alison has done a 10k and a half marathon. We both regularly run and Alison is currently up and out every morning at 6am!," says Ryan.

At Long Mynd Music Academy, based in Lutwyche Court, they offer tuition in instruments including piano, violin, cello, obeo, singing, guitar, bass guitar, drums as well as singing lessons.

Alison grew up in Wales playing the saxophone, piano and later developed a passion for teaching.

Pupils taking part in last year's summer recital

She completed her undergraduate degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff and went on to study for a masters degree at the Royal College of Music in London.

The couple launched the Church Stretton music school, which also runs a Holiday Club, around two years ago with the aim of keeping musical education fun and social.

Sessions are open to anyone from the age of four and cater for young classical and rock musicians.

Students learn in small groups, which Alison and Ryan say allows them to feel connected and part of something bigger from their very first lesson.

"When everyone is learning something new together, you don’t feel so lonely when you’re struggling to get it right.

"Our ensemble and rock band programmes cater for complete beginners up to advanced players giving our students the experience of playing with a range of instrumentalists, finding the joy in being part of something bigger."

Among the sessions they offer are group piano lessons which include improvisation, composition, theory, games and ensemble playing.

Buddy lessons are offered for all other instruments. Students receive 25 minutes tuition at their own instrument in pairs and then join with another buddy pair for 10 minutes to play theory games, improvise, compose and play as an ensemble.

In Little Rockers, open to four to seven-year-olds, children get the opportunity to try out guitar, bass guitar, drums, and keyboard, learning songs on all instruments.

Students can also join music meet-ups which give them the chance to get together for an hour every week to do some supervised practise, improve their music theory and hang out with other budding musicians.

"We want to be help create communities and friendships based around music and offer free of charge, to our students, Saturday meet-ups for children to socialise with music friends," says Ryan.

To find out more about the music academy or the scholarship fund, visit or email

To sponsor Alison and Ryan on their Mammathon fundraising mission, go to