Birkdale has an enviable reputation in the City of Sheffield for outstanding music making and instrumental performance. Choirs, Brass Bands, Jazz and Saxophone Ensembles, Big Band, Wind Groups, String Orchestras and Guitar combinations – just to name but a few of our weekly groups – are led by our first-rate music faculty.

Music plays an important part in all areas of school life and we seek to make music available to all throughout their time at Birkdale. All Lower School boys receive specialist classroom teaching both to develop and explore their musical abilities and to gain an appreciation of the widest possible variety of musical genres. Music is available as an option for Middle School boys and older – we have excellent classroom resources with computers attached to every keyboard in our main teaching room. Instrumental lessons are available to all.

Public performance is encouraged with frequent recitals and regular concerts and musicals being staged, often in co-operation with other schools. A variety of concert halls are available for such performances, including the Heeley Hall.

Instrument Lessons

If you are interested in booking instrument lessons for your son/daughter through Birkdale School, please complete the Instrument Lesson Booking Form and  email it to our Director of Music, Mr Adrian Jordan, who will pass the information on to the relevant instrumental teacher:

Profiles of our amazing instrument teachers are detailed below.

Jonathan Beatty (Trombone)

I have been teaching lower brass at Birkdale for over twenty years concurrent with my other work as a professional musician.I have seen five of my Birkdale students’ progress to study music at prestigious universities or music conservatoires. I have equally enjoyed seeing others, who follow other directions and disciplines, continue to enjoy performing as part of their lives beyond Birkdale. Learning to play an instrument at school is an invaluable investment and a worthy endeavour.
Music has taken me all over the world, including playing solos in the Sydney Opera House in Australia and Carnegie Hall, New York, USA. I have been privileged to work with many professional orchestras: regularly at Opera North in Leeds; the Halle in Manchester; and the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Newcastle. I am probably better known for being Principal Trombone at Grimethorpe Colliery Band and featuring in the film Brassed Off.
I am retired from professional playing now but continue conducting and directing groups and brass bands. I formed the brass band at Birkdale which Dr Redfearn now conducts, highlights of which were performances of Bach’s Toccata in D minor and the Overture to Verdi’s opera, Nabucco. I also lecture at Huddersfield University and have been regularly very successful at the Unibrass inter-university contest directing and conducting the university brass band.
I love being part of the fantastic music team at Birkdale and have such a strong appreciation of the values and ethos at Birkdale that my own son attends.
I love working on classic cars and house restorations when I have time.
I would encourage everyone to take up music and become involved. Music is a great way to meet new people and relax. I say confidently enjoyment in playing reaps strong lifetime dividends.

Bianca Blezard (Upper Strings)

An alumnus of the Royal Northern College of Music, Bianca is a professional performer, teacher, and composer. She is a member of the Meiningen Ensemble and lead violinist of several bands, often touring internationally, and her performances span a huge range of genres from classical chamber music to electric violin. She is a passionate teacher and believes that one size does not fit all when it comes to music, preferring to nurture her students’ individual musical tastes whilst still maintaining a strict focus on excellent technique

Tom Collingwood (Lower Strings)

Thomas Collingwood graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in 2003, having studied under the professorship of Eduardo Vassallo and Karine Georgian. He appears regularly across Europe as a soloist, chamber musician, and international competition jury member.

He resides in Sheffield where much of his time is devoted to helping young musicians excel in their development, and has been involved with Birkdale School since 2009.

Joel Fellick (Guitar)

My goal is to inspire and educate individuals to become the musician they aspire to be. Working in a relaxed environment we will cover musical skills that will be valuable to the individual. Making sure each lesson moves you one step closer to becoming the confident musician you can be!

I studied jazz performance at Leeds College of Music, Classical Guitar to grade 8 and perform as a professional pop and rock guitarist. I am passionate about all styles of music and believe it is important for all students to appreciate and love multiple genres.

With over 15 years of professional experience I understand how each students musical journey is different. Tailoring my teaching methods to suit personal interests we will look at; technique, theory, harmony, melody, rhythm and most of all to enjoy music. Working to your ability and building a lesson and practice schedule that works around you.

Ian Griffiths (Guitar)

Ian Griffiths teaches guitar at Birkdale School. As a youngster he took classical guitar lessons, and cut his teeth playing guitar, mandolin, bass and the occasional harmonica in various church groups, punk rock bands and on the Yorkshire folk circuit. More recently he has studied under acclaimed performer and composer Nick Fletcher and taken masterclasses with Craig Ogden.

Since 2012 he has since taught guitar and mandolin privately, at Birkdale School and the Sheffield Music Academy as well as performing regularly in the region. He has played live and session guitar for a number of independent artists, and has led youth music groups and assisted in delivering workshops in guitar, band skills and ensemble playing.

He has also worked in Artist Management as a press writer, designer and publicist, where he promoted a number of international touring musicians.

Sarah Heneghan (Drums)

Sarah Heneghan is a Sheffield-based drummer, musician, mentor, and teacher. Since graduating from the University of Sheffield in 2015, Sarah has taught at AS Music School, one of Sheffield’s highest rated centres for music tuition, and now teaches drums at the University of Sheffield’s music department and Birkdale School. She has also run several workshops, including at the Universities of Huddersfield and Sheffield.

When not teaching, Sarah is an active artist with numerous projects and has collaborated in several other projects. She is a Manchester Jazz Festival hothouse and originals commission artist, Sage Gateshead Summer Studios artist, Serious Music Take Five artist, a Northern Line artist, and has received an Arts Council Lottery Project Grant for her solo drumming show. She also runs Key of She, a music jam night in Sheffield specifically for female, trans, and non-binary musicians and spectators.

Valerie Leppard (Piano)

Valerie Leppard graduated with a BMus (Hons) from the University of Sheffield. She gained her LRAM in Piano whilst at Sheffield, and followed this with PGCE training in Surrey. Valerie started her extensive career as a specialist music teacher in schools in Berkshire, followed by spells in Cumbria, Northamptonshire and an instrumental teaching post at King`s High School for Girls, Warwick. From there she returned to Sheffield where, in addition to teaching, she has studied further with Benjamin Frith, the international concert pianist. Valerie also works as a piano accompanist.

Gareth Lloyd (Singing Teacher)

Gareth joined Birkdale in September 2019 and is thoroughly enjoying working with the pupils and staff alike. He studied music at Sheffield University and graduated with honours in 2009 with his focus being a vocal recital. Since leaving university Gareth has worked as a professional singer and vocal tutor. Gareth is an accredited singing teacher with the Sheffield Music Hub and works in various Schools in Sheffield and Derbyshire. He founded the professional opera company; Opera on Location, which specialises in taking opera to new and unusual venues to encourage all audiences to engage with this wonderful art form and he is a featured performer with the company. Gareth believes music is to be performed and works hard to encourage performance of all kind with his pupils. Although he works as a professional classical singer and can be seen singing Nessun Dorma for ‘An Evening with Paul Gascoigne at Sheffield City Hall’ and many other operatic events, Gareth particularly enjoys teaching musical theatre, popular music and many other forms of vocal music.

Rachel Platt (Clarinet)

Rachel is passionate about her teaching, working with pupils to help them fulfil their potential, as well as enjoy the learning process. She encourages pupils to focus their practice towards attainable goals, be that a music exam, concert performance or purely playing for pleasure.

Vicky Proudler (Piano)

Victoria Proudler is a pianist, piano teacher, music examiner and composer. She graduated with honours in music from the Guildhall School of Music and
Drama in 1997 and has performed as a pianist, including a solo piano recital for BBC radio, as a piano accompanist and has played music of all styles with
ensembles of all sizes. Vicky has over twenty five years’ experience in teaching piano from beginner to Grade 8 and Diploma+, with very successful examination results. She has been a music examiner for Trinity College London for many years and spent several years as Trinity’s Keyboard Advisor, providing examiner training and creating new examination syllabuses. As a composer Vicky currently writes graded piano books for publication, among other projects. Many of Vicky’s arrangements and compositions have been published as exam pieces by Trinity College London.

Matthew Redfearn (Upper Brass)

Matthew Redfearn is an enthusiastic music educator who teaches upper brass instruments to prep. and senior school pupils, directs, and often arranges music for, the Prep School brass ensemble and Senior School brass band, and plays the trumpet in school concerts, shows and services when required. He undertook music studies in London, completing a music degree and a trumpet teaching diploma whilst at Goldsmith’s College and a postgraduate composition course at Trinity College of Music. Beyond school music he teaches brass, music theory and composition privately, runs Broccobrass (a training brass ensemble for teenagers), plays trumpet in Hallam Sinfonia and Sheffield Chamber Orchestra, and is Music Director of Glossop Choral Society.

Laura Skeet (Saxophone)

In her 10 years as saxophone teacher at Birkdale, Laura Skeet has helped her students to develop the kind of saxophone playing that they aspire to. From Careless Whisper to Coltrane, Bach to Baker Street, the Pink Panther to Parker, Laura enjoys teaching a wide variety of playing styles on both alto and tenor saxes. She specialises in teaching jazz, pop and improvising techniques and currently has pupils following the Trinity/Guildhall Jazz exam syllabus in addition to the more traditional ABRSM graded exams. Laura is from Sheffield and is a founder member of Saxsational saxophone quartet. She plays lead alto in Sheffield big band the Langsett Dance Orchestra and frequently performs for theatrical shows on a variety of woodwind instruments. She is an Accredited Teacher for Sheffield Music Hub and teaches the flute, clarinet and saxophone in a number of Sheffield schools.

Anthony Thompson (Upper Brass)

Anthony Thompson is one of the busiest trumpeters in the North of England. As a freelance musician, he has performed (often as principal trumpet) with most of our major orchestras, such as the BBC Philharmonic, Hallé, RLPO, CBSO and Royal Northern Sinfonia. In April 2008 Anthony was appointed principal trumpet of Sinfonia ViVA and since Christmas Day 2002 he has been principal trumpet and soloist with the New English Orchestra.

As a session musician, Anthony has played on recordings with artists as diverse as Norman Wisdom, Barbara Windsor, Claire Sweeney, Shirley Bassey, Native And The Name, Delirious? and Gorillaz amongst many others, His albums of varied Classical works are available on digital download websites. Highlights of live performance include playing with Steve Winwood, duetting with Sting and performing for Pope Benedict XVI!

As a soloist, Anthony has toured extensively throughout the UK, USA, Holland and Brazil, and has appeared in Norway, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Switzerland and Italy. With organist Gordon Stewart he undertook two tours in the United States. In the summers of 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2012 Anthony performed substantial solo works with the New English Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival, returning in 2014 to premiere a new composition written especially for him.

The sound of Anthony’s trumpet was heavily featured in an award-winning 2018 film, about a trumpeter and set in Spain, called “Solo!”

Anthony is well known for the wide range of instruments he plays in concerts – everything from didgeridoo and conch shell to coaching horn, antique and modern cornets, soprano trombone, bugle, flugel horn, ramshorn and antelope horn shofars, natural and piccolo trumpets!

Laura Walmsley (Flute)

Laura studied flute with Conrad Marshall and Nichola Hunter whilst at the University of Sheffield. Since graduating Laura has been teaching the flute privately and in schools across Sheffield and Derbyshire. She is the director of the North East Derbyshire Flute Choir, an ensemble which uses the full range of the flute family from piccolo down to the bass flute. She is very passionate about teaching and has taken students from beginner to ABRSM performance diploma level and beyond. As a performer she has given solo recitals at venues including the RNCM and Sheffield Cathedral. Laura also enjoys performing as an ensemble player and has a keen interest in chamber music. Away from music Laura enjoys arts and crafts and is a keen, but slow runner!

Zinaida Zubova (Piano)

Zinaida is a professional concert pianist, international award winning soloist, music educator and judge. Her performing and teaching career has taken her around the world with the appearances at major venues and music festivals. She also enjoys an extensive teaching practice and is a founding director of Piano Academy group, supporting emerging piano talents in South Yorkshire and beyond.