A pair of entrepreneurs from Lisburn have spotted a gap in the market and launched their very own ‘school of rock’ that trains aspiring young musicians for careers in the music industry by playing in a band, thanks to support from the Go For It Programme in association with Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council.
The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
At the start of the year, music teachers Ryan Belshaw and his partner Jordan Mackin had just signed the lease on a unit at Enterprise Crescent in Lisburn and were planning to offer one-to-one teaching there at The Musician Academy, only for the pandemic to hit, forcing them to rethink.
The couple had hoped to split the large room in the unit into three smaller rooms where they could deliver one-to-one tuition, but the funding to do this was no longer available.
“It forced us to improvise, and that’s how we discovered the gap in the market. Instead of teaching the students one to one, we realised we could use that big room as a rehearsal space to teach the kids to play in a band together,” Ryan says.
“It’s for kids who play contemporary instruments and don’t really have a venue to meet and network, where they will have access to two or three teachers, depending on the class size, and learn to play together as a band.”
The Musician Academy offers three weekly sessions, each two hours in length, in which up to 12 children can learn, perform and record together – 7-11-year olds on Mondays and 12-17 year olds on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
“Jordan teaches singing and piano, I teach guitar, bass and drums and we’re able to help all those students to learn those skills properly for a career in the music industry, whether it be as an artist, an audio engineer or part of a band. Learning to perform, write songs and record is all part of the class,” Ryan says.
The support of the Go For It Programme proved invaluable, especially after the pandemic hit and they had to change their plans.
The Go for It programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors across all 11 council areas of Northern Ireland. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.
“Our business advisor was able to adapt really well when we had to improvise – for anything legal to do with health and safety or running a limited company, she pointed us in the right direction to get the information we needed,” Ryan says.
Strict precautions were put in place, including air purifiers, banners maintaining space between each student and limits on numbers.
“With the restrictions at the time, it was unclear whether we would be allowed to open, but our advisor put us in touch with the health and safety team and they gave us the green light to launch in September.”
The Musician Academy is hoping that when COVID-19 passes, the students will be able to showcase their talents regularly on the stage at Bow Street or at the Island Arts Centre and further afield.
“There is some great talent out there. When I was that age I never had this opportunity, so it’s nice to be able to give the kids that chance,” Ryan says.
Alderman Jim Dillon MBE, Chair of the Development Committee at Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council said: “The Go For It Programme, delivered by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council provides new entrepreneurs with accessible, free and tailored support in the start-up stage of their business in areas such as financial and business planning, and sales and marketing to help get their business up and running.
“I wish Ryan and Jordan every continued success in developing and growing their enterprise and encourage anyone thinking about starting their own business to get in touch with the Go For It Programme!”
Martina Crawford, Chief Executive of Lisburn Enterprise Organisation Ltd, said: “We were delighted to be able to support Ryan and Jordan in the start-up stage of their business. They are both very talented musicians and wanted to develop a business that would provide top quality, specialist training for aspiring musicians, regardless of age or ability.
“We helped Ryan and Jordan to develop a business plan that allowed them to launch their business during the pandemic. The business plan focused the couple on defining their service provision, financial forecasting and, clearly mapping out their sales and marketing strategy.
“The couple have really created a hub of education for local aspiring musicians and I know that with their determination and drive to succeed will see the Musician Academy go from strength to strength.”
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com
It forced us to improvise, and that’s how we discovered the gap in the market.