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Our People
Our People
Our People
Our People
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Rick Benton Chief Executive & Principal BMus (Hons), LRSM, CertEd

Rick began his professional career at 17, becoming one of the youngest musical directors of a national theatre tour with Charles Vance’s rock adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. In 2016 he joined legendary UK rock band, Magnum, reaching number 1 in the UK independent charts with their 20th studio album, Lost on the Road to Eternity and enjoying a successful near sell-out 50-date European tour with the band.

Rick was curriculum manager for Music, Acting and Dance at Walsall College, and worked on the development of the Roland Academies network in the UK, leading on the Academies Roadshow programme. He has worked with Yamaha on the design and development of electric pianos, was owner and Managing Director of Pianoman Studios and Powerhouse rehearsal rooms, and has produced and arranged for numerous artists and shows in the UK and Europe.

Alongside recording and touring with Magnum, Rick continues to be in demand as a studio session player, most recently with bands and artists including Trishula, Texmanians, Voodoo Sioux, and Rebecca Downes.

Rick holds a first-class honours degree in music, a licentiate diploma in music teaching and a certificate in education.

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Lloyd Daker Course Leader PGCertHE, BMus (Hons), FHEA

Lloyd has been an active drummer for the past 20 years performing throughout Europe to capacity audiences at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Wembley and London O2 Arena as well as the 3Arena in Dublin. Lloyd’s wide-ranging experience of touring has given him valuable knowledge in terms of what it takes to become a successful musician in such a challenging industry.

In addition to his extensive performance career, Lloyd is a highly sought-after educator, teaching from his own private studio as well as for establishments within the Yamaha Music Schools education framework.

Lloyd holds a first-class honours degree in popular music performance from Birmingham City University. He is currently developing his research into performance-based anxiety and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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Alex Prince Course Leader PGCertHE, BSc (Hons), FHEA

Alex Prince is a talented multi-instrumentalist who has a large catalogue of commercially released music, with productions and compositions featured on 60+ album releases as well as co-producing the music for various advertising campaigns (Boux Avenue, INTU Group, Park Retail, Robert Dyas…). He has been involved professionally in various bands and has extensive experience in studio recording as a session musician, song writer, sound engineer and producer. In addition to this, he has experience working on location and in post-production as sound engineer for a series of film projects.

On the technical side, Alex has had commissions for studio design, both in construction and equipment specifications, media content creation and web-design for schools, colleges and professional organisations.

In partnership with Cool Fossil Music and Roland, Alex has organized and delivered workshop programs for the renowned Hay Festival, including their offshoot festivals at Merthyr Rock and Brecon Jazz and also music workshop programs for UK Youth and other charitable organizations.

Alex graduated university with a first-class Bsc (Hons) in Sound Technology at the ATRium, University of South Wales, additionally winning the JAMES/Richersounds award for outstanding achievement.

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Simon Hastings Lecturer PGCE, BA (Hons)

Simon (Hank) Hastings, BA (hons), has worked as a performing musician, MD, and music educator since 1985. During the late 80s, 90s and 00s he appeared on stages throughout the UK, in Europe and North America. His experience as a performing musician is extensive, including rock, jazz, soul, funk, and musical theatre. Current gigs include guitarist for The Phoenix Big Band, bassist for renowned UK tribute artist Stacey Green, along with folk-rock artist The Shy Faced Troubadour. Simon also leads his own classic funk, soul, and disco outfit, The Groovy Funky Things and can frequently be found playing in theatre pit bands around the Midlands.


Simon graduated from Alsager college in 1985 before gaining a PGCE in Music Education from Birmingham Polytechnic in 1989. He has worked as a music educator both in schools and for The University of Central England, as well as having considerable involvement in Arts England’s Creative Partnerships programme in the 2000s.

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Talulla Wheatley Associate Lecturer

Talulla has been teaching vocals to a wide variety of age groups for the past 6 years in and out of school settings. She has studied in multiple genres including Pop, Rock, Musical Theatre and Vaccai.

Talulla began singing professionally 10 years ago, fronting bands at different venues, weddings and functions around the uk, within theatres and live and pre-recorded radio.

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Steven Nicholls Associate Lecturer

Steven Nicholls has been a gigging, writing and recording musician for over 25 years, playing both solo and with bands and ensembles across a range of genres including Rock, Blues, Jazz, Funk, Folk and Classical.

He has been teaching guitar for more than two decades in a variety of settings and, after graduating from University in 2005 with a BA Hons in music, began working full-time for Dudley Performing Arts which has given him the opportunity to work with all age groups in Schools, Colleges and Universities across the borough.

Whilst at University Steven developed his percussive acoustic guitar style and this is now one of his specialisms.

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Vie Watson Associate Lecturer

Vie Watson is a gospel singer with a classical twist, once called a lady with “A voice to take your breath away” by a leading BBC presenter. Having performed with pop legend, Lulu, celebrity plaudits followed:
”It’s just like heaven hearing her (Vie) sing” Lulu, “Vie has an outstanding voice” Edwina Curry,
”Your ‘Ave Maria’ was breath-taking” Russell Grant.

Vie has toured on solo and gospel choir projects at the Leipzig Music Festival Germany, Festive tours in Milan and Turin, Italy, Gospel concerts in NY state and Connecticut, USA and across Jamaica, as well as alongside Manchester Camerata on several occasions as part of AMC Gospel Choir who opened Glastonbury and the Isles of Wight festivals.

Having studied at Westminster College, Oxford and Orléans University, France, Vie graduated with a B.Ed. Honours and a Diploma in French.

A teacher of 30 years’ experience, Vie insists on aspiring for excellence from each of her pupils and choir members. As a student mentor and educational advisor, Vie also encourages personal self-belief. She continues her parental legacy of working alongside and ministering to the marginalised through fundraising, music, and educational projects.

image of James Gullick
James Gullick Associate Lecturer

James has been involved in music education for the last 25 years but has always kept his live performance work going alongside this. His first performance was at the age of 12 and he has gone on to perform all over the country and Internationally on TV and radio.

Mainly focusing on contemporary piano, keyboard and vocal teaching he also is a published songwriter.

image of Al Cormell
Al Cormell Associate Lecturer

Al began his musical journey on piano and trumpet, but discovered his passion for drums at age eleven. He studied popular music and recording at University College Salford, the first course of its kind in the UK. He has been an active gigging drummer for more than thirty years, and has taught drum kit for more than twenty five years. A versatile player, he has played all over the UK and abroad with innumerable bands and orchestras, in many different genres, and has played on several studio recordings, most notably on albums by Highway Dave and the Varmints, and Reuben Archer’s Personal Sin.

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Kristy Arnold Student Counsellor RMN Post Grad Dip CBT, BABCP accredited

My core profession is that of a mental health nurse and I have been working in mental health for over 25yrs in a variety of different settings. Since 2010 I have been delivering CBT therapy to people with a variety of problems including anxiety, PTSD, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, psychosis and many more.

For a large part of my career I have been working with adolescents, young people and adults. The best part of my job is empowering people to talk about their emotions and make changes to improve their mental well-being.

If you need any support with your studies, advice and help regarding your health and well-being, then please come and see me.

image of Joshua Oldfield
Joshua Oldfield Technician BA (Hons)
image of Sam-James Gordon
Sam-James Gordon Receptionist and Administrator
image of Sonia Spink
Sonia Spink Receptionist and Administrator
Board of Trustees
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David Barnard Chairman BA (Hons), ARCM, PGCE, FRSA

David is managing director of Vivace Training & Consultancy Ltd and part-time Education Official for the Musicians’ Union. His clients have included Roland UK, Yamaha, Casio, Notion, I Like Music, Music for All and several music education hubs. He currently chairs the Music Industries’ Association (Education) Committee and is a sought-after teacher trainer.

David holds a first-class honours degree in music, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education, a performer’s diploma from the Royal College of Music, and a Diploma in Management. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Chartered Institute of Management.

David’s career has included a number of senior management posts in industry and education. He founded the Roland Music Academy network, and has worked as a conductor, music publisher, visiting lecturer in music education at Middlesex University, and specialist examiner for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

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Chris Cronin Treasurer

Chris can look back on over 30 years in the entertainment industry, mainly in the design, innovation and manufacture of large-scale stage touring sets for artists such as George Michael, Kylie Minogue, Take That and hundreds more.

Chris has a reputation as a market leader and is directly responsible for many of the modular rigging systems used in major venues around the world. He has won awards for his inventions, including the T2™ Truss, the only product on the market designed to protect technicians climbing or working at height.

He is CEO of the Total Solutions Group (TSG), which has offices in Birmingham and Singapore. TSG manages a suite of well-known industry brands including Total Fabrications™, the main manufacturing arm of the business, and Lightlock™, a first-generation motion damping device for moving lights, developed with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Current clients include Take That, Strictly Come Dancing, ELO, O2 Arena, Asian Games, Creamfields and many more.

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Peter Millichip Company Secretary

Peter was born and bred in the Black Country. He went to school at Malvern College and then to Birmingham University. After graduating in law, he followed his father Sir Bert Millichip into the legal profession and became one of the pioneers of Sports and Media Law in the 1990’s with the advent of Sky television, mobile technology and other digital platforms. He worked alongside the Lord Digby Jones, Oxford University and later alongside the National Treasure Sir Bobby Robson in promoting opportunities for young people through the mediums of sport and entertainment.

Latterly he has become heavily involved in the music business. An enthusiastic if not talented Rock guitarist, he has worked alongside many artists both in the UK and internationally. He is passionate about promoting talent in the music and entertainment industries, and supporting young people who wish to work in the music industry.

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Dr Andrew Curran Trustee

Andrew is a practising paediatric neurologist and neurobiologist consultant.

He spent three years in full time research following up children after brain injury and works extensively in this field as a consultant paediatric neurologist at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. He has also researched emotional literacy in classrooms and, more recently, explored the processing of reward in the human brain.

Andrew’s Little Book of Big Stuff about the Brain is recognised as one of the leading works on understanding brain-based learning and the importance of emotional literacy in our classrooms and in our lives; and Get Off the Sofa is aimed at anyone who wants to better understand their health.

Andrew was a main presenter on BBC3’s Make My Body Younger, and regularly presents the science section on Five Live Saturday Edition. He is also a gifted singer, song writer and writer of fiction.

image of John Penn
John Penn Trustee

John has been working in live audio all his life, starting at school where he built his first PA. By the age of 20 he had founded SSE, which over the next 45 years grew to become the UK’s largest audio hire and sales company, touring the world with many hundreds of artists ranging from Metallica to Coldplay, and providing audio services to major festivals including Reading and Glastonbury. The Sales and Installations business works all over the country, installing audio systems in restaurants, venues, theatres and arenas. Recent projects range from Tottenham Hotspurs state of the art new stadium to Ascot racecourse and York Minster.

SSE are synonymous with the development of the UK audio industry, constantly innovating and raising standards of audio excellence, whilst setting standards for training and raising professional competence. Now semi-retired John is a regular industry spokesman, sharing his knowledge and experiences to assist in its development.

image of James Daly
James Daly Trustee

James is Managing Director of De Facto – a Digital and eCommerce Agency. Innovating experience-driven global eCommerce and Social Commerce. Building engaged audiences in fashion, music and youth networks. His clients include Fred Perry, Comme Des Garcons, Margaret Howell and many more.

James has won multiple national and international awards for Advertising, eCommerce, Music, Social Commerce and Business. With a particular specialism in music, James has created and launched Fred Perry Subculture, All Our Tomorrows Festival and the Global Playlist project with Fred Perry. He has been published in multiple Taschen Books, magazines and voted as one of 100 people to know in British fashion.

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