Newsletter (January 2011)

January 19th 2011
Welcome back to a studio that has exploded into 2011 with a full (very) timetable and a substantial waiting list. I’m so sorry for those of you who have children, siblings and friends waiting to join. Please be assured that I will do everything possible to accommodate as many new students as I can. I’m teaching up until 8.30pm every evening and all day Saturday so it’s not for lack of anything else except hours in the day!

Even after all my years teaching I still have sleepless nights over timetabling and this year is the busiest yet! In order to try and make the job as painless as possible students will remain in their respective timeslots with the exception of those that I have had to ask to move because of clashes at Hilton College. For everyone else, unless you absolutely have to change your time it’s going to be difficult unless someone else can be persuaded to swap with you. In these cases I will do what I can but please be prepared for a time slot that may not be your ideal choice. In addition please try and remember that if I make a request on behalf of someone else it could be your turn next time!

Aftermath: The Summer Sunset Concert
WOW!!! So many compliments, so much positive feedback, and so many accolades for all of you who took to the stage on December 5th. It was a fantastic concert! Thanks to Ian Rushworth we have some brilliant photos which will be going up in the studio and posted on the website soon. I was particularly thrilled with the sound quality, mostly down to a substantial capital outlay for lots of brand new equipment, and the superb technical skills of Andrew Ness whose unflappable demeanour kept all of us calm and focused. I thought the venue worked superbly well and was especially glad of the roof over our heads!

Looking forward, I have provisionally set dates for our two major concerts for 2011 July 24th and December 4th and I will be booking these at Yellowwood. Let the excitement build … there is nothing, absolutely nothing that matches the thrill (and terror!) of live performance. This is why we practice our scales and technicals and do the hours of practice behind closed doors. I loved seeing the forging of new friendships and the care and support that the performers all gave one another. It made me very proud of the ethos of this school – that we all take pride in the achievements of one another. To those who stayed for the finale, thank you, and for my beautiful flowers, thank you again!

Please continue to visit the website. We will be posting additional info. and lots of new photos once they’ve gone to our website designer.

Trinity Exams
The applications for Trinity Rock School exams will need to be in by April so there’s still time to sign up for the programme (and save up for the hefty exam fee! It’s in pounds and the examiner flies in from the UK so that’s why it’s a bit pricey). Rock School is an exciting concept which allows students to gain a formally graded qualification in contemporary music styles that is internationally recognised. Students can choose from a graded qualification or a performance certificate. If you think you might be interested for this year’s exams please let me know.

Working Round and About
As you all know I am a working musician and need to perform in order to keep fresh and current and maintain my industry contacts. I apologise for the inconvenience of missing classes when I need to be away and thank you for your understanding with regard to this. I will always try to make these classes up or you will receive a refund.

Class Fees and Non-Arrivals
Most of you know the protocol regarding payment and non-arrivals but for those new to the studio I wish to point out the following:
Fees payment is not calculated on attendance but on a commitment to a weekly timeslot which is set aside for you or your child. A few students who have pre-arranged to pay on a weekly basis may continue to do so. For everyone else fees must be paid in full a month in advance. I need to stress that classes that are missed will be charged for. If you or your child do not attend class due to illness, school events that suddenly spring up, family holidays etc. during term time the full monthly fee is payable as the weekly place in the studio has been allocated to you.

My teaching colleagues in Pietermaritzburg and other towns tell me that charging for missed appointments is common practice as it certainly is in many other professions. I appreciate the support and co-operation I have received from those parents that Steve and I have discussed this with.

I feel very uncomfortable about charging for non-attendance but there were many days last year when 6 hours of lessons dwindled to just 1 or 2 and it is very frustrating just sitting around waiting for students who do not turn up. Also the roll-over effect of having a 40% attendance on some days meant that on other days rescheduling the timetable resulted in a very long and very crammed day with up to 10 hours teaching. Students were shuttled in and out of here and I felt that the quality of my teaching suffered and certain students were compromised through no fault of their own. The School is fully booked Monday to Friday between the most popular times of 1.30pm and 8.30pm and Saturday 8.15am – 2.45pm and there is a waiting list for these ‘prized’ slots so I need to keep my timetable consistent and manageable. Thank you for your understanding.

In addition I must mention that if you are late for class your lesson will have to be cut short. A lot of people are on a very tight schedule and the knock on effect of late classes means other people later in the day may be inconvenienced. It is for this reason that I need to run to time!

Students who want to attend classes on a once-off or ad hoc basis are more than welcome but can only be scheduled for weekday mornings and Saturday afternoons subject to availability.

School Administration
The administration of the school has been handed over to Steve Stark, my music producer, partner, husband and lead guitarist. I’m sure most of you know him quite well by now! He administers and runs the other half of our music business – the Sound Recording Studio and he is taking over my accounts and bookings schedule. Those who require them will be getting weekly SMS reminders for classes and other helpful information to help the school run more smoothly. Steve’s phone number is 072 576 2794 and as you will not be able to contact me on my cell phone during teaching times please feel free to contact him.

Everyone (excluding Hilton College and St Anne’s students) will be asked to sign a new contract for 2011 so please come in for the first class and Steve will get all your details.

Coming and Going
I try not to leave anyone stranded at the gate but sometimes when you ring the bell someone may be mid-song and I can only get to you in a couple of minutes. Please be patient if that happens. (If it’s raining I promise I’ll let you in quickly!) For their safety students are also not allowed out of the gate until you arrive to collect them.

Songworks CDs
I am very sad to report that Gershon has moved to Johannesburg (he has a great new job so it’s good news for him) but Steve and I are going to miss his talent and friendship and just having him around. Hopefully he will be able to visit regularly because the good news is that we have been recording over the holidays and the results are superb! Gershon’s debut CD has been completed and he and I have collaborated on a number of tracks. If you missed our finale at the Summer Sunset Concert or Live at St Anne’s this is your chance to hear it and I am going to be very bold here: we are fantastic!

Steve has done a brilliant production job and we’ve already sold a number of advance copies (one to the Hartman’s who bought it on the spot after hearing Gershon’s performance of the Stevie Wonder classic Lately). We are selling copies of Gershon’s CD at the usual price of R120 and I ask all of you to support his incredible talent. There are currently 10 tracks on the CD but we will be adding more over the next couple of months and anyone who buys one now will get an automatic upgrade for no additional cost! (And yes, he does receive a percentage of the sales!) Tracks include:

  • Like A Star
  • Prayer For The Dying
  • Make You Feel My Love
  • Feel
  • Lately
  • Separate Lives
  • One Day I’ll Fly Away
  • Something Stupid
  • Fix You
  • (Bonus Christmas Track)

A number of other students have also embarked on CD projects (some demo and others using a more sophisticated production process) and when they are completed they will also be available from the school. I’m sure many of you would like to support your friends’ music and so I will let you know who’s got what on offer so that you can purchase copies. I would urge everyone in the school to resist ripping and distributing CDs as they are expensive to produce and if we can’t rely on our friends to buy our music it’s a very sad world indeed!

I am down to the last 2 copies of Jason Hartman’s debut CD signed by the band at R120 each. Last week Jason played us a few rough tracks from the new album he is working on and it’s already sounding great so we’re looking forward to hearing it completed. I’m happy to report that my own CDs The Collection, Reflections and Live at Brookfield continue to sell well at R120 each. Extracts of all of them can be heard on my website and the full CDs ordered online or purchased from the studio. Thanks to all of you who’ve already bought copies.

So it’s down to the enjoyable business of making music. See you at the studio everyone!

Best wishes for a year that is harmonious,

Dr Tracy Stark

Songworks Music School

Email Tracy at

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