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Hello world! The Northern Music Academy back story




Born from an idea conceived way back in 1987, the Music Academy began life as a Yamaha Music School in January 1989. Though brand new, it set the record in it’s opening weekend for the most successful ever single recruitment event of any Yamaha Music School in the UK, with almost 200 new recruits over three days, in addition to over sixty students who were already studying with joint founder and principal, Darrell Priestley. In it’s earliest days, specialist keyboard education for a wide range of ages was the main offering, with a particular focus on ear training as a means of developing fluent performance skills.

Setting out to bring something genuinely new and affordable to the good people of Pontefract and the surrounding area, Darrell and his wife Eileen, with the support of Yamaha, together transformed music education in the region, and soon found students were flocking from further afield to learn music in a fresh and innovative environment. Concerts were a mainstay, both locally and even nationally, with events held at venues from Pontefract Town Hall and Castleford Civic Centre, to Sheffield City Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank. Over a number of years, many Academy students took part in annual concerts at Birmingham’s illustrious Symphony Hall, generating wonderful memories for their families and supporters who made the journey to cheer them on.

By the late 1990’s, after the music school had evolved significantly from it’s keyboard and organ roots to offer a more complete range of lesson options, it was felt that it should stand alone, and so the name was changed to Northern Music Academy to reflect the wider offering. What had not changed was the level of commitment to providing excellence, and the ethos of a family oriented learning environment. Darrell and Eileen have always believed in the importance of family, and that is reflected throughout the fabric of the unique business they have created. Their own children were raised in and around the Academy, and have music in their veins; indeed, their daughter, Jessica, qualified in music and education and teaches at the Academy today.

The years 1999 to 2009 brought a period of taking music even further afield, with music tours to a number of European countries, generating fabulous memories for the students and their families who took part. These days, concerts tend to be local, but still enormously important and rewarding experiences for everyone involved. Plus, we retain the focus on music exams that has been a feature since the earliest days, right back in 1989.