“ The Gables, 1 Dean Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 6EX „
Opus School of Music.
Opus school of music is a small music school in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. It is not a school in the sense that pupils attend on a daily basis, rather people go there for weekly (or more, or less) lessons.
They used to be known as Utopia school of music and were attached to a shop selling instruments and music accessories, however, they are now dedicated to the teaching side of things.
The Gables, is an old school house which sits on a residential side road in Barnsley, adjoining the main entrance road into Barnsley from the M1, so is very accessible, yet surprisingly quiet.
There is ample parking and it is a nice looking Victorian building that is bigger than a house but not too big. The front garden is a bit untidy and overgrown but this seems to add to the charm.
Once inside there is a reception to the left and the teaching rooms split of around the building up and downstairs.
In the reception area there is a small selection of music books for different instruments, reeds, neck straps, and other small but essential items for musicians, not too much, but that is okay. The management of the school rightly realise that many things can be bought online cheaper, so why stock a large array of items.
There is also some light refreshments that can be bought such as crisps and drinks, mainly for when the school is having day long classes.
There is of course, a toilet too.
As you would expect, the main services are music lessons, in a whole range of instruments, and singing.
Saxophone (all types)
There is probably more that I am not even aware of.
The lessons are usually either 30 minutes or an hour, though can be longer by arrangement. They are priced according to level etc. but are not usually more than £30 per hour.
There are also toddlers groups and mums and toddlers groups to introduce children to music from an early age.
They also offer 'day schools' where they might run an 'improvisation day' or a 'Music Theory' day. These are really good, it's great to amongst other musicians and the fees are incredibly reasonable around the £40-£50 mark for a day.
In addition the school arranges exams for pupils in grades (and beyond), even accompanying pupils where needed. The school claims a 100% pass rate at exams, which is mainly because they do not put people forward until they are ready, and that they are great 'coaches'.
The other thing that Opus do is to arrange at least three or four 'concerts' per year where pupils of the school perform one or two pieces to an audience of friends and family. This is brilliant for players to get used to playing in front of people, and the staff are really great at preparing people for the night.
The last concert was in a function room of a working men's club and around 150-200 people attended.
The start of the evening is always the younger players, leading on to the end of the evening when the more accomplished and/or confident (the two do not always match) people play. I am confident but probably not so accomplished, lol.
I am not going to talk about all the staff, mainly as information relating to them are on their website, and of course, I do not know everyone.
The two people I have had most to do with are Helen Madden, my teacher, and Suzanne.
They are passionate about their music of that there is little doubt, they are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and as well as that they are really nice folk.
The thing I like most about the staff is their willingness to work with the learner in the way that suits them best. My wife and I both play, both see Helen for lessons, yet are like chalk and cheese when it comes to learning and Helen is easily able to cater for us, recognising our talents and weakness and working with them.
They exude confidence which is infectious, though sometimes they have more confidence in their pupils than the pupils themselves, sometimes they are too nice!
They are friendly and this is one of the major selling points of the school, larger, stuffier schools would not be for me.
Before attending this school (in a previous building) 18 months ago I had never read a line of music nor picked up an instrument, now it is a passion beyond words.
I have learned to love music that I previously ignored, particularly Jazz.
I have met new people and become part of new networks.
Okay, I have to be honest, most musically talented people are great at timing when it comes to music, not so great when it comes to the clock, and this lot are no different. Lessons are often a little late, people seem to be chasing their tails a lot. But, you know what, it doesn't matter, you get used to it and smile about it....entering the world of music is very different in terms of priorities.
To be honest that is me being ultra critical, as even the time management is getting better than it was when they were attached to the instrument shop, but I think it is right in terms of objectivity to be honest.
Of course, if you do not live in Barnsley or surrounding areas this review may not be of great use to you; but interestingly, several people on this site have outed themselves as Barnsley residents. Go along, have a go, they offer a taster lesson and instrument hire, if you don't go, you'll never know.
There is something quite magical about learning music, and this place knows that, the staff, the pupils and the associates (friends and family) are a lovely bunch and I am pleased to be part of this.
Well worth having a look at as all I have detailed here is on there, and more, especially a much more comprehensive rundown of staff.