A MUSIC prodigy has proved he can follow in his family's footsteps after passing an A-level equivalent drumming exam aged just 11.

Last year, Joe Ellerton, from Darlington, sat his Grade 5 music theory, the equivalent of GCSE standard, and drummed up a 97 per cent pass mark – one of the highest in the country.

Now, he's gone on to get a 90 per cent distinction at Grade 8, and is ready to start work on his Level 4 diploma, the equivalent of the first year of a degree, which he hopes to complete by the middle of next summer.

And if that wasn't enough for Joe, who is a Year Eight pupil at Carmel College in Darlington, he has also begun flying lessons and managed to land a plane on his own in just his first lesson.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, his proud father, Stuart Ellerton, said Joe has loved playing the drums ever since he was just four-years-old.

"I think Joe definitely picked up the musical genes. Music has always been in the Ellerton family, but ever since he first picked up a drumstick, he was playing with rhythm and in time, even if it was to Peppa Pig.

"It's not just about playing the music but there is all the musical theory that comes with it. He has worked so hard. I can't remember the last time he didn't walk through the door, say hello, and went straight up to his drumkit."

Mr Ellerton, who has done work with schools and is director of The Northern School of Contemporary Music in Darlington, said he hopes more youngsters can find interests and skills they are passionate about and commit to them like Joe.

"There are so many kids who have no idea what they want to do, and when I drive past some at bus stops, they are just on their phones or iPads – they don't speak to each other. I think one day they will be born with bent necks for all the time they spend looking at their phones.

"Everyone has got something they are good at – they just need to find it.

"You could say that Joe is a chip off the old man’s block as I am a professional drummer by trade. We are so proud of him"