A brand-new scholarship scheme has been launched for students at a County Durham secondary school.

The scheme, launched by Music Shop in Consett, will see one lucky student  at Consett Academy chosen at the beginning of each school year to receive free weekly lessons from an instrument tutor at Steel Town Music, located on Middle Street in Consett.

George Williams, the first ever student to undertake the scholarship, stressed that he “wanted to make the most of it”.

After learning he had been chosen, George said: "I was speechless."

The Northern Echo: George Williams, centre with Steel Town Music owner Matthew James Connor, right and guitar teacher

Chosen by his school music teacher Fiona Dodd, George will be tutored by Steel Town Music’s most experienced guitar teacher.

From a young age George showed enthusiasm for music, learning to play the ukulele aged none - so with only a few extra strings to adapt to, George is a natural at the guitar already.

George’s mum Danielle Williams has noticed what a positive influence receiving lessons has had on George saying: "He was a confident lad anyway, but this has just moved it up a notch. 

"It gives children the opportunity to do something new, we even have the next big band coming out of Consett, and it’ll be thanks to this scheme."

The scholarship will also allow George to further his music education at school in taking music GCSE, as playing an instrument/singing is a requirement of the course.

Music teacher Fiona Dodd is thrilled one of her students could be involved.

She said: "We need grassroots investments in young people so that they can have opportunities to fuel the music industry, it’s something that can’t purely be down to parents.

The Northern Echo: George Williams playing his guitar during his lessonGeorge Williams playing his guitar during his lesson (Image: Darcie Rawlings)

"From my perspective I can see the growth from year seven to year 11 in students and music has the benefit to help students to become great communicators, listeners and the level or maturity music brings to a person helps you to understand the world. As well as mental health and wellbeing benefits." 

Sensing a gap in both musical education and younger customers at the store, Steel Town Music owner Matthew James Connor and his good friend Jimmi Nichols decided to set up their own music scholarship scheme.

After seeing the community work completed by Matt and Steel Town Music, Jimmi first suggested sponsoring music lessons for one child himself. After discussions it was decided that Matt and Jimmi would work together to come up with a solution.

From there, the pair contacted Fiona to help them find a student who deserved a chance at this opportunity.

Discussing the old music scene in Consett, Matt highlighted that Steel Town Music has witnessed a wide change in clientele since it’s first opening in 2006.

The Northern Echo: Steel Town Music shop in ConsettSteel Town Music shop in Consett (Image: Darcie Rawlings)

He said: "There used to be places open on a weekend that would play live bands and most of our customers were young, wearing band T-shirts coming in wanting to buy guitars and learn to play and then everywhere shut, and our customers were either really young or retired – leaving out massive generation."

He added: "Places are trying really hard to have music nights, but there isn’t a big enough scene in Consett anymore, if you want to be in a band there’s nowhere for you to play.

"Lessons are expensive, I washed cars to afford my first drum kit, music is an expensive hobby, certainly tuition is - so we wanted to give somebody the opportunity to have that."

For Matt and Jimmi, the scheme is more than instrument lessons. The scholarship also has a focus on building the confidence of young people in Consett, allowing music lessons to become a safe space, helping to develop the communication skills of their recipients.

Matt said: "If they don’t come out like Hendrix that’s fine, but if they can go out and hold a conversation chatting to someone on a park bench – we have done our jobs as far as I’m concerned."

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The scheme has received widespread support from the local community with over 300 likes on Facebook.

Steel Town Music provide a variety of instrument tuition sessions however, the focus for this scheme will be guitar, bass and ukulele due to tutor availability.

Once George has finished the school year Steel Town Music will be continuing the scheme. They have revealed that applications will be opening towards the end of the school year to allow any student from Consett Academy who is interested to apply.