Alumni

By Newark College

Alumni Focus

Previous graduates from the Musical Instrument Crafts courses have progressed to employment in industry, at manufactures or as repairers, or have started their own business and in turn provide employment for other students when they graduate. 

Kit Brennan

Graduate of Woodwind Making and Repair, 2021

“I definitely grew a lot as a person on the course and learned a lot, even more than I expected. 

I’m hoping to get into the restoration of old instruments as well as repair – especially doing the musical service instruments for kids at schools who might not otherwise have a chance to learn.

The graduation has been amazing. I have a real appreciation for the history and the grandeur of a building like Lincoln Cathedral. It’s gorgeous and it really sets the tone for the graduation and made my achievement at the College feel really special.

I really recommend the course. My advice for future students is quite earnest and that is don’t be too proud to ask for help if you need it in all facets of your education and time at College. My tutors have been really supportive.”

Kit Brennan
Kit Brennan

Chris Walden

Graduate of Piano Tuning and Restoration, 2020

"Having played the piano since an early age, I was always interested in the mechanics of the instrument. After a lengthy career in retail management, I decided that it was the right time to change careers and do something that I am so enthusiastic about. 

The thing I enjoyed most about the course was the amount of tuning practice we were given and direct access to a tutor to gain feedback the same day.

My advice to anyone thinking about studying on the course would be absolutely go for it! My three years at Newark will be regarded as the best three years of my life, I would go back and do it all again in a heartbeat.

The course is fantastic as are the staff and the other students. The Piano School is based in the old police station on the edge of the main college campus, this has been transformed into a truly remarkable, purpose-built piano school. It is equipped with some 16 tuning booths, three large workshops, a spraying and woodworking room, classroom, and common room with kitchen. 

My last bit of advice – spend every minute you can in those tuning booths and tune tune tune! Three years go so quick and before you know it, you will have finished the course and ready to start applying to piano companies for employment. 

Newark is a wonderful place to live and study, it is surrounded by beautiful countryside, and it is full of pubs too! Perfect for unwinding after a busy day at college. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to study at Newark. If you are reading this and are thinking about applying for the course, go for it! I wish you the same success and happiness that I experienced."

Watch Chris' video below to learn more about his journey or visit his website.

Chris Walden
Chris Walden

Becky Houghton

Graduate of Violin Making and Repair, 2008.

"I had always wanted to be a violin maker from the age of 13. I asked the maker who I bought my viola from at age 13 what I had to do to become one and he told me that it was “no job for a young lady”!

I then continued to get a music degree and went on to have a family because at the time I didn’t think to question him or that he might be wrong. It wasn’t until my husband was passing Newark School of Violin Making one day and picked up the paperwork that I applied. The rest is history!

What I enjoyed most about the course is that I instantly felt that the other people who were on the course were just like me. It takes a certain sort of person to study lutherie I think! The tutors were all fantastic and I loved working with wood. 

My advice to someone looking to studying the same course would be to go for it. Put in the hours, learn as much as you can from the tutors and your fellow students and make as many connections as you can. 

Overall, Newark School of Violin Making is a jewel nestled away in the UK’s education system. It’s reputation is world renowned and due to the passionate staff and wonderful teaching it must be preserved. I had a wonderful time and I hope it will always be there for subsequent generations of makers and restorers. "

Becky Houghton
Becky Houghton

Dennis Tolz

Graduate of Guitar Making, 2007.

"In 2005, I finished high school in Berlin and one day that year I met one of Newark’s guitar making students in a music store. Spending a lot of time playing the guitar, I was extremely interested in what he told me about the musical instrument making classes at the College. We stayed in touch and a few months later I visited him and the College to take a look at the place myself. I was immediately hooked and decided to take the entrance exam.

So, in the summer of 2006, I started learning how to build classical guitars under the tutelage of Roy Courtnall, James Lister, and Mal Brady at Newark College. Not knowing anything about instrument making and very little about wood work in general, they taught me everything I needed to know to build my first three guitars from scratch using mostly hand tools. All of this happened in the wonderful atmosphere of a small workshop with roughly 10 students per year.

But most important for my time in Newark was the large, multinational, group of people from all ages and walks of life, who met in this small town in the middle of the UK and formed a wonderful community that threw incredible parties almost every week. All of us united by the idea to become instrument makers.

This experience really shaped my life and I am very grateful for that. Without the Guitar making course at Newark I would not be where I am today."

Dennis Tolz
Dennis Tolz

Colin Garrett

Graduate of Violin Making and Repair, 2003.

"I had started violin making in 1968 in an evening class in Cambridge. By the time I had finished my first violin, I was hooked and decided that, in retirement, I would try to do the full professional course at Newark. Retirement came earlier than I had anticipated and in 2000 I enrolled at Newark School of Violin Making. I was the grandfather of the intake at 59 years old.

What I enjoyed most about the course was the opportunity to be with a lot of young enthusiastic people with first-class tuition. My advice to someone looking at studying the same course would be if you are prepared for a lot of hard work – go for it!  

Newark School of Violin Making is the jewel in Newark's crown - and definitely the Oxbridge of the violin making colleges. If you were serious about making a career in the trade, that was THE place to go. In my time, there were about 100 students in the building and the school was buzzing."

COLIN GARRETT
COLIN GARRETT

Guy Cowley

Graduate of Woodwind Making and Repair, 2008.

"I had been a professional clarinetist for 18 years and was looking to have a career change. Part of my work as a clarinetist was playing in orchestras that perform on period instruments and I was interested in learning how to make historical clarinets. I had visited various clarinet workshops and been inspired by the crafts men and women, and wanted to try and set up a small workshop of my own. The course at Newark seemed to be the best fit for me and what I was trying to achieve and has a good history of producing fine makers and repairers which have then worked in the profession.

For me, the making side of the course was most exciting and I loved learning about how to use the lathes and other machines and tools. How to make tools and how to make all the aspects of the clarinet. The repair side of the course was also excellent and has stood me in good stead for carrying out clarinet repairs and setting up instruments I have made. I had no experience of any wood working or metal working before the course and by the end of the three years, I had a good understanding and practical experience of skills to enable me to start setting up my workshop and making my own instruments. Obviously there is always a learning curve and this continues to this day – striving to improve my knowledge and skills, and working to become more efficient.

My advice to prospective students would be to visit the workshop at Newark and get a feel for the course and also try and visit professional repair and making workshops to get an idea of what it’s like as a job. Think about what your end goal is, this may form or change while you are on the course...its good to have an idea of where you are heading.

Both repair and making can be very rewarding. I like working by myself, but also the interaction with musicians that I do work for. For me, the main things would be, are you interested and passionate about this and willing to work hard? You also need to get used to things going wrong and learn to be resilient (I am still learning this one!) Look for funding bodies that support the crafts (e.g. QEST, Heritage Crafts, The Churchill Fellowship).

The workshop is light, well appointed and nice to work in. The staff are experienced and I found them very encouraging and interested in what the students are trying to achieve. The practical course suited me very well and the other students were friendly and supportive. The course is excellent, the three years will go by quickly - so take advantage of everything on offer."

Guy Cowley
Guy Cowley
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