We had been considering the possibility of inviting members of the Academy to perform for the Society. This article by Society member Tony Martin encourages us to do so – and to attend their annual youth big-band concert – 51st State Band – at Putney Arts Theatre in November.
Steve Rubie is the owner of the 606 Club in Lots Road, Chelsea, where the world’s best jazz musicians perform. He is also renowned for fostering the talents of young musicians. In July his club hosted a packed charity evening where students of World Heart Beat Music Academy performed an exquisite first set, followed by long-time Wandsworth resident, doyen of jazz piano and the Academy’s chief patron, Julian Joseph with his trio.
Afterwards Steve Rubie wrote: “Learning to make music isn’t just about learning notes. It’s about commitment, sensitivity, understanding, mutual support and a love for what you are doing. The team at World Heart Beat … epitomises the dedication and passion that is necessary to convey those qualities to all the young musicians who pass through their doors.” When next in Kimber Road, look for the unlikely juxtaposition of Charles Wilson’s plant hire premises and the first floor, pink and pale blue themed home of the Academy. Its staircase is adorned with photographs of music and exotic objets d’art. Its spacious performance area, enveloped by a warm red ceiling and carpet, plays host to an array of drums, guitars, a fine grand piano and many more instruments, and some splendidly ageing leather armchairs.
Here some 300 young people – from five to nineteen and beyond – come after school and at weekends to learn to play musical instruments and sing. Around 50% of tuition is in classical music; other genres for its 15 teaching programmes include jazz, Celtic and gypsy music, Asian tabla drums, reggae and vocal improvisation. As well as the 606 Club, World Heart Beat students have performed at Speaker’s House (Westminster), Kensington Palace, the All England Lawn Tennis Club and Joe Macari’s sparkling showroom. Their annual youth big-band concert – 51st State Band – will perform at Putney Arts Theatre in November.
A registered charity whose doors first opened in 2012, World Heart Beat is a social enterprise with an ‘open to all’ policy, providing free or supported places for many of the children, 70% of whom are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (many with troubled family backgrounds). The Academy was founded and is directed by the inspirational Sahana Gero, who has taught music in Wandsworth for many years and has played in concerts and taught all over the world. Chair of trustees is Veronica Bradbury, now retired from the headship of Allfarthing School, where she left a superb legacy to many – including Julian Joseph! Sahana has deep faith in World Heart Beat’s ability through music to help transform lives. She says: “Our ethos is grounded in social change. We inspire and motivate young people to reach beyond the limitations circumstances have placed on them. We teach skills enabling students to lift their own aspirations and maximise their potential as musicians and citizens of the world.”
However, the Academy is bursting at the seams. Its premises are now too small for comfort. To cater for demand, it needs to build a larger permanent new home in Wandsworth, more suitable for both teaching and performance. Its hope is that a developer now engaged in local regeneration will see how the housing of this unique entity could add a vital, rich dimension of youth and culture to otherwise largely commercial environments. Steve Rubie says: “A visit to World Heart Beat is a joyous event, where students and teachers alike delight in the pleasure of music-making and you leave somehow feeling that you have participated in something life-affirming and unique. World Heart Beat is not just important to the musical life of London, it’s essential.”
The Academy assesses that, through teaching, concerts and partnerships with local schools, it has reached out to well over 7,000 people in the last year. Wandsworth is benefiting hugely from the innovation and inspiration of a magical place of music and social transformation.
– Tony Martin