Roxford: A Different Kind Of Music School

“The Volume” thrill the audience from the big stage at the Lyric Theater. From left: Bryant Poole (drums), Murphy Grace Smith (guitar), Wesley Webb (keys), and Tyler McGuire (guitar and vocal).

Roxford University kicks off its fall semester of music lessons and rock band rehearsals on August 21.

In the two and a half years since it cranked up, Oxford music school Roxford University has helped kids from six to 18 (and some adults, too) discover and develop in music—many as part of rock bands that perform in serious music venues in Oxford. Roxford looks forward to more newcomers as well as new bands when it opens the curtain on its fall semester August 21.

Tuning In and Rocking Out

Tyler McGuire of Water Valley was one of the first students to enroll at Roxford when it opened in April of 2015; he’d just turned 11 years old a month before. Since then, he’s been a steady member of one of the school’s bands, The Volume, as well as taking on roles in Remix, the Mannish Boys, and other groups. “Tyler loves Roxford,” says Tyler’s mother, Theresa Huertas. “He enjoys practicing with the bands and the team spirit they all share.”

Youngsters Jack Hill (left) and Tyler McGuire (right) in the Roxford band Remix work out lyrics and chord changes for an original composition.

“I’ve enjoyed watching the development of the kids who have been with us for two years,” says Tad Wilkes, director of Roxford. “Tyler, for example, was a beginner when he started, and now he is a leader in two different bands.” 

Wilkes says the group dynamic creates an effect similar to the team feeling in sports. “Each member takes his or her lessons and practicing more seriously because they are accountable to their bandmates. And the excitement they feel when they hear themselves play as part of something bigger is a big boost and encouragement. It’s also cool to watch a couple of the bands that have been going two years, how they’ve had multiple lineup changes and how they adapt—just like a real band.”

Roxford was the brainchild of Carter and Lydia Myers, who had the idea to fill a need in Oxford for a more engaging kind of music school. They approached Wilkes to direct the school, which would secure local giggling musicians to teach students guitar, keyboard/piano, drums, and singing. Moreover, for students participating in Roxford’s rock band program, Wilkes and the instructors would teach them how to collaborate together and the ins and outs of performing as a group—in weekly rehearsals building toward a big concert to close each semester.

The first concert in the spring of 2015 packed Proud Larry’s with an audience for the nervous newcomers. By the end of the fall 2015 semester, the bands graduated to the big stage and room of the Lyric Theater.

Reverberations

Wilkes believes Roxford, which opens up a world of music to both kids and adults, has filled a need in the community.

“I am so grateful to Roxford University for nurturing my child’s love of music,” says Mary Beth Smith, mother of Murphy Grace Smith, guitarist in The Volume. “Being a part of Roxford has been one of the best decision we’ve ever made.”

“The key for us is in the personalities of the actively performing musicians who teach here,” Wilkes says. “It’s engaging for the student. The instructors’ passion is contagious.” Current instructors, or “professors” as Roxford calls them, include guitarist Nick Spiller (of bands Hawgwash and Groove Master), guitarist Eric Deaton (The Eric Deaton Trio), drummer Mike Namorato (Hawgwash, Groove Master, and The Cooters), pianist Bill Perry (The Bill Perry Trio and Groove Master), vocalist Shy Perry, bassist and Newt Rayburn (The Cooters, Hawgwash).

Keelan Case was a beginner when Roxford opened in 2015, and he began lessons and became a part of the rock group The Wingits. Two years later, he is now enrolled at Delta State University studying music.

Instruction is not one-size-fits-all. “I teach my students music lessons like they’re my own kids,” says piano professor Perry. “Each lesson plan is unique to every student, which makes the experience fun for them while they’re learning,” he says. “My goal is for all of my students is to have an understanding of how the piano functions and to feel comfortable playing it.” 

Thriving and Flourishing

Quiet, budding drummer, Bryant Poole took individual lessons for a while with Namorato at Roxford before stepping up to join a three-piece band with Namorato and Wilkes (The Poole Boys) and, later, sitting in with The Volume when its drummer moved away, Wilkes says.

Students enrolled in Roxford’s group program meet once a week to hone songs that they will ultimately perform at the end of the semester.

“He has made so much progress in such a short time, because the instructors believed in him,” says Bryant’s mom Shelli Poole. “We were blown away that he had the confidence and skill to get on the stage and comfortably play what he did after one year. We highly recommend Roxford for the musical benefits as well as for how the teachers at Roxford create a culture where all the kids are really accepted for who they are. That allows them to thrive and flourish.”

For more information, call 662-801-0456 or email tad@roxu.org.


By Jim Roberts, a HottyToddy.com contributor. 

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