New Year's Honours 2020: Clanfield music teacher Mark to be awarded a BEM
A PASSIONATE music teacher from Clanfield said his award from the Queen should be dedicated to members of his team and all their ‘inspirational’ students.
Rocker Mark Thompson-Smith is set to be given a British Empire Medal (BEM) as part of the New Year’s Honours for his popular Ready to Rock schools that give young people of all backgrounds the chance to learn a musical instrument.
Since 2013 Mark, 60, has run weekly classes at discounted prices in locations in Havant, Petersfield, Waterlooville and Portsmouth.
Pupils have the option of learning the guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals from a group of experienced teachers – some of which were former students.
Vocalist Mark, who has had a long career in music since he joined his first band at 14, said he was ‘lucky’ to do what he does. ‘I am a very fortunate man,’ he said.
‘The kids are such an inspiration. ‘I’ve passed a certain age and yet I still get to do what I love.
‘I am accepting the medal on behalf of all the team. Without them I am just a guy who sings.’
Around 60 students currently attend the Ready to Rock classes. Some have learning difficulties and some wouldn’t be able to afford regular private tutoring.
They put on termly performances and give the profits from ticket sales to local causes. Their latest show at the Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea raised £1,400 for charity Daybreak.
Several have gone on to have success in the music industry, with some former students performing at the Isle of Wight Festival, Reading and Victorious among other venues and events.
Mark said: ‘They have got that love of music and we just build on that. We are full of passion for the whole thing.
‘We just want to pass that on to them.’
Mark has performed with several bands over the decades including Praying Mantis, Sweet and Fay Wray, and he currently works with group Leather and Lace.
Receiving the award was still a surprise for Mark. He added: ‘I was shocked. I was just totally blown away. When I saw the envelope from the cabinet office I thought “oh no what have I done wrong?”.
‘Looking through it I thought do I really warrant it, surely there are more deserving people.’
Mark lives with his wife Ann, 59, and daughter Rachael, 20, who both help out with the Ready to Rock schools.