Marissa Steer

Singing should be absolute fun. It should absorb you totally and exercise you mentally and physically.”

Marissa Steer (formerly Claughan) is a professional singer, cellist and teacher at Hull School of Performance Arts (HSPA). She coaxes strong vocal performances from our Music students, also teaching music history and theory, research and analytical skills and personal and professional development.

The school’s annual trips to Stax Music Academy in Memphis, USA, have proved to be a huge boost to students’ confidence. The brainchild of Marissa and husband Craig, who visited the music Mecca on their honeymoon, now sees second-year students and staff attending workshops and delivering lectures to Stax students for one week every summer. While in Memphis, the Hull students also have the opportunity to follow in Elvis’s footsteps, recording at the iconic Sun Studios.

Marissa own musical inspiration came from Hull Youth Music Service – a free service that provided talented primary school pupils with music tuition. Aged 10, she began cello lessons and went on to play in the service’s symphony orchestra.

Her band, Launderette Poets (see a performance HERE) now provides the perfect showcase for her soaring vocals and folk-tinged cello performances.

 – Their music is available HERE –

She has previously toured with tribute act, The ELO Experience, been commissioned to write music and play as a session musician at Fairview Studios, East Yorkshire.

Marissa’s teaching experience includes adult education, working with adults with learning disabilities and private lessons. Having completed a BA (Hons) in Music Performance, she went into education, teaching at Wakefield College and latterly, Hull.

“All ages and all types of people want the experience of singing,” she says. “Some people come to me because they daren’t sing in church, one comes for help with interviews – it can be a way of confidence-building that is an alternative to public-speaking lessons.  There are also health benefits. Mild exercise, such as singing, can help the respiratory system. I recommend it to people as a way to regulate breathing and open the ventricles.”

She finds a lot of adults and children with hearing impairments ask for her help through singing lessons.

“It’s often a combination of a confidence and an anatomical issue,” she says. “Singing lessons can help things along. It’s a holistic approach.”

A project with independent theatre company, Animotion, brought a new and interesting challenge to this aspect of her personal practice. She was asked to play cello as an accompaniment to signing actors in a play produced for hearing-impaired and deaf audiences.

Thanks to her positive experiences working with deaf and hearing-impaired musicians, Marissa hopes to soon complete an Ear, Nose and Throat short course in speech therapy for singing teachers.

At HSPA, she has big plans to introduce speech therapy training for other members of staff; and contemporary music certification. Long-term, she would like to establish the Horncastle Building as an accreditation centre for the Rock School examination syllabus of performance and theory.

In her spare time, she “keeps her academic hand in” by conducting ongoing research relating to her teaching practice into the socio-cultural ways in which music is used.

Visit www.marissasteersinging.vpweb.co.uk

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Tim Keech

Hull School of Performance Art’s guitar specialist Tim Keech has decades of experience as a lecturer, tutor and professional musician. He ranks flexibility almost as highly as the art and craft of performance for musical artists.

And within our Faculty of Arts, fractional Music lecturer Tim specialises in theory and performance practice.

His teaching career includes teaching music and physics in schools; running his own music school in Spring Bank, Hull; teaching guitar at the University of Hull; and lecturing at Hull School of Performance Arts, where he has taught since 1997. Tim has a BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering from the University of Leeds, a PGCE and an MMus in Music Composition from the University of Hull.

But music performance has been a constant throughout Tim’s career.

“A gig has been part of my way of making a living for the past 20 years,” he says. “It’s a day at the office for me, you have to be able to judge each performance and adapt.”

Tim mainly performs with jazz fusion band Mad Dog and the Sophisticats. With this outfit, he plays up to 100 gigs per year, up to half of which are likely to be weddings. He also plays in the Wakefield Arms Jazz Band and produces CDs for the band ahead of its annual visits to a jazz festival in Herne, Germany.

Although his “first love” is jazz, Tim says:

“To make a living teaching guitar, you have to be pretty versatile.”

He also composes, writes, sings, plays, arranges and produces for other musicians. Tim does the arrangements for an Andrews Sisters cover act based in Leeds and runs an a capella close harmony jazz group, Bamba Dooda.

When studying for his MMus, Tim researched the development of jazz harmony, including mapping the fingerboard of a guitar, which he describes as “a lifetime’s work”.

“My research didn’t end with the completion of the MMus,” he says. “I investigate better ways of passing on playing techniques to my students. That is a constant. If I go into a practice session now I’m not trying to advance my own technique, but look at ways I can accelerate students’ progress, or anticipate and avoid potential difficulties. Continuity is the key.

“From a guitar-teaching point of view, I’m always interested in doing the job better and looking at ways I can circumvent or pre-empt students’ problems.”

Tim’s great passion is to pass on good performance habits. Many of his former students are now professional musicians.

“From a technical point of view, the biggest mistake most people make is picking up the guitar incorrectly,” he says. “My performance expertise comes into play when we’re looking at turning a musician into a professional act. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you pause on stage for as little as three seconds, you can empty a dancefloor.”