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.


Craig Steer

On honeymoon in Memphis, Tennessee, a germ of an idea began to grow for Music Performance lecturer Craig Steer.

The Music team set up a unique collaboration for Hull School of Performance Arts (HSPA) students at the famous Stax Music Academy, which grew from soul record label Stax and the Soulsville Foundation.

As a result, HE Music students and staff have been visiting the academy to help deliver the Stax Summer School for one week a year since 2010.

Craig says:

“I’m proud that HSPA volunteers at the Stax Music Academy. Our Music tutors deliver history, theory, performance, recording, production and live sound classes. Our students from across the music pathways act as our ambassadors, mentoring students at Stax.

It all helps to raise our profile, as well as providing a valuable experience for staff and students. We have maintained a great working relationship with the Stax Music Academy and the international collaboration is our unique selling point.”

While in Memphis, the Hull students have the opportunity to follow in Elvis’s footsteps, recording at the iconic Sun Studios. And in 2012, students met soul singer Reverend Al Green at his place of worship.

“We teach the cultural history of popular music but to go to record in the studio where Elvis recorded – where rock n’ roll was born – nothing compares to that,” says Craig. “It’s the best learning experience, seeing where the music comes from. It’s a very worthwhile visit”.

Craig has been teaching music at HSPA since 1999. His current research interests include a PhD with the University of Leeds. His thesis has a working title of His Master’s Voices? An Aesthetic Empirical Investigation Into Music Production Techniques, The Voice And Listener Perceptions. With plans to turn his findings into a book, he is researching the effect of production techniques on vocal performance in popular music.

Craig also has a BA in Music Performance and an MMus in Musicology from Leeds, and a PGCE, which he completed at HSPA.

In his spare time, Craig plays an in an original songwriting group – Steer – with his brother and two former students; an acoustic group – Launderette Poets – with other members of staff and does audio production honours for student bands and other local artists.

He also helps to encourage student music projects through HSPA’s very own record label, Purple Worm Records, run chiefly by Mik Newton.