Sound and Vision: Leading north east DJ helps school realise ambitious music education plans

Walker Riverside Academy, a co-educational secondary and sixth form school in Newcastle, is making waves in the education sector with a dynamic resurgence in its music program.
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Now one of the region’s fastest rising musical talents has offered his support to the charity-backed campaign.

Best known for viral dance hit Moving All Around (Jumpin') which was voted Radio 1's ‘Hottest Record’ upon its release in 2022, North Shields native Schak brought his DJ skills to the academy yesterday, in the hope of inspiring a new generation of budding turntablists to follow in his wake.

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“I’ve been wanting to give back to my community for a long time,” said the DJ. “It’s massively important to me to help others from the region as they’re the ones who basically gave me this career I love.”

Sound and Vision: Leading north east DJ helps school realise ambitious music education plans.Sound and Vision: Leading north east DJ helps school realise ambitious music education plans.
Sound and Vision: Leading north east DJ helps school realise ambitious music education plans.

The Walker community, marked by high levels of social deprivation and unemployment, faced a void in its curriculum as music education took a backseat for several years. In 2022, Ofsted's assessment underscored this gap, emphasising the lack of a suitable music curriculum. Fast forward to 2024, though, and the landscape is changing for the better.

Supported by hard-won grants from national charity Restore the Music and Sony's Music's Beyond the Instrument Programme which enabled the academy to invest in a range of new musical equipment, the school hopes to redefine the learning experience for students in the North East.

"We are delighted and thankful to Restore the Music and SONY Music for their investment in the Academy. The impact of their support is palpable, with a thriving Music department now at the heartbeat of the school again. The visit of DJ SHAK culminates a remarkable 18 months in music development at the Academy and we are all excited to welcome his local talents to the school", says Gareth Smith, Headteacher.

The feeling, it seems, is mutual.

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“I want to help as many people as I can in this world,” explains the Mixmag-approved DJ. “If I can help somebody change the direction of their life, that would mean more to me than any accolades and awards.”

Having taken on the role of Head of Music in October 2022, Ian Pippin has successfully reintroduced music education for years 7, 8, and 9. The upcoming academic year will witness the launch of the BTEC Level 2 in Music Practice, providing students with diverse and immersive artistic options for their academic journey. "Here at Walker we are thrilled to be the recipient of the Sony Beyond the Instrument programme. The new equipment provided will future proof the Music curriculum we deliver and having the opportunity to meet with a local professional recording artist will no doubt live long in the minds of our learners inspiring them to take their musical creativity to new heights."

The addition of Pioneer DJ controllers to the academy’s new music arsenal will not only offer a creative outlet for students but also link seamlessly with industry-standard DAW software, fostering the development of transferable music and music technology skills.

“I’ll taught kids how to mix, taught them different skills and tips, and offered them advice on how to pursue a music career,” says Schak. “I wanted to give them as much help as possible as I know it can sometimes be a challenging industry to get into.”

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Unsurprisingly, attendance in music classes and extracurricular activities is on the rise at Walker Riverside, and learner enthusiasm is palpable in every class with a growing number of students actively participating in instrument tuition and utilising the new instrument loan system.

Regular learner voice sessions and positive feedback from parents and carers, meanwhile, has further emphasised the positive impact of music on student confidence and self-esteem.

“I hope they felt inspired and learned some lifelong skills,” explains Schak. “A lot of kids have hopes and dreams but are lacking in belief - I want them to feel like anything’s possible.”

The true measure of success will unfold at the end of the 2025-2026 academic year when the first cohort of Level 2 Music practitioners graduate, a group of students who Schak is eager to lend his invaluable support to.

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“I don’t know how much time I’ve got left on this planet,” he added. “But in the time I’ve been allocated I want to contribute to making it a better place.”

Shakeil Luciano, AKA Schak, is already storming into 2024 with his new single 'Got No Money' Ft. Vula, potentially his biggest release yet.

Got No Money thunders through the speakers with an uptempo, euphoric take on house music and will be released on Friday 26th January via all good digital stockists.

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