Tutor Profile

Drumschool (Belfast) started in 1995 when drummer and percussionist Alan Sykes began receiving calls requesting tuition from several drummers who had heard of his own training, experience and ability. From a few students this has grown to over 70 per week in local schools and privately covering all ages and stages of ability.

Early Days

Click to see a larger pictureClick to see a larger pictureAlan Sykes began playing drums at the age of 9 and by age 14 was as busy as any other semi-pro, playing for theatre musicals, shows and occasional session work. He studied classical percussion for 5 years at the Belfast School of Music, gaining an early reputation as a competent percussionist as well as an accomplished kit player.

In the late 70’s at the tender age of 16 he was the rhythm man behind the 2 month professional London Theatre production of Grease at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. This was long before the current day nostalgic ‘re-runs.’

Click to see a larger pictureA year later he, along with other band members Rod Wallace and Andy White (nice gig at Radio Ulster’s 2005 Laganside celebration Andy!) performed as the first and only Jazz-Rock outfit in Ireland. The band called ARCTURUS supported Click to see a larger pictureMaria Muldaur (‘Midnight at the Oasis’ 1974 Grammy nominee) at the RDS in Dublin and at the Whitla Hall, Queen’s. "If I have a claim to fame it is that Maria’s drummer Rick Algria - a Ludwig Drum endorsee and busy clinician at the time, flew all the way from the States and ended up playing my beat-up Hayman drum kit (!)"

To be just 16, playing a packed RDS and working alongside serious session players who would have worked with artists like the Pointer sisters, was an awesome experience.’

Click to see a larger pictureARCTURUS was then given the opportunity to play a prestigious, headlining jazz gig in the trės cool surroundings of the modern art gallery in the Ulster Museum. This gig was a phenomenal success with Chris Harbinson of the Belfast Telegraph giving the young outfit a rave review concluding that ‘their music was a true collective effort held together by Alan Sykes’ flexible drumming’ (Belfast Telegraph - 24 July, 1980).

Click to see a larger pictureIn the mid 80’s Alan received a request to play full-time in England and enjoyed working and recording with many of the best known contemporary gospel artists on the mainland including multi-million seller songwriter Graham Kendrick, Dave Pope and Chris Eaton (singer-songwriter for Cliff Richard and Amy Grant) as well as Nigel Pegrum (Steeleye Span). He played most of the main concert venues throughout the mainland including Wembley Arena and Preston Guildhall, playing for live radio and TV broadcasts, and all the while gaining valuable experience including a one-off gig with Sir Cliff Richard (however ‘I much prefer reminiscing about sharing the stage and having a cup of coffee with Amy Grant –she’s much better looking!)

Click to see a larger pictureDuring the 90’s Alan enjoyed working regularly with great blues guitar player Barry Bynum from Texas that included a series of memorable gigs with Terry Clarke - a great US based artist.

Recent times

Click to see a larger pictureIn recent times, Alan, now based back in Belfast, has worked with artists as diverse as the New Irish Orchestra (with Michelle John-Douglas, a Channel 4 Gospel Singer of the Year in 1999), The Big Band Connection (Hello Boys!), Backbeat, the Bluezmobile and ZZ TOO (‘The best ZZ Top tribute this side of the Rio Grande’) plus some of our local jazz musicians. Musical theatre work included ‘Fame’ at the end of 2007 under the Directorship of the brilliant Ashley Fulton which played to packed shows every night.

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2011 saw Alan enjoying working alongside big brother Norman on bass (tightest rhythm section in Ireland we reckon…!) sessioning for local bluesman Lee Hedley for gigs that included the Belfast City Blues and City of Derry Jazz Festival plus numerous other blues and blues-rock gigs. New musical ventures and Click to see a larger pictureopportunities are never too far away including from Summer 2012 Alan’s new band ‘Vinyl Tap’ (Belfast) has been unleashed on the public playing the ‘vinyl rock classics’ of the 70’s & 80’s..! Again along with brother Norman on bass and the incredible Marty Rowland on guitar (…haven’t we met before?!)

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Vinyl Tap have had a great reception from the gig-going public culminating in them headlining the Saturday night at the Hilden Beer & Music festival in 2013. (You can check out this show on You Tube by searching for 'Vinyl Tap (Belfast)' . The band can also be booked by contacting me via my contacts page.

Alan continues his own personal drumming studies when time permits. Most recently this has been with Paul Wertico (from Chicago and famous as Pat Metheny’s drummer) at the fantastic Sligo Jazz Project, plus our very own Steve Davis. He has also studied with the ‘other’ Steve Davis from the USA, a leading jazz drummer, at the famous Jazzwise Summer School held in London and has also had private lessons with Bernie Dresel (Brian Setzer Orchestra) and Walfredo Reyes Jr. (Santana, Steve Winwood, Jackson Browne and Carl Verheyen to name a few!) Click to see a larger picturewho in 2007 dropped into Drumschool Belfast just hours before playing a sell-out gig with Carl Verheyen in Belfast that night – what a great guy and a fabulous drummer (Rhythm Magazine even ran an article on it!).

Alan now, using his classical training and 30 years of wide playing experience, is a respected and experienced tutor offering professionally structured drum-kit tuition, including graded exam entrants from his home studio, local recording studio and in local schools.

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Member of the Percussive Arts Society

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