Like a song you can’t get out of your head, Dawn and Dave Luvin’s dream of opening their own music school would just not go away.
Thanks to them Eccles now boasts one of Greater Manchester’s most popular music schools, The Music Shed.
For a long time, the school was purely a dream but in November 2017, they finally got their plan rolling.
Dawn says: “We sat on the idea for about four or five years and it never felt like the right time, then it just suddenly did.”
Dave used to teach music in the United States in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, well known for its vibrant jazz scene. After playing in several bands, he met Dawn on the cruise ship they both worked on while playing in bands on ships back in 2001.
After living in Kansas City, they moved to Dawn’s hometown of Eccles with their son and daughter in 2009.
They considered the possibility of opening a music school but never got around to taking the plunge.
Dawn originally had worked in business for 10 years after running both a cleaning business in America and Eccles.
With the combination of Dawn’s business knowledge and Dave’s musical skill, The Music Shed seemed to be a perfect combo.
Dawn says: “I think that’s where we work together well as a partnership because Dave has the music experience and I’m very much about outreach and making connections. I love being behind the scenes.”
Their initially small concept began to expand quickly as Dawn says: “We thought about converting the shed and then it started to snowball.
“At the time, there was no music base in the Eccles area at all. So, we started the process of thinking ‘well we live in Eccles and we want something for our kids to go to’.”
The pair initially started door knocking on any church or community building in hopes that they would be able to get a start-up.
Dawn says: “We told each place we’re starting from scratch, but we have this idea and vision of what we wanted to do for Eccles.
“The first place we were in was a church building but they had a couple of rooms for us to rent. They liked the idea of what we were trying to do.”
Dawn and Dave started out with a couple of guitars, a bass, a drum kit bought from a friend and a keyboard already at Connect Church, and just six students.
Their friends Paul and Ingrid, who Dave had played with professionally, had agreed to help teach as they already had backgrounds in teaching music, and they found a drum teacher.
The Music Shed was finally starting to become less a pipe dream and more of a reality.
Dawn says: “It just started to take off. The building we had before just had two tiny rooms. We stayed at that place for a year and we basically outgrew it.
“We went door-knocking again but this time we had a school of 30 students, so I guess it gave us a bit more clout in the area.
“A lot of places were like ‘we haven’t got the space’ or ‘it isn’t really what we’re looking for’ and then we came here.”
The Music Shed is now set up at Eccles Congregational Church with a few rooms on the first floor.
In-person, it looks modest, pleasant, and simple which is precisely what they were going for.
Dawn says: “When you walk through the door, there’s no airs or graces about us. What you see on social media is what you get when you come.
“It’s authentic which is something that we take pride in.“
The support the school has had from the church has been very helpful as Dawn says: “The landlords here have been amazing. They’ve really been on board with what we’re trying to do. They built us a third room because we’d grown out the space.
“Coming here was the best thing that could have happened to us because we’ve really grown. Now we’ve got over 90 families coming every week.”
The pair had a particular idea in mind for the school.
Dawn says: “Our dream was to have this musical community in Eccles. That’s basically the ethos of the school: community.
“We keep that as our base for everything. We’re getting people now from all over Manchester around the whole radius of the city.”
As much as Dawn and Dave feel they are part of the community, the community clearly loves to give back. Donations seem to never stop coming through the door.
Dave says: “A lot of people in communities have helped us. All of these instruments are donations. Apart from this drumkit, we have three other drum kits, two or three pianos and all of these guitars that were just given to us.”
Despite the Shed’s progress, they couldn’t have done it alone as Dawn says: “I think when people hear about The Music Shed, they think it’s just ‘Dawn and Dave’ but it hasn’t been that at all.
“I could literally talk all day about the different people that have come and helped us.
“We’ve just had people walk in here and be like ‘I’ve heard of you guys, it’s great what you’re doing’, and then give us a guitar.
“We can talk about donations, but we’ve got a massive array of families that donate so much time to us. They’ll give up a whole day because they genuinely want to see a difference.
“We couldn’t have built that on our own. There’s no way.”
Although running the Shed can sometimes be hard work, it has ultimately paid off as Dawn says:
“The connections we’ve made and the experiences and opportunities we’ve had.
“You just think this is like an adventurous journey we’re on where we never know what each phone call is going to bring.
“It’s so much fun and it’s nice to enjoy the ride with everybody else.
The Shed’s next step in expansion could be quite exciting as Dawn explains: “My brother in law in the States is a drum teacher, we even discussed starting a music shed in Kansas City with him.
“If something like that happened where he did start something and you had the two connected schools, at that point the possibilities are endless. With exchange students, you’ve just got a whole other world that opens up. That’s definitely something we’ve been dreaming of.”
Though the school has a mixture of both young and old students, the school teaches a large number of children which has become a highlight for the owners.
Dawn says: “We work hard, and we work a lot, but we do have a lot of fun. The kids make it a really fun environment.
“Working with kids just keeps you down to earth. There’s a lot of banter with them and there’s always something being funny said. I think kids keep you young.”
Working with around children so often leads to plenty of heart-warming moments as Dave says: “Just one example, this kid in our last gig, he did a guitar solo and people started clapping. You could just see in his face that he was trying not to look proud and smile but his face said it all. It was really cool to see.”
Dawn has even received heartfelt letters from the children as she says: “I’ve got three different things that have been handed to us by kids that they’ve written from the heart. We’ve had one where it was a really nice long letter about how we’d made a difference in his life and how he loved coming to The Music Shed.
“A little girl wrote us something a few months ago and it just had ‘The Music Shed’s my favourite place to be and I love coming’ and it made me cry.
“Another kid turned up last week and he’d written a poem about us and it just said he never wants to leave and he wants to be here forever. Anything they do makes me cry.
“It’s nice to be a part of that because you know you’re making a difference in someone’s life. It’s something small to you but it’s not to them. The fact that they’re turning up and you’re letting them jam out and be who they are.
“To us that’s not anything but to them it means something, and it makes a difference. You take a step back and you just think it’s really cool to be a part of something like this.”
The Music Shed’s structureless take on teaching has turned out to me a strong asset of theirs as Dawn says: “One of the things someone mentioned to us is that there tends to be a formula that people follow with music schools but we’ve never done that, we didn’t know there was a protocol.
“I think us not knowing was actually a strength of ours. When I found that out, we changed the logo to ‘you’re unique and so are we’ because I think we are unique. We didn’t intend to be, but I think we’ve ended up being something a little bit different.
Despite The Music Shed coming so far, Dawn and Dave’s dreams haven’t yet stopped and want to expand even further.
Dawn says: “Our dream is to end up with our own place where we’re able to have community groups and a community café. We’d love to have a building that’s specifically the Shed, with people just coming going throughout the day and into the evening.
“I’m proud of the Shed but not in a selfish way. I know that it’s only what it is because we’ve had a gazillion people behind us bringing us forward and pushing us on. I’m proud of that because it shows when people come together, it shows what you can do.”