The Rye Wurlitzer Academy (RWA) is based at Rye College, part of the Rye Academy Trust, which has housed a 1925 2-manual 6-rank Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ since the late 1950’s. Originally installed at the Palace Cinema in Tottenham, this instrument is now Britain’s second oldest Wurlitzer organ. The Academy was founded following the receipt of a specific donation “In Memory of the Life of Rita Akehurst” to the Friends of the Rye Wurlitzer preservation group with the wish that it be used to show some young people the theatre organ. This allowed the Founder and President of the Friends of Rye Wurlitzer, Richard Moore, to try out an idea he had had for a long time, which was to offer some form of regular teaching about the historic Wurlitzer Theatre Organ to young people, all be it originally for just a short trial period. With the full support of Rye College’s then Executive Principal, Ann Cockerham, he arranged a student master-class featuring a top organist and preservation expert, at which a group of pupils indicated they would be interested to learn to play the Wurlitzer and so the Rye Wurlitzer Academy was born.Richard's vision was that every student be given a FREE home practise organ (kindly donated by local supporters), FREE music, and above all else, FREE tuition with a professional music teacher. Right from the start, Richard had decided everything should be FREE to the students, including educational visits, so that it could be accessible to all. Of course, whilst these benefits are free to the students, there is still a cost to the RWA.Some limited fund-raising and further donations allowed this pilot scheme to grow enough to prove that Richard's concept could work but it was soon apparent that to retain the students’ enthusiasm and to allow their music-making to flourish, they would need more regular lessons with a specialist teacher. Having sought recommendations from well respected members of the theatre organ community, renowned international theatre organist Michael Wooldridge was asked to become the RWA’s Principal Tutor at the start of 2010, a role he has filled with passion and enthusiasm and it is largely down to his inspiration teaching and unstinting commitment that the project has flourished to the degree it has.In order to keep the Academy running, we need to produce a permanent stream of funding, so that we can preserve both the playing skills needed to control an historic Mighty Wurlitzer and also the separate skills required to maintain it. Since we began, hundreds of children have seen and heard and enjoyed the Wurlitzer organ. It is a continuing thrill for us to be able to inspire a great many young people to participate in the preservation of this piece of our musical, cultural and technological heritage. At the same time, if we can teach young people to both play and to understand the workings of the instrument, they can then share their new found skills with the community at large through special events and open days, which will allow far more people to be aware of this important piece of our entertainment history.
Aims and Objectives
•To provide tuition in the art of theatre organ playing and presentation to young scholars free at point of delivery•To educate young scholars in the art of theatrical presentation and the performing arts in general•To teach young scholars the art of maintaining and preserving theatre organs as a part of our musical heritage for future generations to enjoy•To provide opportunities for young people to develop like skills through interaction with other like minded groups•To establish a national network of similar academies throughout the UK
Registered in the U.K. as an Incorporated Charitable Organisation, Number 1161821Trustees Chairman & Founder Mr. Richard MooreTreasurer Mrs. Carol EldridgeSecretary Mr. Andrew SwarbrickMr. Glen TwamleyAdvisors Mr. Michael Wooldridge (Musical & Educational)Mr. David Wattenbach (Technical)Mr. Tim Wardley (Funding & Heritage)