Johnny Marr goes back to school to teach musicians

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The Independent Online

The former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr doesn't consider himself an academic. At school, he always had his eyes set on a football career – which failed, he once said, because "I was probably the only player out there wearing eyeliner."

But it is to academia that Marr is bound after it was announced he is to become professor of music at Salford University.

The university, whose appointment of Marr comes in the same year that neighbouring Manchester University named Martin Amis Professor of Creative Writing, will enable him to tutor students on the BA course in popular music and recording.

Marr, whose career has taken him from the Smiths, through Electronic to Modest Mouse, will evidently be more than a big name for the university. His main responsibilities are to include hosting workshops on the composition and performance of popular music.

He and the university go back a long way. Marr played there with the Smiths in 1986, in a performance that he regards as one of the best he ever played. "The PA had to be tied down because the floor was bouncing up so high that the stage was practically falling to pieces," he said yesterday.

The new role also cements his commitment to Greater Manchester.

Marr was born in Ardwick, near the university and his appearance with the Smiths outside the local Salford Lads Club for the inside cover of the 1985 album The Queen is Dead, has consigned the place to legend.

John Sweeney, from the university's school of media, music and performance, said the recruitment of Marr "at the height of his considerable powers" was a major coup. "It is a tremendous opportunity for our students," he said. "He has so much to give."

But Marr was characteristically modest about the announcement. "Salford University is offering some fantastic opportunities to students in music. It is an honour to be appointed as a professor and I'm excited at the prospect of being able to make a contribution," he said yesterday.

The appointment comes after Marr had previously been honoured Dublin's Trinity College.

Marr traveled to the Irish capital to be elected as Honorary Patron of the Trinity College Philosophical Society, an award given to "individuals who have excelled in public life and made a worthy contribution to society".

Previous recipients of the award include Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Salman Rushdie, Bram Stoker and Al Pacino.

"I'm very pleased," Marr said. "It's been a very exciting couple of years."

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