'School of rock' will give its pupils that elusive X-factor

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The Independent Online

Streetlights, at the South Hampstead High School in north London, is a different kind of music school. "Our responsibility is to make sure the students are capable of doing more than just playing," he says. "There is so much more to the industry now. With Pop Idol and X Factor you have to be a pretty face, you have to dance right and do everything right."

Mountford has brought me to a recording studio on the seedier fringes of south London, to show me how he will create stars. Streetlights' first classes began yesterday at 9.30am. They cost £300 for a 12-week term with some of Britain's most qualified teachers. The drum tutor recently finished a tour with Kylie. The live performance teacher used play with Daniel Bedingfield and Paul Weller. The vocal coach worked with the Spice Girls. Ah. I hope I am a better learner.

The first thing Mountford does is sit me down behind an enormous set of drums and put some sticks in my hands. Then he starts to dance. "There are two main rhythms," he says, swaying from side to side and clicking his fingers. "A groove and a swing. You know when you are in a club and you hear some music and it makes you want to dance like this?" It doesn't, but I think I know what he means. "Now make it groove like that."

Mountford hopes students between the ages of 10 and 20 will come every Saturday. By that age they should "have created their own identity, know how to go out there and get gigs, and have a complete understanding of what to do when somebody puts a dodgy contract in front of them".

There is more to it than just the technical side - and that is where he thinks other music colleges get it wrong. "My music college had a very academic approach; in the end my written work was better than my playing. There wasn't any soul in it."

After an hour with the trendy headmaster, I can now play along to Britney. I am a long way from a million-dollar stage presence, but I do have groove. And that can't be bad for a first lesson.

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