‘They’ll be singing about the River Don in Uzbekistan’ - Sheffield artists teach global music course

A band formed from musicians and academics as part of the course busk in Sheffield city centre
A band formed from musicians and academics as part of the course busk in Sheffield city centre
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They’ll be singing about the River Don in Uzbekistan - thanks to a one-of-a-kind music course where Sheffield artists teach the craft of songwriting.

Thousands of budding musicians from across the world are now learning how to write a tune from stars such as Reverend and The Makers frontman Jon McClure, singer Nat Johnson and DJ Toddla T on the free online course with The University of Sheffield.

A band formed from musicians and academics as part of the course perform

A band formed from musicians and academics as part of the course perform

The online songwriting course - called a massive open online course or MOOC - is being taken by more than 10,000 people from as far away as Brazil and Ubekistan and is believed to be the first of its kind.

Those signed up to the course must set lyrics to a song called My Town, especially written by Sheffield poet Matt Black, to music.

Adam White, music course director at the university’s department for lifelong learning, said: “I don’t know of anything else like it, there are other Moocs in songwriting but they are run by American universities and are based on an academic talking to camera.

“Ours has a very strong local flavour, using musicians who have put Sheffield on the map to develop the course is innovative.

Singer and songwriter Nat Johnson with course leader Adam White

Singer and songwriter Nat Johnson with course leader Adam White

“The only courses we have done that have been more popular are the very vocational ones, like how to write a CD.

“People from all over the world are taking part - Indian, Africa, Brazil and Uzbekistan as well as local Sheffielders.

“It does mean they will be thinking about things like where the River Don is, but everybody has got a town and the sentiments are universal.

“We’ve been a bit taken aback by just how many songs there might be, we might do something like a performance online and select the few that are the most different for a Youtube concert.”

Neil McSweeney chatting with Adam White

Neil McSweeney chatting with Adam White

Jon McClure added: “It’s great to have a course with practical advice from people who have done something in the music industry.

“Just looking at all the artists who are taking part shows a lot about Sheffield and how people try to help each other.”

The course with FutureLearn give students a practical introduction to songwriting and the chance to virtually meet artists or experts - also including BBC presenter Tom Ravenscroft and While She Sleeps artists Mat Welsh and Sean Long plus national stars.