Music Department

Thank you for visiting the internet home of Thomas Adams School and Sixth Form College Music Department!

There is a very strong tradition of music and music-making at Thomas Adams. Events include:-

·         Annual production of the highest quality

·         Christmas Carol Service

·         Regular Variety Concerts at Christmas and Spring, featuring the ensembles and successes of the Department

·         Open Mic events

·         “Songs from the Shows” featuring vocalists from the Department.

This is alongside supporting whole school events:

·         Christmas Fayre

·         School Open Evening

·         College Open Evening

·         Adfest (Summer 2014)

·         Awards evenings

 We also support events within the community:

·         Shropshire Music Service events (our local hub)

·         Local music fayres

·         Wem Stage Door

·         Music Land, Market Drayton

·         Regular ensembles

·         Adjazz

·         Taiko

·         Orchestra

·         Senior and lower school choirs

·         Brass group

The Music Department is based at St. Peter’s Annexe, Noble Street, Wem. The building was previously the town primary school. The school converted the building in 2001 into a dedicated building for music. It consists of two main teaching rooms, a music technology classroom, a computer room and four smaller rooms for instrumental teaching.

Adjazz – The Thomas Adams Big Band

ADJAZZ was formed in February 1986 by Steve Rodwell, then Head of Music at Thomas Adams School. Steve had a dream of forming a big band in the traditional sense. It was open to pupils from 11 to 18 with two requirements for membership – talent and commitment. These requirements are still the overriding principles of the band today. The line up of the original band included a full rhythm, brass and reed section, with occasional vocals. The repertoire was based around the ‘Miller’ standards and expanded over time to include many jazz standards. Recently the band has evolved with new sets, including Latin and more popular numbers from the Phil Collins Big Band Library. The line up has developed as well to include more vocal numbers.

The band has toured abroad many times.  On the back of success abroad, the band embarked on a series of UK concerts, raising money for charity. An invitation to appear on ‘Blue Peter’ was followed up with the first tour to the USA, building a reputation that led to return visits.

The band have appeared numerous times on TV and Radio including Channel 4’s ‘Big Breakfast’, BBC Radio’s 1, 2 and 5 as well as ITV’s ‘Hit The Road’ and Barrymore’s ‘ My Kind of People’.

They have appeared on BBC Music Live and opened the Strasbourg Music Festival in 2002. They have also given concerts in Amsterdam, California, Florida, France, New Orleans, Washington and New York. In June 2004, they toured the Czech Republic, performing in Prague as part of an International Festival. In July 2005 they travelled to Paris to perform at Disneyland and there then followed a tour to Barcelona in 2006 (their 20th Anniversary). In July 2007, the band did a very successful mini-tour to Belgium, performing in Mons and Dinant. As well as performing regularly at Ronnie Scott’s and at the Birmingham International Jazz Festival, they have recorded four CDs, including ‘Take it as Red’, ‘Blue Chip’, ‘In The Pink’ and ‘Fruit’.

From 2007 to 2014, the band was led by Malcolm Brown, who developed the repertoire further and took the group on tour every year across Europe. In 2014, the band performed at the inaugural Thomas Adams “Adfest”.  They continue to headline at the School’s Variety Concerts too.


In the summer of 2001, James Barrow was asked to lead an initiative funded by Youth Music as part of the Newroots Youth Music Action Zone. This project was managed by ShYAN. The first part of the project in North Shropshire was a taster workshop in a number of schools and youth centres. After the initial taster sessions, one of which was in Wem, the second part of the project kicked in, with regular (once every two weeks) sessions through the Spring Term of 2002. James worked with a team of about 24 students aged between 14-16. Of all the projects in the whole of Shropshire this was the most successful in terms of progress and attendance. At the end of the spring term the funding stopped. However, the ‘Taiko Rangers’ had already been born and had started to fuse the art of Japanese drumming with modern dance music creating the unique fusion which is TEKNO TAIKO. The students still managed to perform in an outdoor festival in July 2002 as part of an arts week. It rained… a lot!

In September 2002, the project was extended with further funding from Youth Music. At the same time, the ‘Taiko Rangers’ were invited by Youth Music to perform at the Arts Ball, in September, at the ICC in Birmingham. Enter the Taiko Rangers, in their distinctive luminous Youth Music green and pink, into the black and gold dinner party atmosphere for the great and the good of the Art World! ‘Rare Wolf’, the DJ, sliced the earth with the start of “Plump DJs..” and then thunder as the energised Taiko Rangers beat out their eastern rhythms, exploring the gaps and beats of the western music. A night not easily forgotten! The synthesis of raw physical energy and complexity of sound that is TEKNO TAIKO was born. Throughout 2002, James continued to work with the ‘Rangers’. Many performances followed and more students were recruited. Recordings were made and then the funding dried up… but not before a set of drums were made by James, one of the many legacies he left. The new academic year found the group with no mentor or leader and no funding. So, they looked within and planned what they might do…. And so the core team of Todd Smallbone, Abi Edwards, Jacob Foord and Sarah Fischer decided to take up where James had left off. They started meeting weekly and working with younger students to pass on what they had learned about the art of Taiko. This developed into a zealous desire to spread the gospel according to Taiko and culminated in a series of workshops in local primary and secondary schools in Shropshire in the summer of 2004. Then they were invited to run workshops at the Sidmouth International Festival; a great way to end the year. Whilst there, they saw ‘Kagemusha’ and were inspired! So, what to do next? Well, no sign of any more money from Youth Music meant we had to look elsewhere to fund the development programme. James put us in touch with Japan 21 who gave us £1000 for the year. The workshops continued and yet there still seemed something missing. So it was back to composition. Jacob and the other Rangers have been busy putting together a series of new pieces, fusing the art of Taiko with modern western dance styles, taking their influences from Taiko poetry amongst other things. The pieces were performed for the first time at the 1st UK Taiko Festival, hosted by ‘Kagemusha’ in Exeter in July 2005.

Jacob, Abi, Sarah and Todd ended the summer with a series of workshops at Towersey, introducing scores of youngsters to the wonders of Taiko… then they went to university! Thus ended the first chapter in the story. In 2006, a rebuild of the ‘Taiko Rangers’ was necessary, due to the exodus of the previous year… and so a team building exercise was planned, which, of course, revolved around the building of a set of drums for workshop use, out of irrigation pipe and lorry tarpaulin! Having built a new set of drums with design help from ‘Kagemusha’, the team started rehearsing a new set of pieces. The ‘Tekno’ was out and they reverted to tradition, with ‘Fearless’ and ‘Edge of Magic’ with a ‘Rangers’ twist. The first performance was in December, with further performances in March and May. At the beginning of July, the ‘Rangers’ hosted a series of three workshops in partner schools in North Shropshire. The highlight of the year, however, was a second visit to perform at the ‘UK Taiko Festival’ in July! The ‘Rangers’ performed two of their own compositions; ‘Ryōtsu Jinku’ (based on a traditional folk song) and ‘Yumegatari’ (an account of a dream).

In December 2009, James was invited back to Thomas Adams to do a taster workshop to new students. With support from the Extended Schools Programme, we started the first regular after-school sessions in January 2010, with just 2 groups of students and 1 adult evening session, mostly for parents.  In June 2010, we ran the first annual Wem Taiko Fest, and, in the same year, the senior student group, Taiko Rangers, also performed at the UK Taiko Festival in Exeter and the National Festival Music for Youth in Birmingham.

In the years 2010 to 2014, the after-school groups have grown to 3 school groups and 2 adult groups. The community group “Kayobi Taiko” was established in this time and continues to flourish, building bridges with the local community. The senior students group was renamed as Konjaku Daiko, with fresh costumes being designed and made by parents and made their first showing at the UK Taiko Festival in Exeter in 2013.   The Wem Taiko Fest continues to run annually and we have also been able to involve the local primary schools.

In Summer 2014, Taiko performed at the Draper’s 160 anniversary celebrations alongside the Welsh Guards, which provided an opportunity for a “drum off”.

The Thomas Adams School
Lowe Hill

01939 237000