Staff Profiles

A team of all the talents

Miss Briony Prior – Head of Music

BMus, University of Cape Town; HDE/PGCSE, University of Cape Town. MA in Music Education, University of Natal.

Miss Prior came to Toot Hill in 2009, and in those nine years has led a transformation of the Music Department. Back then the only extra curricular group was the Concert Band. There was no singing, no Big Band, no woodwind ensembles. All these activities have been built up, aided by peripatetic specialists in their field running the groups such as Mr Lee (Brass), Mr Farrell (Big Band) and Miss Hendry (Folk Band). Some groups gig regularly in the community.

On Miss Prior’s watch there has also been a huge improvement in academic success, especially at GCSE level, culminating in 2017’s phenomenal results of 100% A-B grades – compared to the national average of 55% A-B.

Another feature of her tenure has been the development in musicals. She was Music Director for productions of Oliver! and Bugsy Malone. Since then, under the directorship of Spencer Cozens, productions of West Side Story, Little Shop of Horrors and Grease have been successfully performed at Newark Palace Theatre.

Miss Prior’s main instrument is piano (along with violin and singing), and she has been involved with numerous choirs and chorales from Durban to Radcliffe-on-Trent, including the Assistant MD Radcliffe on Trent Male Voice choir and chorister with the Bridge Singers and the Cecilian Singers.

Tashaka Baumber – Vocal Coach

Trained at Italia Conti Academy of Performing Arts

As an accomplished vocalist with over 30 years of performing experience, Tashaka is passionate about using this experience to inspire others. She has toured most of the world backing major artists, including Leona Lewis, Take That, Alesha Dixon, Peter Andre and the Lighthouse Family. Her singing and acting talents have been seen on Television and on the West End stage as part of the original cast of The Lion King. Tashaka runs the ‘Snack & Sing’ group as well as the Vocal Harmony group at Toot Hill, sharing her expertise both in close harmony and performance.

Tony Farrell - Toot Hill Big Band, Jazz Combo and Year 7 Saxophone Provision

Tony has been involved in music from a very early age, starting out as a Cub Scout in the marching band. Over the years he has played with many local bands, mainly in the swing/jazz idiom but has been called to play in local wind bands and ensembles. He has also played for shows including Fame, Hairspray, Chess and Calamity Jane to name a few.

Tony has been running his own Big Band for over 25 years, playing at many prestigious events and working with Jazz giants such as Alan Barns ( and Bruce Adams ( and local heroes Nathan Bray ( and Ben Lee (

Tony currently hosts a monthly “Strictly Come Dancing” themed night for Ballroom, Latin and Sequence Dancers with the full Big Band. He also runs a Jump Jive band called Easy Does It and a smaller function band called Swing Convention. (

Tony is primarily a trumpet player/ Bandleader but teaches privately as well. He has recently expanded his skills by adding the Saxophone to his CV. He currently runs the Toot Hill Swing Band and Jazz Combo ensembles and is involved with the Swing Band at the George Spencer Academy.

Tony teaches pupils privately and through peripatetic services on both trumpet and sax.

Andrew Gallagher – Guitar Teacher, Rock Band Tutor and Year 7 Guitar Provision

Andrew has been playing electric, bass and classical guitar professionally since graduating from Leeds College of Music in 2008, with a BTEC in Popular Music, and then a degree in Popular Music Studies. In addition to teaching at Toot Hill, he is also the guitar teacher at Nottingham High School and Nottingham Trent University. He frequently gigs up and down the country. Bands he plays for include Absolute Kinks ( and the Total Stone Roses, (, playing sold out shows in the UK’s top music venues, including support for The Bluetones and Bez from The Happy Mondays. He also gigs with his band The Beat Collective (

Yvonne Gerrard – Flute Teacher and Flute Choir

B.Mus (hons), DipLCM

Yvonne’s early flute studies began at school in Nottingham. As a student, she was also lucky enough to study with Susan Milan at the Royal College of Music and Trevor Wye at the Royal Northern College of Music. After completing a music degree at London University, Yvonne continued to live and work in London for a number of years, performing with choirs and orchestras in venues including The Royal Albert Hall and The Barbican, before returning to Nottingham to set up a private teaching practice. She has taught the flute in numerous schools and has been a flute specialist with Nottingham County Council since 2008.

Kate Hendry – Folk Band Tutor

ABRSM Grade 8 Violin; A Level Music; Owner of

Kate is as passionate about teaching as she is about her beloved violin – and equally talented in both. We are lucky that Toot Hill School is part of her peripatetic portfolio of teaching activities, which ranges from classical to world music, pop, jazz, folk, Irish, Scottish and electric fiddle. She says “the violin is so versatile and fun – you can learn whatever style suits you or have a go at as many different styles as you like.” Kate runs the Toot Hill Folk Band which performs around six gigs a year and often links up with her own Blue Kettle Ceilidh Band who’s repertoire ranges from ceilidh music to world music and classical tangos. She is a regular session player for Irish fiddle, American old time and Argentinian tango.

Gillian Henshaw - clarinet and saxophone teacher and Concert Band

Ben Lee - Trumpet Teacher, Piano Teacher, Brass Group and Year 7 Trumpet Provision

Ben is a freelance trumpeter, band leader, vocalist and music teacher. He studied GCSE’s and A Levels at Toot Hill Comprehensive, and was awarded BA(Hons) in Music at the University of Leeds. Ben had gained extensive experience as a music tutor with Nottingham City Arts Support Service and Nottingham Youth Jazz Orchestra before joining us as Toot Hill Brass and Piano tutor in 2014. He is also guest tutor with Bandwise, Nottingham Youth Orchestra, Trinity School and Newark Young Sinfonia.

Ben has performed and recorded with many top artists and orchestras including Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Glenn Miller Orchestra UK, Memphis Belle Swing Orchestra, Jimmy James and The Vagabonds, Clem Curtis and The Foundations, Echoes of Ellington, The Empress Orchestra, Peter Kay, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Ant & Dec, John Miller, Andy Prior, Bradley Walsh, Tony Christie. He has also played in many West End and touring shows - “The Rat Pack Live from Las Vegas", “Chicago", "Sinatra Live at The Sands”, “The Simon and Garfunkel Story”, “Back To Bacharach”, “Macca”, “One Night Of Elvis”, “Magic of Motown”.

Simon Bowhill - Drum Kit and Melodic Percussion Teacher

Juliet Ward: Violin Teacher, Piano Teacher and String Ensemble

Juliet studied Music at Leeds University, where she received the Lord Snowdon Prize for finalists, and gained her PGCE in Birmingham.

She has taught as a peripatetic teacher both at home and in schools for several years and has been the Viola tutor for Nottingham Youth Intermediate Orchestra for fifteen years. Juliet performs in a number of string quartets, including Highly Strung, Rosemount and Intermezzo, providing an eclectic range of music for a variety of functions. She is a member of the Chamber Group of Bingham, Dolce String Quartet and the Helix Ensemble, specialising in chamber music. She has also appeared with the Lime Light Orchestra, recorded for Amusement Parks on Fire and played in the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra in Paris and in The Jersey Symphony Orchestra, as well as local orchestras for choral concerts.

February 2020


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