We were thrilled in September 2023 when Theo Oakley, an 11-year-old student at our music lab in Folkestone, won the Remarkable Achievement Award at the prestigious Wards Childrens Awards. Theo, born blind due to Norrie Disease, was recognised for his exceptional skills in music.
Theo’s Remarkable Achievement in music is rewarded
The Wards Childrens Awards
The Wards Childrens Awards have been running for 20 years. They celebrate the amazing achievements of children, families, and charities in Kent. These awards recognize their accomplishments despite facing various challenges. The awards are organised by estate agents Wards and supported by the KM Group and Kent Community Foundation, and this year Good Morning Britain’s Charlotte Hawkins was the host. You can read more about the awards and all the winners at this link.
Awards are given to young fundraisers, those who overcome challenges, exceptional young carers, and outstanding charities. Theo’s skills and achievements in music, along with his passion for it, made him the perfect choice for the Remarkable Achievement award. Despite the challenges his condition may bring, his dedication and talent shines through!
Theo’s musical journey
Theo has always been musical. Kindly talking to us for this article, his mum Jo told us “Being blind he’s always loved to make noise and listen to different sounds. When he was little, he used to make music by playing on the radiator in the bathroom.”! However, mainstream music lessons haven’t always been the easiest place for Theo to learn.
Jo told us “Theo’s creativity hasn’t always fitted in mainstream lessons…with being blind it can be difficult to adapt. He was in a rock band at school and they added braille to the keyboard to help him. Kent Music have been very open and willing to try different approaches to help Theo learn.”
Theo joined our Folkestone Music Lab at the start of 2023 and it’s been his weekly musical playground ever since. The Lab’s informal vibes, allowing students to explore technology and pursue their own goals with supportive tutors has been a huge boost to helping Theo engage with music.
When we asked Theo what his favourite way of making music was, he explained that he loved remixing songs and playing with drum machines, and especially working with Lab tutor Oli. Together they have explored production skills and deepening Theo’s understanding of instrumental sounds, chords and structures.
Theo tells us that he’s hoping to develop his remixing skills next – something Oli and the Lab team will be cheering him on through. All of us at Kent Music are so proud of Theo for everything he’s achieved!
There has been a whole-team effort from within Kent Music to support Theo, from our brilliant Lab tutors and manager to the Music Resources team who sourced new tech to make music more accessible.
Our Inclusion Development Manager Mandy, instrumental in supporting Theo’s journey from the start, sums up how the whole team feels; “Theo is a truly inspiring and committed young individual, who has a wonderful sense of humour and committed ideas of what he wants to achieve in the sessions… We are immensely proud of what Theo has achieved in his time whilst attending the Lab and look forward to following and supporting his musical journey!“
The Folkestone Music Lab runs every Saturday morning in term time at Folkestone Academy. Financial assistance is also available at this link. Find out more and apply to join today by clicking this link.