‘He was a character’ – Ed Sheeran’s music teacher reflects on Suffolk star’s school days
PUBLISHED: 14:54 02 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:54 02 September 2019
It’s no secret that Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran has always been musical, but some may not know he was once something of a hit in his school productions – with roles in Grease and The Sound of Music.
His natural flair for performing is just one of the memories recalled by his former music teacher, Richard Hanley, who got to know Ed while he was a student at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham.
"He was here for a number of years of course, and music was his life even then," he said.
"He used to spent a lot of time in the department with friends, in practice rooms or in the recording studio, making music, composing his own stuff - even at that age, and was here breaktimes and lunchtimes.
"He always performed at concerts - we have major concerts at Christmas and Easter and smaller ones throughout the year. He would say: 'Mr Hanley, can I perform my latest composition?', and we never knew what it was going to be until nearer the time. So quite often we just used to put on the programme: 'New song by Ed', and he would bring the house down.
"He took part in school productions as well. He has a love of acting, which you can clearly see. He was in Grease here, and he was in The Sound of Music. He was a performer at school."
Mr Hanley described Ed as a "character" and an "entertainer", but overall a fairly well-behaved student who was passionate about music from day one.
"He wasn't forever in trouble, he wasn't really naughty," he said.
"He wasn't the sort of child who was forever outside the headteacher's office, or that sort of thing. He's just a nice guy.
"He was really determined and worked incredibly hard, and he had natural flair as well. So the natural flair, brilliant songwriting ability, and the hard work and determination was a winning combination, really.
"When he was in Year 11 and the sixth form he was taking a lot of time to perform and do gigs and put stuff online as well, which was a really important way of getting his work out there. We knew that's where his first love was and that's what he wanted to do, so we sort of helped and encouraged and supported that here."
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When asked if Ed was keen on any other subjects, Mr Hanley added: "I might be doing him a disservice here, but I don't think he was sporty. I'm not sure. I hope he doesn't mind me saying that.
"I think he was good at English, obviously in thew lyrics of his songs you can see that. But it was just music, music, music to be honest."
Mr Hanley refuses to take any credit for Ed's success, but there is no denying the fact Thomas Mills played a huge part in his musical education.
"He's always been very complimentary about the school and his time here, which is really good of him," Mr Hanley said.
"I think all we can say really from the school's point of view is that we supported and gave him opportunities to perform. I can't and won't and don't take any credit at all, because it's all him.
"We just gave him the opportunity to perform, to spread his wings and to develop, and that was a whole school thing - it wasn't just the music department. When he was in the sixth form he had time to go off and do his own thing as well."
Always keen to return to his Suffolk roots, Ed has been known to visit Thomas Mills and give advice to current students.
"He is an international mega star, and he came into school just before Christmas and spent some time talking to some of our lower sixth and Year 11 musicians, and listened to their compositions," Mr Hanley said.
"They just couldn't believe it. He gave them advice and that sort of thing, and we've got a group of sixth formers who have formed their own band, and they're good, and they asked if I would email Ed and say they wanted some advice, which I did, and he responded - he still has that connection, and he's very grounded in that way. It's great. He does an awful lot of stuff as well for East Anglia's Children's Hospices, and I mean that says it all, really.
"We are very proud and very grateful that he keeps coming back."
Reflecting on Ed's success, he added: "My children used to go and see him when he played gigs in Ipswich, and then I suppose it dawned on me overnight - my word, he's now playing here and there and everywhere, and he's on the radio, and he's number one again, and all this sort of thing. It's just incredible.
"I think my favourite song is Castle on the Hill, because it's Framlingham. I think it's very personal for him as well, and it's a great tune."
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