Ray Lamb by Tom Fletcher

A shaky start to singing lessons left the young show-off hiding in a toilet. But years later, the McBusted star turned to his musical mentor for advice when writing his wedding song

Tes Editorial

For a kid like me - who loved singing, dancing and showing off - going to the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London was the equivalent of a wannabe wizard getting into Hogwarts. It was an amazing school with a lot of creative, talented people. I went there from the age of 9 to 16 and I had a brilliant time.

From Monday to Wednesday we studied academic subjects. On Thursday and Friday we had lessons in drama, dance, music theory and singing. The school is also an agency, so a lot of the kids you see on television or in the West End theatres come from there.

All the teachers were incredible but my favourite was Ray Lamb, who taught me singing. I met him during my first week at the school, when I was queuing up in the corridor waiting to go into his class.

It was Thursday so I'd already made a few friends. I was showing off and being loud and he poked his head out of the door, pointed at me and said: "You're not coming in."

He sent me to the headmistress but I was so scared that I went to the toilet and locked myself in a cubicle. About 10 minutes later, an older kid knocked on the door and said "Ray's looking for you, you can come back in."

From that point on I knew Ray was not a teacher to be messed with. I always wanted to impress him and I made an effort to be a good student. I didn't want to let him down by doing something wrong, like not handing in my homework or not learning my lyrics.

He helped us to learn songs for auditions. I was in Oliver! in the West End between the ages of 9 and 11 and Ray guided me through it and taught me how to act through singing.

He was so animated and passionate - I never saw him on an off day. He must have been in his late thirties and he was very cool. He was a manly man who rode a motorbike; the kind of person I wanted to be like when I grew up.

Bizarrely for a theatre school, music GCSE wasn't on the curriculum until I was in Year 11. So when it did become an option for us at 16, we had to do two years' work in one year. Ray was brought in to teach us music in half the time. I remember him sitting us down on the first day and saying: "Look guys, there's a hell of a lot of work, but if we get our heads down we can get through this." It must have been a lot of pressure for him.

I got an A. It was under Ray's guidance for music GCSE that I wrote my first two songs. He taught me how to structure them and how to record them. It was a defining moment for my career - music is the main passion in my life.

I'm still in touch with him. I met my wife Giovanna at the school and Ray helped me to write my wedding speech, which I performed as a song. He has been to McFly concerts and I've had dinner at his place. I owe him a lot. If it wasn't for Ray, I wouldn't be the musician I am today.

Tom Fletcher was talking to Kate Bohdanowicz. The Dinosaur That Pooped the Past by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter is out now, published by Penguin Random House

McFlying high

Tom Fletcher

Born 17 July 1985, London

Education Sylvia Young Theatre School, London

Career Singer and guitarist with McFly and McBusted; children's author co-writing The Dinosaur That Pooped. series with his bandmate Dougie Poynter

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