Tutors & Staff

Name:- Steve Dempsey - Principal Tutor & Founder
Instrument:- Guitar, Bass and Vocals
Hobbies:- Motorbikes, Mountains & Triathlons.

Steve started playing at age six, learning open chords and strumming patterns. After a few years Steve took classical guitar lessons where he learnt more complex chord shapes, scales and fingerstyle. Steve’s early guitar education was taken on acoustic guitar this changed in his early teens when he learnt how to adapt his acoustic knowledge to both lead and rhythm electric guitar. Steve continued onto College where he studied popular music & recording, his first pro gig was at age sixteen, since then he has gone on to play countless gigs with many bands and solo musician’s up and down the country acting as both a band member and as a session musician Steve is also the founder and owner of Riffs Music Academy.

Name: - John Dean
Instrument:- Guitar, Bass and Music Tech
Hobbies:- Running, Mountain Biking and Hill Walking

John began playing guitar aged 16 and by18 had been accepted into the prestigious Guitar Institute in London.  After heading back north he joined his first band, a blues/rock band called Bad Dog who he played with for over 10 years before they disbanded.  During that period John also played in several original bands as well as helping to form The Sun Band, a function band that he still gigs with.  John is also currently a member of an indie/mod/rock band called The Beachcombers.  John also studied at Manchester’s SSR he trained as a sound engineer sound engineer and attained the certification as an official pro tools user.  The chance to pass on experience and knowledge is something he feels privileged to do, John has been teaching at Riffs since 2005.

Name: - Jonathan Pattison
Instruments: - Guitar & Bass
Hobbies: - Running, Aerobic Fitness, Football


Jonny is unique amongst the Riffs teaching team as from the age of 14 he was taught by the founder of Riffs which has given him a real understanding of Riffs teaching ethics. He has been playing guitar for 12 years and was one of the first students at Riffs to attain the coveted Grade 8 qualification. Jonny was originally influenced by many different bands of the time, bands such as Oasis, Kula Shaker and Ocean Colour Scene. As he developed musically his tastes and influences changed towards Hendrix, Clapton, Steve Vai and Robert Fripp. Jonny's musical repertoire is vast spanning many styles and decades of music, and whilst maintaining a fun creative environment he also provides a solid structured learning environment. Jonny has been teaching at Riffs since 2005


Tutor:- Will Robinson

Instrument:- Guitar

Hobbies:- Walking & Motorbikes

He began playing the guitar aged 12. He was taught by the founder of Riffs gained a Grade 8 Certificate. Studied at the University of Salford and gained Degree (Hons) in Popular Music and Recording and has since returned to study for a Masters in Performance. Early influences were Thrash and Heavy Metal – his influences have since expanded to Texas Blues, Jazz, Folk and Classical styles. One of his main influences is Stevie Ray Vaughan. He continues to write his own original music and attend Manchester Jam nights.  Will became a regular tutor in Jan 2018.

Tutor:- Tom Favell
Instrument:- Guitar & Vocals
Hobbies:-  Vinyl, History & Cooking


Tom started playing music at the age of nine, firstly with drum lessons and also joining a Scottish pipe band with his brother and Grandad. Once he'd started at secondary school in 1999, Tom gradually moved over to guitar and it has been his main instrument ever since. Tom spent most of his time at school playing in bands and in 2004 decided to study music at Leicester College. This involved learning how to sing properly, music theory, understanding how to set up gigs and learning how to effectively run a band. In 2007 Tom furthered his continuing interest in music by moving up north to study music at Salford University, which allowed him to further his networking with a variety of musicians in Greater Manchester. Once graduating in 2010, Tom undertook teacher training at Manchester Metropolitan University. This ultimately allowed him to expand his instrumental teaching into a full time job and it's what Tom has been doing ever since. This has included private tuition, primary classroom tuition and instrumental tuition for both secondary and primary schools. Along with music tuition,Tom gigs regularly with a function band called The Robbers on bass and performs solo on acoustic guitar.


Tutor:- Alicia Herhenteris

Instrument:- Vocals 

Alicia began singing at age 11 in a soul band at High school. Her love of artists such as Prince, Stevie Wonder and Ella Fitzgerald gave her the musical inspiration she needed to pursue singing as a career from a very young age. By the time she was 17, she was gigging in some of the biggest venues in the Manchester music scene, specialising in Jazz and Soul vocals. After Graduating from University with a First Class Degree in Performing Arts, she toured Edinburgh Fringe Festival with the now Olivier Award winning Theatre Company 'Hartshorn Hook Productions' participating in sell-out shows ‘The Blues Brothers Live’ ‘The Rat Pack Live’ and ‘Fame’. Once completing this, Alicia work with Mercury Prize Winning artist ‘Badly Drawn Boy’ as a backing vocalist, which took her to main stages at Festival Number 6, Folklore Fest and Ahoi! Festival, travelling nationwide and overseas. Note-worthy moments include appearing on the same bill as Van Morrison, Ray Davies from the Kinks, James Blake, Ghost Poet, Lianne La Havas and London Grammar to name but a few. Another career highlight occured when she provided backing vocals for 90’s Neo-Soul sensation ‘Omar’ live onstage for many of his hits, including the chart-topping ‘There’s Nothing Like This’. Alicia has continued to work with many established artists in the studio and is currently a lead singer for several successful function bands, performing at Weddings, Corporate events, Restaurants, Bars and music venues worldwide. She prides herself on having extensive knowledge of many different musical genres from Jazz, Blues, Mo-town and Soul all the way through to Pop, Rock and Indie. Alicia has taught a variety of ages and is enthusiastic about sharing the skills she has gained throughout 14 years of industry experience. She can offer her students that expertise whilst encouraging them to perform to the best of their ability by focusing on technique, breath work, confidence building and performance style.  Start date Nov 2018.

Name:- Paul Shaw

Instrument:- Piano & Keyboards

Paul has been a regular performer in and around the Manchester Music scene for over 30 years. He initially studied Piano from the age of 7 and then graduated to keyboards as a teenager. He later studied a B.A in Band Musicianship at Salford University, graduating with 1st Class Hons. From 1999 he lectured and led courses in music at The Manchester College (formerly MANCAT), the courses included BTEC National Diploma/ Certificate and Foundation Degree. Subject areas included Composition, Performance, Songwriting, Theory/Harmony and Keyboard Skills. Paul continues to compose and arrange in various styles, in 2005 a track co-written with a friend was record of the week on radio 1 and number 1 in the dance charts. Paul also possesses a PGCAP (post graduate cert in Academic Practice), and is a member of the Higher Education Authority, he is also a member of PRS (performing Rights Society) and MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society). Paul continues to work with various musicians in diverse styles from Pop / Swing to Opera. 


Tutor:- Ruairi Leonard

Instrument:- Piano/Keyboard, Bass, Saxophone & Clarinet 


Ruairi is a highly competent multi-instrumentalist - playing keyboards, clarinet, saxophone and bass guitar - who has recently graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music, with a degree in keyboards on the Popular Music Performance course.  During his time at the RNCM he undertook a placement at Dulwich International School in Beijing and, following its competition, was asked back to become a full-time music teacher. He has experience teaching one-to-one, leading small ensembles, helping with big bands/orchestras and undertaking full class teaching.  As a performer Ruairi has appeared at most major music venues in Manchester, often performing original material, and his jazz ensemble won a national award at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. He has also played keyboards with New Order in several shows for the Manchester International Festival, and set up his own function band, The Big Phat Phunction band, who have played many weddings/parties/corporate events across the country.

 Name: - Joel Heywood
 Instruments: - Drums & Percussion
 Hobbies: - 

Joel started playing drums at the age of six, soon after at eight years old he began playing alongside his Dad for his local church.  Joel has since had the opportunity to play alongside some of the best musicians in the country including Matthew Ford (Vocalist for the BBC proms and widely regarded as the UK’s finest big band (vocalist), Simon Willescroft (Saxophonist for Duran Duran, Michael Buble), Mark Walker (Simply Red, Westlife), Gwilym Simcock and many more. Joel also works extensively in musical theatre and has worked with Oldham Theatre Workshop, Liverpool Theatre school, Salford Arts Theatre (where he worked as MD) and many more.  Last year Joel even made his acting debut playing the part of Elvis’s drummer DJ Fontana for the new musical “King & Colonel” at the Lowry Theatre, Salford. Joel studied music at Salford University, gaining a First class honours degree and recently completed his Masters degree gaining a Distinction. Joel is an experienced teacher and enjoys passing on his love for music and encouraging students to reach their potential.  Joel has been teaching at Riffs since 2017.

Name:- Josh Zahler
Instrument:- Drums & Percussion
Hobbies:- Extreme Sports, Spending time with his family


Josh is currently the drummer for Extra Love – a reggae, dub, afro beat band who perform at festivals and gigs all over the UK and Europe. He also plays with a party function band who cover all other genres such a rock, pop, R n B, indie, funk, dance, metal, hip hop, latin, cuban and drum and bass.   Josh has been playing drums incessantly since such a young age he couldn’t reach the pedals and still thinks it’s the best job in the world. He started learning properly in year 5, and played his first paid gig at age 14, (it’s never to early to start your professional career!)   He lists his influences as The Meters, Jimmi Hendrix, Rage Against the Machine, Incubus and Led Zeppelin along with Buena Vista Social Club and Jessie Cooke.   Josh is qualified with 2:1 degree in Popular Music and Recording from Salford University; he also teaches drums privately and in schools passing on his love for big dreams, music and rhythm.  Josh has been teaching at Riffs since Feb 2014.

Cover Tutors

Laurie Agnew - Drums & Percussion,  Nicholas White - Drums & Percussion,  Dale Burns - Drums,                 Hayley Williams - Vocals,  Ron Maas - Piano/keyboards, Charlie Seisay-Heald - Guitar/Bass/Ukuele

Reception Staff

Debbie Dempsey

Head of Administration / Owner


Andrea Mach

Head Receptionist

Ella Dempsey



All Riffs Tutors Are DBS Checked


We are very proud too have won awards over the years by the Registry of Guitar Tutors who are based in London and the worlds foremost organisation for guitar education. These achievements were awarded to us based on the total number of candidates passing their LCM exams and is a clear reflection of all the skill and dedication of both the tutors and students.  We hold exams at Riffs three times a year in Spring, Summer & Winter.