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.


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:- Zlatan Pasalic

Instrument:- Piano/Keyboard & Bass


Zlatan is an experienced piano, keyboard and bass player currently living in Manchester, making his living from teaching and performing. With over 20 years performance experience and over 3 years teaching experience, he has built up the ability to teach a wide variety of students of all ages and experiences, ranging from absolute beginner to advanced. Zlatan is also experienced in taking students through their examination grades, and currently holds a 100% student pass rate.  He holds a BA Music Composition and Professional Practice (Hons) from Coventry University, and uses that experience to tailor lessons to each individual student, since he believes that everyone learns differently and at different paces.  As well as teaching piano, keyboard and bass, Zlatan also enjoys teaching music theory and composition.  He plays keyboard in the Manchester Hip-Hop band “The Shady 80s” and has already played countless gigs in some of Manchester’s very well-known venues, such as Matt& Phreds, The Ritz, Manchester Academy 3, Manchester Club Academy and Deaf Institute, along with many other venues in Cities around The UK.  Zlatan has also recorded a track in London’s Strongroom Studios with legendary producer Tony Platt, after winning a performance competition playing Bass Guitar with his old band “Mysterians!”


Name: - Laurie Agnew
Instruments: - Drums & Percussion
Hobbies: - Travel, Pilates, and Cooking

Laurie started playing drums at age six when his dad who also played gave him his first snare drum, which proudly displayed the words ‘Laurie The Loud’.  After his early lessons Laurie started playing in bands throughout his school years and went on to study music and music technology at college. He then graduated from Salford University in 2009 with an upper 2:1 degree in Popular Music and Recording. Laurie has a keen interest in world percussion and specializes in African & Cuban hand percussion as well as western drum kit tuition. Influenced by a variety of styles - ranging from Rock/Indie, Pop, Funk, Dance, RnB, Hip Hop and Jazz/Fusion. Laurie performs regularly across the northwest playing in both original and covers bands. Laurie has been teaching at Riffs since 2010

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.

Name:- Dale Burns
Instrument:- Drums & Percussion
Hobbies:- Going to the Gym, Eating out, Spending time with family & friends.

Dale started his drumming life at the young age of 5! He began the drums brought up in a family of brass musicians, performing in bands around the north west. Dale began to be influenced by a wide range of music and studied rockschool grading, leaving school at 16 with a grade 8 certificate.
Dale went on to music college in Manchester studying performance, playing in various originals and function bands around the north west and beyond!
Dale started teaching drums aged 17 and has since continued gigging with various bands at venues around the country.  Dale has taught at Riffs since March 2017.

Cover Tutors

Jack Newton  -  Drums & Percussion,  Joel Heywood - Drums & Percussion,  Jack McCarthy - Drums & Percussion,  Hayley Williams - Vocals,  Liam Morson - Piano/keyboards, Charlie Seisay-Heald - Guitar/Bass/Ukuele

Reception Staff

Debbie Dempsey

Head of Administration / Owner


Andrea Mach

Head Receptionist


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.