TICE Music Gold Stage took place at the high tech studios at one of the UK’s top universities and most popular HE institutions, Newcastle University. Studying Music at Newcastle makes you a part of ICMuS, the largest part of the School of Arts and Cultures sector. Music at Newcastle University has also been named as one of the Top 10 courses in the UK for Music by The Times Good University Guide and ranked Top 20 in the 2015 Guardian University Guide. As proven by the statistics, it’s fair to say that this opportunity was golden for the students.
Their task was to form a band with a few other members of the group and write an original song in a style of their choosing (See Music Project). They were expected to perform it at the final show. Feedback on their work came from outstanding contacts such as:
Jane Nolan, Teaching Fellow in Enterprise and Module Leader for Music Enterprise, kicked off the Gold Stage with a tour around the Newcastle University campus. It was a great opportunity for the students to gain perspective on what the university is like in preparation for their potential applications.
Sam Burt (Music Mentor) took the opportunity to go Uni style as he led them into a lecture room to jot down some top tips before beginning their songwriting journey. One of the main points which Sam wanted to make very clear was to be unafraid of breaking boundaries. Aspects such as rhyme and writing an average love/pop song were not discouraged but the chance to do something which creatively spoke to them was highly suggested. He also mentioned another useful tip – to ‘kill your darlings’ as so poetically phrased by Stephen King in his book, On Writing. It’s natural for a writer to hold onto something they feel has potential but if it doesn’t fit with the song, it’s important for the artist to re-evaluate the use of that one word or line. It’s particularly easy to do this in the time constraint that the students have, thus making that piece of advice quite important throughout the Gold Stage journey.
After a very brief yet informative discussion, the students made their way to the studios where they met studio manager and musician, David De La Haye. David kindly booked out the performance room, a regularly used practice room with very useful facilities and lucky for everyone involved, students had exclusive access to the main studio used for recording live music, albums etc. Our musicians were given a brief tour of the modern, technically advanced studio building by David himself, answering questions about studying Music and working as a technician in the process.
It was at this point that Sam formed two bands that were going to be working together for the next three days. It was split exactly in half from both schools, which was a great opportunity for students to become acquainted with each other and not end up stuck with what they are most comfortable with:
‘We just got put into groups and had to get to know each other. We’ve all gradually developed a close bond and friendship between us all and the first week of getting to know each other through jamming out etc. was especially fun for me’” – Imogen Milner
Day 1 involved having an understanding in the groups. They had to get to know each other quite quickly and suddenly put themselves in this creative space. They had notepads, recording devices and instruments in their hands as they began to gather thoughts, ideas and suggestions. To Sam’s pleasant surprise, many of the students arrived with notebooks full of musical input which supported the band in developing at a steady pace. It was evident that they were taking the project seriously and that continued to show even more further in to the songwriting process…
Students arrived at the studio a week later for Day 2, feeling even more prepared and motivated. The bands were contacting each other throughout the break they had and kept their passion alive which was impressive to see. As soon as they stepped into the studio building, they went straight to their designated rooms to work.
Dr Paul Fleet, Interim Dean of Academic Affairs amongst many other roles in HE, stopped by in his hectic schedule to have a very interesting discussion with our TICE musicians. Paul primarily discussed the question that always causes controversy – what counts as being original? The beginning of the mini-lecture had a young, petrified and shy audience. Within minutes, points were raised and argued. You couldn’t help but notice that it had transformed into a room full of professional musicians, talking about what they loved with so much enthusiasm and excitement.
Paul’s presence seemed to fuel their resilient attitude, as they returned to their songwriting lairs with more motivation than ever to expand and improve on their final project.
Day 3 is notoriously popular for being the most stressful part of the process. It’s the final hours of tidying up, correcting, changing and completing. It’s the moment when everything is evaluated – not only the song but the performance itself. To maximise the intensity, they are expected to play their song to their peers, teachers and mentors live in the performance area. No pressure at all, right?
After a few hours of ironing out a few creases on their track, it was time to face the stage. It was interesting to note that the musical quality of both songs were impressively strong whilst the performance skills were noticeably weak. Nervousness, uncertainty, lack of confidence – these were the feelings which consumed the students in front of a fairly small audience. With some perspective and pep talk by all of the industry professionals, a change was made almost instantaneously. They stood tall and proud, showing flare and personality, maintaining their professional state of mind and most importantly, having fun.
The students completed the Gold Stage of TICE feeling like they just reached the top of Mount Everest. After a year of facing fears, building relationships and improving musical skill, they managed to make it to the very end in the most memorable way.
‘I’ve learned a lot of new skills regarding songwriting and Sam’s taught us a lot of new ways of not being direct with lyrics and aspects like that which has really helped.
You learn new skills, you meet new people and it’s something extra to say that you’ve done. It will definitely help me in the future.’ – Ellen Mavin
‘It’s going to be one of the experiences that I’ll never forget in my life and it’s [The Final Show] going to be one of the greatest performances and it could be one of the most vital parts of my musical career.
You learn so much from it, that if you do miss it, it’ll be one of them things you’ll look back on in years to come and say “Ugh, I wish I had done that!”’ – Imogen Milner
And the outcome… here they are, the two bands performing at the TICE Final Show 2016:
Finally here’s a few ore shots of the Music Gold Stage 2016: