Let’s encourage young people to use music as a tool to adapt to the new world we live in.

There are countless aspects which make the North East music scene so rich and exciting. Our beloved venues, an impressive list of rising artists and educational opportunities, to name but a few.

The intention behind TICE Explore is to showcase exactly that – to dig deeper into the music industry, focus on skills development and make connections with those who are building a musical career. For Day One, all went to plan and Day Two was redesigned due to COVID-19.

As the coronavirus hit our shores and closed down every venue, we took our Day Two online and created ‘TICE-olated’ pages, full of tasks and interviews to keep the creative juices flowing for this year’s students. The music scene has suffered greatly due to the global pandemic with funds being cut and many struggling to create. On the other hand, there has never been such reliance on music to heal. There have been live-stream concerts, unlikely collaborations on Zoom and neighbours singing karaoke to lift spirits. At TICE, it was our job to generate conversation surrounding the reality of both sides, in the hope that this will encourage young people to use music as a tool to adapt to the new world we live in.

Submission from Mary for the Netflix Challenge.

So, here’s what we covered in TICE Music Explore 2020 with 54 students from 7 North East schools: Burnside College, Marden High School, Kenton School, and North Tyneside Music Education Hub (Longbenton High School, Monkseaton High School, Churchill Community College, Kings Priory School).

What is there to do in the Toon?

The first day began at the iconic venue of the Sage Gateshead, where students from different schools came together for the first time. To kick things off, students were given an insightful tour of the Sage. On show were the two jaw-dropping performance venues – the 1700-seater Sage One and the more intimate Sage Two space, as well as high-quality practice rooms, frequently used by the Sage Gateshead’s resident symphony orchestra, the Royal Northern Sinfonia. Some of the students were even treated to some of Gateshead College’s music students’ rendition of the Arctic Monkeys song ‘Piledriver Waltz’ in preparation for an upcoming performance, coincidentally foreshadowing the task that they would undertake in the afternoon. 

On the tour, the students discovered the broad range of careers that contribute to the functionality of the Sage Gateshead as an international music centre, from the more obvious roles such as instrument tutors and performers to the more hidden roles of sound engineers and arts administration. 

As well as this, the students were also advised on the possible post-sixteen options available if their interest is to pursue music, highlighting the partnership between the Sage and Gateshead College. Once the tour had concluded, information about opportunities for courses over the summer (such as artist residencies and the Young Musicians Programme) was shared with the students, who then embarked on the short walk to Gateshead College where they would spend the afternoon creating. 

Upon arrival, they were shown around the rehearsal room facilities, fully kitted out with amplifiers, keyboards, mixing desks, and drum kits. This is where the students would spend the majority of the rest of Explore Stage Day One, attempting the challenge that mentor Sam was about to set for them. Sam split the students into new bands, mainly comprised of people who had only met for the first time that day, and asked them to write a cover version of one the following songs: ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton, ‘Saturday’ by Sam Fender, ‘Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding, and finally ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna – a mixture of modern music and some old classics.

Music students giving it a go in Gateshead College studios

Not deterred by the magnitude of the task, the newly formed bands set out quickly trying to learn their allocated song, and quickly started experimenting with different ways to make it their own, whether it was by altering the chords, changing the tune slightly, or undergoing a complete genre change.

After a well-deserved lunch break and plenty of resilience, the new bands had each created a unique interpretation of their song and were then ready to perform it to the rest of the group. Once again, it was fantastic to see the support that the TICE students gave each other throughout each of the performances, and everyone who took part put in a performance that they should be proud of. It was amazing to listen to the different directions in which the students took their songs, and the quality of the cover performances was outstanding considering the time restrictions of the project. 

The Sound of Isolation

Well, it was not actually as quiet as it sounds. As digital was the only way to go, we decided to bring our scheduled Day Two online. Our music students had the opportunity to continue their understanding of the music industry by first giving a range of interviews for them to sit back and take in. Music industry professionals very kindly gave up some time to discuss their career building backgrounds, their work and words of advice. This included:

Music Mentor Sam discussing all this music industry with a few professionals.

Mark Gale – Director of International A&R, Universal Music Publishing Group, Pippa Anderson – Voice Coach & Voice Rehabilitation Coach, Cortney Dixon – Musician & Songwriter, Ada Francis – Musician & Songwriter, Rebecca James – Musician & Songwriter, Annie Griffiths – Musician & Songwriter, Dean Edward Thompson – Guitarist, Sam Fender, Thom Lewis – Audio Engineer & Producer, Sam FenderKevin Sargent – Composer

*If you would like access to our video interviews please contact us about the TICE programme.

I found it very interesting when Pippa Anderson was talking about how if you don’t warm up properly / treat your voice correctly, you could damage your vocal cords and might not be able to sing the same. It was interesting because I didn’t know how important it was to make sure you rest your voice and not to overuse it because you may not be able to achieve certain notes that you may have, for example, been able to reach yesterday. It was also interesting that not every day is the same for a vocal coach and you get all types of people coming from professional singers to first-time singers because you would have to be very adaptable to the person who may come to you for advice.

Aikaterini Katsidou, Kenton School.

I like how Cortney started to simply write poems in her room and listening to different music, to becoming a professional musician in the industry. Her story was so small and simple to start off with – writing songs, learning instruments, open mic night etc – yet now she has whole albums recorded in real studios, it’s really inspiring and amazing to hear. It’s quite a relatable story for people doing TICE as well because a lot of us might be in a similar position to what she is right now. 

Poppy Arnold, Marden High School.

Musical what?

Our Music TICE-olated page didn’t end with interviews, it was also very practical and giving the students something to create, filled with tasks and challenges to enable students to complete their Explore Stage.

Submission from Josh for the Netflix Challenge

This included:

  • Creating a sample library. What does it sound like when you open your blinds in the morning? When you open the door? When the kettle is boiling? When you write on a piece of paper? During isolation, we wanted students to utilise their homes as a way to collect interesting sounds. If they wanted to go a step further, they were encouraged to manipulate the sounds through their choice of software.
  • Finding the inner journalist. For those who wanted to put pen to paper, we set the task of writing a review on an album/EP, live concert or live stream of their choice.
  • The Netflix Composer. Binging films and TV shows has never more relatable during the lockdown period. So, we took this as an opportunity for students to dig deeper. They were challenged to pick a scene from a film or TV show, old or new, and write some music to accompany the scene. They could create a cinematic piece to a cult classic such as Jurassic Park or Star Wars, or they could write a pop hit to accompany a rom-com.
Submission from Ben for the Netflix Challenge

*If you would like access to our tasks and challenges please contact us about the TICE programme.

Submission from Poppy for the Netflix Challenge.

Who we’d like to thank:

Day One of TICE Explore simply wouldn’t have been possible without Sage Gateshead and Gateshead College – special shoutout to Gillian Williams and Emily Jefferson for leading the way and creating an eye-opening experience for our young people.

A huge thank you to the wonderful Louis Wild, for supporting us on the workshops and contributing to this blog post. We wish you all the best of luck in studying Music at Newcastle University. Watch this space.

Speaking of…Newcastle University – without fail, we are always warmly welcomed by the ICMuS team every year so it has been particularly bizarre to have not visited this time around. Thank you for continuing to support what we do.

Same goes to the O2 Academy Newcastle, Andrew Archer and the rest of the team at Loft Studios and Apple Eldon Square – continuous supporters and an inspiration to our students. We hope to return to your venues very soon.

Finally, to the countless industry professionals who have shared their words of wisdom for TICE Explore. Thank you.

What did students have to say?

I think TICE-olated has really helped me understand music more. It has done this by expanding my knowledge on the different job opportunities and how to be a better musician.

Matthew Harris, NTMEH, Music

By sharing real stories and giving young people a true experience of the music industry, we see many students utilise their journey to pursue their dreams, whatever that may be. Despite the drastic changes being made to our current climate, we hope that TICE Explore has given a glimmer of hope and motivation to our incredibly talented, aspiring musicians. 

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