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Covering Classics and Heading Backstage

What exactly is the dream scenario for an aspiring musician? Many assume it’s the idea of being on stage and touring the world…but what about backstage? For Explore Stage of TICE Music, students from Burnside Business and Enterprise College, Marden High School, Monkseaton High School and North Tyneside Music Education Hub were together for two days of honing on their musical talent and meeting some of the great musical minds from the North.

Day 1

For the very first time in TICE Music, we were thrilled to be visiting Gateshead College’s Music and Performing Arts department. After a very warm welcome from the college team, Head of Music, Erik Minto, gave students a tour of the facilities. With sound-proofed rehearsal spaces, high tech studios and Apple workstations, it was hard to not be in complete awe of what the college had to offer. They ended the tour back in the Theatre Room, as Erik touched upon the variety of Further Education courses available.

Music mentor, Sam and fellow musician and member of the TICE Team, Megan then took to the stage and unexpectedly performed an acoustic, stripped-back cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”. But why?

Well, this was a taste of their challenge of the day. Students were put into bands and were expected to take a song and change the style, genre, instrumentation…the freedom was theirs! Once bands were in their rehearsal space for the day, they had to make the difficult decision of what song to perform. With a room of varied tastes and preferences, they had to work as a team to figure out a mutually loved artist and a song which had the capability of being changed.

After a day of key changes, harmonies and funky riffs, students arrived back at the Performance Theatre for their very own TICE concert. Each band performed to an incredible standard and picked some brilliant tunes:

We Will Rock You – A Queen classic with a jazzy twist. Definite vibes of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox. A really fun interpretation.

Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi’s recent hit single, sung by two wonderful female vocals and heavier instrumentation. Essentially, taking a soft ballad and turning it into a powerhouse ballad.

Thinking out Loud – Of course, got to love a bit of Ed. This group, however, took Ed’s style out of the equation and managed to make it their own with a full band, different rhythm and two female vocal harmonies.

Don’t You Forget About Me – Ah, bringing The Breakfast Club to 2019? Fantastic idea to take those 80s synths and turn it into a contemporary pop tune. The perfect song to end on!

This was the true test of musical skill – not exactly about coming up with something completely original but taking something familiar and bringing a different flavour to it. It can be a lot harder than expected, and students did every song justice. A great start to Explore Stage.

Day 2

Their final day kicked off at Newcastle University’s Armstrong Building – the hub for the International Centre of Music Studies…and they were in for an incredible line-up of guest speakers.

First up was Music Manager, Keith Armstrong. Keith spoke fondly of his long and successful career from running the local HMV to selling millions of records worldwide as Manager of The Lighthouse Family and most recently, Jake Bugg. He encouraged students to get involved in the industry, and where to start. And it didn’t have to mean moving to the city that never sleeps. As a bloke from the North East, Keith stressed that location is not as important as what people believe. In his eyes, there has probably never been a better time than now to forge a musical career.

Ged Robinson, Head of Talent Development at The Tipping Point/Generator, gave some background on his music career starting as a drummer and progressing to his current role. He outlined all the help that they can give to emerging musicians, from masterclasses on business and creative topics to one to one advice sessions and events like Tipping Point Live, which young and upcoming bands can apply to play at.

As sadly Ellie from the Community Foundation was poorly and could not make it, Sam then briefly presented what they offer. They are a local charity awarding grants out to local young creative people and TICE has already helped secure several thousand pounds worth of support from them for students in previous years. Students seemed very interested in being able to apply for funds to buy equipment or get professional music lessons – hopefully, some will be applying in the near future!

Then finally, students were graced with the presence of Kay Greyson. Kay is a rapper making waves in the industry with her amazing vocals. She talked from the artist perspective and told students how she got started, how to build an image and build an audience. She also shared her creative process and gave advice on coming up with original ideas for new songs.

When asked about how she combats both sexism and the difficulty of doing Hip Hop in the North East of England, Kay inspired many of the students with her candid response. Not rising to the bait and instead answering by just doing her thing and changing people’s views purely with her music was amazing advice. She ended her talk with a stunning live performance with all eyes lighting up when the students heard just how incredibly talented she was.

After an informative morning at Newcastle University, the team made their way to the O2 Academy, one of the most popular commercial venues in the North East. Many of our students have been there to see a variety of artists over the years, but have they ever questioned how the venue operates in the first place? Well, Scott and Vicki gave a brilliant behind the scenes tour. Students got the inside story on how a live show works and the different job roles involved, plus some history on the O2 Academy. To top it off, students were in awe to visit the backstage spaces and most importantly, the main stage. It was a great opportunity to share the same view that stars like The Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse and many more have had.

The tour finished in the O2 Academy 2 (smaller-scale venue) and Scott and Vicki gave some great advice on how bands get to play in that venue and also on how to make the best use of social media to promote yourself. Both of them also talked candidly about how they started in fairly lowly roles but quickly got a series of promotions which shows just how fast things can progress in such a fast-paced industry.

The O2 kindly set out a make-shift canteen for us all and after a very swift lunch, it was onto the afternoon visits.

Loft Music Studios: Students had the opportunity to meet the owner of Loft Studios, Andrew Archer, who shared his own fascinating journey, exploring a variety of aspects of the music industry including DJing, Producing, Syncing and of course, managing a studio. He followed it up with a tour of the studio facilities, explaining the ins and outs. Andrew was asked plenty of questions after that, including discussing some pretty exciting work experience opportunities.

#TodayAtApple: Apple Eldon Square have been working with us throughout all creative areas on Explore Stage, and their workshops have been nothing but fantastic. Students visited the store and had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with popular software, exploring the capabilities of GarageBand and making beats. Now they are true Apple pros!

A huge thanks to the venues and speakers who were involved this year. A variety of career paths were explored in such a short space of time and not only that, but students had the opportunity to really showcase their talent. We can’t wait to see what musical magic will come to light in Create Stage.

See more photos from TICE Music Explore Stage here:

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