When looking at the music industry, we only see the glamorous, external aspects – the popstars, the tours and the paparazzi parading every move an artist makes. What we don’t see is what’s hidden behind the spotlight. Who writes the chart-topping hits? Who mixes and masters the award-winning albums? Who even fights for the legal rights of artists?

Well, that’s exactly what the TICE Music Explore Stage was about. 48 students from 6 schools were led by mentor, Sam Burt, on a two-day experience to meet successors in the most professional music spaces in the North East.

Day 1: Newcastle College

First up, we wanted to tick off education routes on our list! Newcastle College has a wonderful Performing Arts building on their campus and currently run a Music Performance course for aspiring artists (post-16). Our TICE students were given a brief tour of their vibrant, high-tech facilities and were informed on what the teachings and experience they offer. It was important for us to answer those common questions – Why study music? What are the outcomes? Hopefully, we answered that question for some of the students.

Sam wanted to warm these students up with a task to work in randomly selected teams and come up with an alternate cover version of a popular song. The teams worked on changing tempos, structures, instrumentation and even the genre. It was incredible to see just how every team added a sprinkle of individuality, whether it was through a groovy bass line, a powerhouse vocal or intricate use of percussion. Students were able to perform their songs on the main stage at Newcastle College where they were able to fully experience the true essence of live performance – a supportive audience cheering them on, a spotlight (literally!) and all the professional tech they needed. It was almost as if their inner-pop stars were unleashed on stage. Truly amazing results and by the end of Day 1, the confidence in these students had already sky-rocketed.


Day 2: Loft Studios

For this year’s Explore Stage, we were thrilled to be welcomed by the warm and wonderful hosts of Loft Studios in Newcastle City Centre. The days at Loft Studios were split into two different days, each filled with various music industry elites who were gracious enough to share their story and inspire our students. It was a day of listening, rather than to be listened to but of course, it was very difficult for our students to not have a music jam at break times! Here are a few highlights…

Andrew Archer:

Owner of Loft Studios, Andrew Archer, kicked off the morning session by sharing his personal journey from DJ to Producer to studio owner. He also introduced and explained synch music (placing existing commercial music to various visuals) and the understated idea of composing for video games. Already, Andrew was giving students an entirely new perspective on what the music industry has to offer.

Sean Cotterill:

A huge part of this year’s TICE Programme was about the future of music and what skills will be seen as relevant and exciting in years to come. Sean Cotterill is a Music graduate and PhD student from Newcastle University and performs through the art of Live Coding. Sean grabs a laptop, opens a piece of software and creates his music by typing out codes. As an interactive activity to test out Sean’s skills, Sam placed different musical requests across the room and according to what students wanted, Sean would change the vibe of the song created through Live Code. It’s fair to say, students were left in awe by the end of this session.

Roma Yagnik:

Next up was the impeccably talented Roma, a UK based film composer. Her credits include film/ad/theatre music for companies such as BBC, Sky, EMI and Universal – to name a few! She told the story of her success and importantly so, gave pertinent advice on how to communicate with directors and clients in her profession. This idea of being a businessman/businesswoman in the music industry is rather important and realistically shapes the quality of contacts and opportunities given. This was made very clear when listening to Roma.

Roma and Sam also collaborated together in encouraging the students to really tap into their emotions in regard to musical composition. What feelings does this piece give you? Sadness? Joy? Excitement? Comfort? This aspect is an essential part of composing, particular when trying to fit a storyline.

Wayne C McDonald:

Wayne radiated with inspiration and positivity during his visit. He shared his story of simply being an RnB fan in his teens to songwriter via. DJing, as well as being a radio presenter. What was particularly interesting is that he doesn’t sing or play an instrument, but still can contribute to writing a professional track and directing artists on a successful path. This is an example as to why the famous cliché quote, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it”, is so true!

Megan Savage:

Megan is currently our TICE Co-ordinator, but also an upcoming graduate on the Popular and Contemporary Music course at Newcastle University. Megan spoke briefly on her University experience and how, as an ex-TICE student in 2010, she managed to work her way up the ladder to a role in the creative industries.

Patti Jones:

All the way from Boston (USA), Patti stopped by the studios to share her story from musician to a prestigious Music Lawyer – an unseen aspect of the industry which is rarely discussed. She used a few case studies as examples of what she tackles, including the controversial legal battles of ‘Creep’ by Radiohead and ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. Through this, Patti wanted to showcase what copyright is and what is deemed as infringement. She also gave incredibly useful advice in regards of artists protecting their rights and how to profit from them.

Cortney Dixon:

Singer/songwriter, Cortney Dixon, stopped by to share some words of wisdom on the complicated process of songwriting – tackling those feelings of creative mind blocks and fear of judgement. Cortney also performed a little snippet of a song (unfinished) and even asked students to suggest some ways she can move forward with it.

This is only a taste of what our music students explored over these two days. Our hope was that the students had seen a whole other side of the industry, behind the spotlight. Who knows – we may now have a few future music lawyers and digital coders in years to come…

I believe it is a great opportunity to increase my confidence on stage, my songwriting ability, my employability and to give me a chance to network. I will only improve from here.

– Harry Scott, John Spence Community High School.

Thank you to all of our special guests: Andrew, Cortney, Roma, Ged (Generator), Wayne, Sean and Patti.