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'They should be finding their own pathway': Student autonomy in college's music courses is reaping rewards

City College Norwich runs Live Lounge sessions for its performing arts students, in which they are required to book acts and set up the stage. Picture: City College Norwich

City College Norwich runs Live Lounge sessions for its performing arts students, in which they are required to book acts and set up the stage. Picture: City College Norwich

City College Norwich

Preparing music and performing arts students for the world of work is becoming increasingly important, according to lecturers at a Norfolk college.

City College Norwich offers a range of music and music production courses within its performing arts department - and tries to offer students lots of practical experience of the industry. Picture: City College NorwichCity College Norwich offers a range of music and music production courses within its performing arts department - and tries to offer students lots of practical experience of the industry. Picture: City College Norwich

Staff in the performing arts department at City College Norwich feel the multidisciplinary approach and practical elements of its courses are giving their students an edge in a competitive and growing industry.

The college has invested significantly in creative arts in the past eight years, with more than £5m ploughed into a new building comprising space for digital arts, traditional arts and design, fashion and performing arts rehearsal spaces which opened in September 2013.

The college's music and music production courses see a wealth of genres, from popular indie and electronic styles to jazz, hip hop and classical instrumental performances.

Creative arts lecturer Matt Hodges said: “Particularly by the end of the level three (GCSE equivalent) courses their final projects are very self-directed and they should be finding their own pathway by that point. I have seen students self-directing albums and organising live events outside college, booking bands from around the country.

“They have got the opportunity to specialise in whatever interests them. Far gone are the days of everyone jumping through the same hoops.”

Guy Parkinson, head of performing arts at the college, said a multidisciplinary approach was key for the department.

City College Norwich has recently invested more than £5m in a new creative arts building, which includes performing arts rehearsal spaces. Picture: City College NorwichCity College Norwich has recently invested more than £5m in a new creative arts building, which includes performing arts rehearsal spaces. Picture: City College Norwich

For example, in February diploma students undertook a four-day project in mixed teams from across the performing arts faculty to create work to exhibit to other students.

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The college also holds a monthly Live Lounge for performing arts students, where musicians and writers can air their works individually or in groups for other students. They are responsible for booking acts and setting up the performance area.

Mr Hodges said: “It is designed to give students to do these kinds of things themselves: the organising, sound engineering, as well as performing.”

Mr Parkinson added: “The focus on collaborative working and working outside their chosen areas is going to be important for them in industry.”

The diverse and autonomous approach is proving its worth – around half of the students from the 2018/19 cohort have confirmed university places to study music or music production degrees.

'I have improved as a musician and a student'

Ariana Tavares, 21, has been studying music at City College Norwich for three years after completing a level one performing arts course at the college.

She is now preparing for university, looking to do a professional musicianship or creative musicianship degree.

Originally from Portugal, she said the course had also helped her to adjust to living in the UK as she could “barely speak English” when she arrived in Norwich.

“I really like it because I have improved a lot as a musician but also as a student,” she said.

“I have learned how to work with other people because I struggled a bit at first.”

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