By Russ Hepworth
No one can deny that these are, as everyone says, ‘unprecedented times’, and never it is more true than in Higher Education! To say these times are unprecedented perhaps is not quite and entirely true. I’m reminded of my uncle, Brian Hepworth, who spent his retirement years writing a children’s book on what it was like to be a schoolchild in war torn London during the Blitz, who saw the war and those ‘unprecedented times’ as his playground (https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Blitz_in_Bellingham.html?id=L8wntgEACAAJ&redir_esc=y). I’m not sure the same can be true of today’s lockdown and I wonder how he’d view things. One thing I’m sure he’d recount is how people during the Blitz became resourceful, appreciative (in the main) and collaborative (except where ration books were concerned!). Is the current lockdown going to leave us with a legacy, a change in attitude to work, relationships and education? I hope so. I hope for the positive both in society at large, but also in Higher Education.
In reflecting upon this, and my subtle moan about my lack of video editing skills, one thing emerged in my mind. It’s something we at YSJ Music Production bleet on about daily, and I’m sure many colleagues around the nation too. It’s a skill that trumps all others (no pun intended), and I believe sets our students on a solid path to achieving well in the age-old-data-to-beat-HE-courses-by, what was known as the DLHE data. In other words, are our students employed in some form in six months’ time after graduating? We can honestly say on the most part yes! This piece comes at a timely point as our university tries, as best it can, to offer a virtual Decision Day (a day where prospective students who have chosen us as one of the universities on UCAS come to make that final decision). If the beautiful campus, just outside the historic walls of York doesn’t swing it, we at YSJ Music Production hope that our course’s honesty and practical approach will. On this website (soundoutput.co.uk) you’ll find lots of examples of the attributes our course, and mostly our students or graduates offer. The predominate skill I’m referring to here though, and one we champion above most others, is of course transferrable skills.
As Decision Day equivalents move online for many institutions around the UK and perhaps the world too, it has got colleagues considering what they really offer and why. I can honestly say, that in these ‘unprecedented’ times, our students and graduates, I hope, are best placed to make the most of the imposed conditions. The students I’ve connected with whilst in lockdown have, where necessary, overcome the odds with whatever equipment they have available to them at home, on even ageing Windows 7 computers, to load some software up and use their transferrable skills to make things work. Overcoming odds to continue to be creative in these times. Their approach to the changing conditions has been nothing but proactive and professional and they’re a credit to themselves (and selfishly to our course and university).
It is difficult in these current times to be related to music in some form or another. The amount of musicians and engineers who work in an almost purely self-employed manner have not only had to wait a week longer than the rest of the furloughed population to find out that their mortgage might have a chance to be paid this month, but then again, there are so many dissections to the way in which they get paid, and how their tax returns might work, I feel for them. It is so often overlooked that the music industry, as part of the creative sector brings in well over £100 billion per year (we crossed that line in 2017 – see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/britains-creative-industries-break-the-100-billion-barrier). Music is a big part of that, and as such our students have busy, and bright futures.
In order to take advantage of that, in normal times, they become freelancers and business creators. We have long recognised this for years and as such have woven business and freelance professional skills into the fabric of the course. Students so often are encouraged to create their businesses during their course (and to continue them). For some examples please see https://www.commuterfilms.co.uk , http://mantalitymagazine.com , https://www.heavyloveclothing.com/#! for just three. Please note now none of these are music businesses! Is this wrong? No, this just evidences the innovation, creativity and business acumen of those involved, and what lies behind their various stages of success – their transferrable skills!