Cultural sector partner:
University of Chester, Philip Barker Centre for Creative Learning; Popular Music and Performance
Induction into higher education, the entry point for students to university life, is considered an an important landmark in the student experience and one that can impact on continuation, retention and academic success. In recognition of this, the Popular Music and Performance programme team decided to refresh the format and content of their induction process in 2022 to include more applied music making practice. Once the structure of the induction was agreed by the programme team, the collaboration between the programme staff, Philip Barker Centre and TiPP began to co-design the delivery process and induction content.
Popular Music and Performance is a practical programme that enables students to develop the creative and critical skills needed to work in the music industry. The programme team wanted to take the opportunity that an extended induction process offered to introduce new students to applied practice and a range of careers in music from the very beginning of the programme. Previously, induction had a focus on covering existing music but incorporating a practical and creative process to make new music aligned with the programme ethos and set the expectation of active, experiential learning at the centre of their Chester experience. Through this collaboration, the three partners aimed to:
- Introduce applied music practice to new first year students through experiential learning processes;
- Develop relationships between, and sense of belonging in, new first year students;
- Raise student awareness of employability routes in the music industry beyond performing on stage;
- Increase staff understanding of student aspiration and expectations.
The basis for the induction project was TiPP’s Rock Up, a creative project for young people engaging with youth justice services in England’s North West. Students mirrored the creative process of Rock Up, splitting into bands and making new music alongside experienced TiPP artists over the course of eight workshops. As a part of the making process, students explored Rock Up as a project and the routes into a portfolio music career, connecting with the music industry. At the culmination of the project the groups performed their new music to each other at a special event. Basing induction in the Rock Up project enabled students to learn about applied practice and career options through applied practice. Furthermore, shifting the induction emphasis from information giving to relational and creative experiences provided spaces for the students to form relationships with each other in the context of their subject interest. It also provided an opportunity for the programme staff to learn about the new students and vice versa.
Feedback from staff and students across the four weeks of the creative process centred around thoughts about Making music and Developing relationships.
Students regularly commented in their feedback about developing their skills in how to create new music. Comments were split between developing composition and performing skills. Feedback about composing featured reflections such as “I’ve learned to create music with people I don’t know” as well as more general reflections about learning song writing skills. Lyric writing and development were also a feature of the feedback from students, with transformational comments such as “I’ve learned that it’s not impossible to write lyrics” and “I’ve learned that writing random phrases can create a song”. Students also mentioned that their experiences developed their performing skills with comments such as “I learned how to be a better performer” and “I learnt about many tips for a great performance” as well as “I loved working in the bands and performing to each other” and “I learned how to get rid of my ‘can’t’ mindset”. Overall, performing related comments were less common, which suggests that the development of composition skills had the most impact on students in their making of new music. The feedback also suggests that the Rock Up process provided an accessible way into making music for the group members who had no prior social connection.
Students regularly highlighted that the process of creating new music together with TiPP had an impact on developing relationships. Thoughts ranged from social skills more generally, such as “I learned how to socialize” and “I learned how to communicate with my peers” to more specific feedback about developing their relationships within the group, such as “I learnt about my colleagues” and “I loved meeting people that I wouldn’t normally speak to.” Most commonly, student feedback highlighted that the process had enabled them to “get to know everyone on the course” with one person commenting that they “loved the feeling of being accepted and liked.”
The staff team involved in the project also highlighted the relational benefits of a creative music making induction process. Staff felt that there was more mixing across the students from different courses compared to the usual induction process and that peer networks emerged through the music making with TiPP. Staff also felt that they had developed relationships with students and “learnt more about students as people more immediately” as a result of the induction process. The staff team thought that this may have been due to the ways in which the creative space was curated enabling students to “become a safe space for people to share themselves on their own terms.” Learning in isolation during Covid had impacted upon these students more than expected and collaborative music making was new to many. Working in a safe space was an important part of engaging students who had two years of little social interaction. This sense of a safe space was also felt to have developed a sense of belonging in the students, which supported them to develop an ownership of their building and university spaces.
By contextualising this initial induction process in the practical nature of the Popular Music and Performance course by making new music the partnership was able to both engage the students and meet the project aims. The participatory nature of the Rock Up process and the relational focus of early participatory arts project moments were key in enabling students to develop peer support networks, relationships with each other and social capital at a crucial time in the student experience. Students simultaneously developed relationships and subject related skills in the context of and through the interest that had driven their enrolment into higher education; creating and performing music. The relational elements of participatory arts practice also provided opportunities for the staff team to begin forging relationships with the new students away from the usual student: lecturer power dynamics. Students were also able to directly connect to industry through the involvement of TiPP practitioners, who shared elements of their career progression and raised awareness of their routes into employment through the four-week making process. Whilst this may appear a series of one-way benefits towards the university, TiPP were also able to begin relationships with students. These relationships have the potential to sustain from induction through the degree programme via placement opportunities with TiPP. As TiPP seek to support and grow a regional workforce with the musical and relational skills required to practice in the field, some of the students involved in this induction project, once graduated, may find employment opportunities with TiPP.Back to Case Studies