Coming to the end of my Bachelor of Music degree at Queensland University of Technology, I’ve been thinking about what I could offer to the future students that are about to encounter their three-year stint. This should be applicable for anyone suffering studying a Creative Industries/Arts degree, even those that have graduated can look at this and exclaim “YEAH, I DID THAT!”.
The next three years are going to be a hell of an emotional rollercoaster of identity crisis’ and teenage drama. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun growing up with a cohort going through the same experience. Embrace that. There’s a great chance you won’t know anybody participating in the same degree but that’s okay. That’s a lot of new people to meet and connect with.
Carry a Lighter.
Don’t smoke? Doesn’t matter. You’re going to find that the first segregation of your cohort is going to be split up by their choice of vices. Having a lighter on you when asked for one will guarantee you a conversation the length of a cigarette. Welcome to networking. That one works outside in “the real world” as well. Coffee is also a big motivator and avenue for getting to know your friends for the next three years. “Cigarettes and Coffee? Now that’s a combination!”
Learn where the library is- Embrace it.
I found out about how resourceful the library a little bit too late in the game (second year but only ventured to the top floor in my final year). Scan the CD collection. They update it regularly. You may or may not ever have to buy another CD during your tertiary years. Be aware, there is a severe lack of Minor Threat, Black Flag and Fugazi (Yes, I am judging you, QUT. It’s not like Dischord or SST is expensive. Your FOUR COPIES of WOLFMOTHER are getting dusty, by the way). The degree doesn’t have “Required Readings” but I lay this down to laziness. If not “required readings” at least have suggested readings before the start of term to know what we’re in for. If you’re on Centrelink’s Youth Allowance, you get a $1000 per semester because you’re studying; make it worthwhile. The following books were my bibles through the degree.
This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitan
Hey Nietzsche, Leave Them Kids Alone by Craig Schuftan
Entertain Us by Craig Schuftan
Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige
Music Business by Shane Simpson
Pig City by Andrew Stafford
My Grammar and I by Caroline Taggart
Musically you will need anything by
Queen (every subject will ask you to analyse Bohemian Rhapsody in some capacity. EVERY, DAMN, SUBJECT)
Nirvana (can’t see why you’d complain about listening to one of the most popular bands of youth rebellion but Kurt’s Songwriting and Martyrdom, Dave’s passion and Vig’s Production on Nevermind will all be brought up in your classes. You’ll also analyse Kurt’s relationships and connections with Hole, Bikini Kill and the Riot Grrrl Movement),
Wu Tang Clan (for parties and hip-hop perspectives on subculture, empowerment and substance use) and
a decent set of headphones. THIS IS A NECESSITY. DON’T CHEAP OUT. I’ve used a pair of Sennheiser HD 202 that I purchased for about $60 for the last year and they’re more than capable of anything you’ll encounter in your degree.
Know your town and genre inside and out. If not your genre, know yourself. –
This degree will have you doing a lot of self-analysis. Become okay with this now otherwise you’re going to spend a large percentage of time having an identity crisis as opposed to doing the actual assessment. Connect your musical practice with something exterior to music, be it political thought, art works, lifestyle choices, philosophies, animals; anything that escapes you babbling on about how much you like… I dunno, Fleet Foxes and how someone broke your heart. You can do this outside of University and still make a killing but for the purpose of attaining sevens (high distinctions), academic credibility and topical depth; attach yourself to something more than yourself. Having a complete understanding of your chosen genre’s origins and ties is quite valuable in this instance. It means you know what’s been attempted before, what’s succeeded, what’s been an interesting failure. Make your own interesting failures. Segue….
Let your freak flag fucking fly.
For the first two years of your degree, experiment with as many different styles and instruments as you want. Appropriate as much as you want, imitate people in your own style, keep doing your own thing. Cover things if you’d like but keep it central to who you are. Risk. Risk it all, pride, integrity, the $4 in your back pocket you were saving for the guild bar later. This process is going to be the foundations for your final year. Your final year is your final showcase. Impress them with how much you can do. Never be boring, God kills us when we become so (Thanks, Palahniuk). University is not to find yourself, it’s not that simple; it’s there to create yourself.
Motivation. Educate Yourself.
Come third year, the lecturers become busy with the younger years and their own Masters/PhDs theses. By this point, you’ll have the tools on how to research and (hopefully) what the lecturers are interested in. There’s no account for what they’re actually looking for unless they put it in writing via blackboard or a criteria sheet. This is where you need to get wise. Email them, arrange meetings, and ask them questions. These are your grades. This is your HECs bill. Don’t let your lack of motivation and their (in)availability stop you from reaching your full potential.
I’m with Daisy Lola on this one. Drink this all the time. Hydrate yourself.
As a musician, you’re going to be stereotypically viewed as a part time alcoholic. Have the confidence of going out drinking and not waking up with a hangover strong enough to kill Sinatra. Speaking of Daisy…
Immerse yourself in society. Both Virtual and IRL.
You no doubt have a Facebook. Get a Tumblr. Get a Twitter. Trawl through all the Tom Hiddleston and whingy white people on both respectively. Follow whatever or whoever you want, they’ll post some quote-gold that will spark some sense of belonging or the next resource for your essay. These sites also function as your diary. Reblog things. Write your own sentiments and vents. You can look back on these later in life. Remember MySpace? I dare you to look back at yours now and not laugh. If I need to tell you how to go out every once and a while to enjoy yourself, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Email me and we can hit the Valley or Junk Bar and I’ll introduce you to some people that can.
Get out of your head.
I’m probably more anxious than most but it’s healthy to just let go of your inhibitions. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to do this but it doesn’t matter. Run. Swim. Scream. Drink. Fuck. Get some blood into your body instead of your head.
Not a necessity but an experience and freedom that you’ll have to fulfill eventually, might as well do it now. Get a job, work at it, save the money and live off your own back. The places I’ve seen my friends move into have been beautiful, old Queenslanders. Have people you can perform your new stuff to before playing at Uni. Have house parties. Have house shows. Hell, have your showcase as a houseshow. I wish I’d thought of it before I arranged this…
hope this has been helpful.