BMus (Hons), 2009
From Aberdeen to Award-Winning Composer
Your Time at Aberdeen
Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
My brother had studied at Aberdeen University and loved it! The music degree there also combined teaching, which at that stage is what I thought I would do.
Why did you choose your particular course?
I always loved music and initially wanted to be a music teacher, so chose Aberdeen because you could combine the teaching degree with music. However the more I learnt about composition and performing, the more I just wanted to keep learning and developing those skills, so I switched to pure music.
What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I loved studying music, not only performing, composing in many different styles, but also doing some musical theatre on stage too which was great fun! I also loved living near the sea - I spent so many mornings running along the beach with my flat mates and grabbing great coffee afterwards! Some of my best experiences were being part of the Christian union where my faith really grew and I made some amazing lifelong friends.
If you were involved in any clubs and societies as a student, what did you enjoy most about them and what benefit do you think they have for students?
Despite joining the volleyball team, I injured my thumb quite early on and was soon told to take up a different sport to keep my hands injury free for the piano - probably wise! Instead I discovered my love for running! I was also involved in the Gilbert and Sullivan Society and Christian Union during my years in Aberdeen. Both societies were great fun, a chance to develop as a person, and a place to meet lifelong friends.
Did you hold any student leadership roles?
I was treasurer for the Gilbert and Sullivan Society and Vice-President of the Christian Union.
If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Definitely make the most of the surrounding beaches - Balmedie beach was my favourite place to escape the busyness of studies. Also join a society or two - it's a great way to meet friends with similar passions.
Your Time After Aberdeen
What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
There were two - Piano Teacher and TV Studio Usher.
What did your first role involve?
After graduating from my masters, I began my freelance work as a private piano teacher, teaching various levels around South West London. I also got a part-time job at Riverside TV Studios in Hammersmith, which involved anything from working on reception, ushering people into TV studio audiences and managing the box office. It was great fun!
What is your current job title?
Classical Music Ministry Assistant at HTB Queen's Gate, Kensington, and Freelance Composer.
Who is your current employer?
What is your current role?
I assist the pastors at HTB QG for planning Sunday services and special services looking after the classical music which involves a chamber choir, instrumentalists and singers.
What is your current location?
Describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
After graduating I started working as a freelance piano teacher and got a job at a TV studio which was great fun and and I was able to see a variety of theatre/stage work, films, TV shows and meet some interesting people. I then took a job as a PA to a TV Director which involved being more hands on in production and gaining some skills working as a music script supervisor on some big arena shows. Meanwhile, I was also working part time as a composer on some small local choir commissions.
Keen to improve my orchestrating skills, I then moved into music publishing and worked as an editor alongside my composing which was a great experience arranging and assisting in orchestrating.
As my commissions began to grow I then decided to work a little more hands on for my local church, HTB Kensington, developing their classical music ministry and writing some arrangements for their orchestra/choir too. At the moment I love the balance of working with a small team creating interesting services whilst working at home on several commissions and also now with my publishers at Universal Editions.
Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
Yes, definitely! I always wanted to be a film and TV composer, and still love the chance to write film score type music for events/theatre, but in my final year I got to work closely with Paul Mealor, who opened my eyes to the world of choral music, and I never looked back since. I love writing for choirs!
One Top Tip
Never give up on your dreams - everyone's path looks different, but focus on your own goals and aim to do what you love!
Find out more about Joanna and her work at her offical website.