BMus (Hons), 2009
From Aberdeen to Award-Winning Composer
Your Time at Aberdeen
Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
At that time, the Music Bmus degree also combined teaching, which at that stage is what I thought I would pursue.
Why did you choose your particular course?
I always loved music from a young age, and Aberdeen was the only Scottish university where you could combine it with a teaching degree which felt like the right direction for me. However it soon became apparent that the more I studied composition and performing, the more I was keen to develop those skills, so in my second year I switched to a major in Composition and Piano performance.
What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I loved studying music and performing in many different ensembles, from choral societies to musical theatre. Living near the sea made for a beautiful surrounding and I spent many mornings running along the beach soaking up inspiration to write. Some of my highlights were singing in the Gilbert and Sullivan Productions at the Arts Centre.
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 encouraged to take up a different sport to keep my hands injury free for the piano. I soon discovered my love for running and swimming which were both great ways to switch off from a long day of study. I was very 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 great 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?
Make the most of being by the sea. Balmedie beach was one of my favourite places to escape the busy days of study. Societies are also 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?
I worked as a Piano Teacher and an Usher in Riverside TV Studios.
What did your first role involve?
After graduating from my master’s degree in London, I began teaching piano privately around Southwest London, alongside working part-time at a TV Studios.
What is your current job title?
Head of Classical Music at HTB London and Freelance Composer.
What is your current role?
I am currently working full time as a Composer having just released my debut album ‘Love Illuminates’ with Regent Records label, and writing several commissions for choirs across UK, Europe and America, with music published by Universal Edition. I also work one day a week for Holy Trinity Brompton church where I Direct the Classical Music for their special services.
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 it allowed to be inspired by a variety of theatre/stage work, films, TV shows and meet some interesting people. Meanwhile, I was also developing as a composer and taking local choir commissions.
I then moved to work in music publishing; arranging and assisting in orchestration. It was there that I was commissioned to write music to underscore a Theatrical production at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2018 I moved to work for Holy Trinity Brompton Church Directing their Classical Music where I currently work 1 day a week alongside full time Composing.
I have had the chance to write music and work with many musicians across London, Europe and America including; BBC Singers, London Symphony Chorus, Orchestra as well as performances on BBC Radio 3, Scala Radio and BBC Scotland’s Classical Now.
In 2023 I was grateful to be commissioned by His Majesty, King Charles III for his Honours of Scotland service at St Giles Cathedral as a tribute to Her Majesty, Queen Camilla which aired live on BBC 1 and BBC Radio 3.
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 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 and I am so thankful to have had such an encouraging tutor like Paul.
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 official website.