Why I choose to study Musicology - MMus
After taking a break from academia and working in the music industry as a performer and executive, I decided to return to my studies and pursue a Master of Music in Musicology degree. I wanted to improve my understanding of the significance and impact of rock and popular music in human culture. I chose to study at Edinburgh College of Art for the same three reasons as many students: the outstanding reputation, the stellar curriculum, and how cool the city looked in Trainspotting. Jokes aside, I wanted to immerse myself in a vibrant research culture and be taught by individuals with varied field interests, including those aligned with my own. I sought comprehensive instruction and to experience the educational methodology of a university that offered worldwide recognition yet catered to individualism and diversity. Additionally, I deemed it essential to study at an institution that contributes to a thriving local and international music and arts scene, one that would allow me the chance to be both a spectator and participator. ECA checked all of these boxes and more. The school’s capital city location, offering potential professional advantages and personal growth opportunities, only made it that much more enticing as a destination.
My time at ECA
The MMus in Musicology programme gives students the freedom to study their interests while introducing them to various approaches for learning. The compulsory courses and an elective I picked from seemingly countless options were fascinating in content and scope. Although, back in a scholastic environment, I quickly discovered that, at times, my learning curve was comparable to a hike of Arthur’s Seat … in the rain … with a piano on my back. Fortunately for me, the University staff were thoughtful and supportive at every step in my journey. For instance, at a Reid School of Music welcome event at the beginning of the year, a professor offered kind words of reassurance, bolstering me for the upcoming semester and beyond. The talented and hard-working fellow students in the programme, whom I have no doubt will go on to make significant contributions in their respective disciplines, encouraged me as well.
My objectives in matriculating at ECA included broadening my educational skillset, increasing my musical understanding, and gaining knowledge applicable to my career. I met and exceeded these ambitions with guidance and inspiration from the academic staff, notably Dr Morag Grant, Dr Elaine Kelly, and Dr Marian Jago, my supervisor, who advised me on my individual research project, dissertation, and coursework. The combination of one-on-one supervision and small lectures, along with a seat at the weekly music research seminars, made for an ideal learning environment.
Regarding my time at Edinburgh, my only regret, characterising it as such, is that there wasn’t enough time for me to take advantage of all the exciting opportunities available to students. Still, I did find time to do things like visiting the musical instrument collection at St Cecilia’s Hall and the “Conectando: Scottish Encounters with Spanish and Portuguese” exhibition at the Main Library. I also took viol lessons offered by the school and feel fortunate to have utilised the nearby National Library of Scotland for my research on rock music in the United Kingdom.
My experiences since graduating
Sitting in McEwan Hall at my graduation, I felt a sense of sadness mixed with accomplishment and pride: sadness for how I would miss the experience; accomplishment for having worked as diligently as I could throughout it; and pride for having delivered the closing speech as Student Orator at the graduation ceremony, streamed live to give friends and family who could not be there, such as mine, the chance to enjoy the event.
The MMus programme accelerated the development of my music research skills and helped to refine my writing capabilities. Through my course assignments, I discovered methods to solve complex problems and gained critical-thinking expertise. I learned time management techniques and new ways to take on seemingly overwhelming projects (such as lengthy written assignments or oral presentations) by breaking them down into smaller, more easily manageable tasks. Having participated in the programme, I feel infinitely more qualified and capable of pursuing my interests in greater depth. Moving forward, I intend to build on my experience and continue my studies.
Since being awarded my degree, I have been a guest speaker on music business topics, and universities have accepted my work for presentations in their music symposiums. Also, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), an organisation promoting inquiry, scholarship, and analysis in the area of popular music, has selected me to be a representative on its Social Media Committee. I am confident that my experience and the abilities I acquired at ECA have and will continue to contribute to my achievements as I strive to represent the institution as a proud alumnus.
My advice to new and current students
My advice to those entering their first year and those graduating is the same: practice patience. As you strive to reach your goals, were you to fall short on your first, second, or fiftieth try, that would be okay. It took Freddie Mercury about seven years to complete “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Yet, it took him no more than ten minutes to write “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” ... in the bath, I might add. The lesson here is things will take as long as they take, but also, in the meantime, do try and make yourself as comfortable as possible!