JAMES | Graduate Success James Prosser


James studied his Undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Wolverhampton and now works in the UK and Italy as a freelance recording engineer and also as a Visiting Lecturer at Wolverhampton.

What degree course did you study at Wolverhampton and what were the factors that made you choose that one in particular? And why continue on to a Master's degree?
In 2012 I graduated from the Sound Production (top-up) BA course. Prior to that I had completed a foundation degree course at the City of Wolverhampton College in conjunction with the University of Wolverhampton. The reasons as to why I chose this particular course (BA in Sound Production) was because of my interest in music and music technology. I had been playing both guitar and drums in bands for a few years and I had gained experience in the industry by working as a freelance audio technician.
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One example of this was when I was working as an apprentice technician for the City of Wolverhampton College between 2009 and 2011. Whilst there I gained professional industry knowledge of working in both live and studio based environments. I also got the chance to record a demo with One Direction's Liam Payne and roadie for a number of artists including Dweezil Zappa. After completing my undergraduate degree, I decided to pursue a career in teaching and began a two year PGCE course in Further and Higher Education. However, after the first year I decided to move abroad and work as a studio assistant in Chianti Italy. Whilst there I had the chance work with a wide variety of professional working musicians from Italy and around Europe.

In 2014 I was approached by my professor in Music Tech, Dr. Mathew Dalgleish, to undertake a MSc course in Audio Production. At the time, I wanted to gain more knowledge and a deeper understanding of the practice and undertake a research project in the field of audio production so I took the opportunity to move back to the UK and undertake the two year MSc course. During the course I had many opportunities to explore ideas and research into the field of audio technology in more depth. I also developed a guitar weather station that senses changes in current weather conditions and alters the tonality of a guitar based on those changes. This was then used as part of a sensory garden for SEN students at a local school in Wolverhampton. During the course I also had the chance to attend a series of events such as the Sines & Squares festival in Manchester (where I got to present a publication) and perform as part of a unique Laptop Ensemble.

Prior to university, did you have any experience in audio/music?
In 2002 at the age of thirteen, I lived on the island of Tenerife. I had my first experience in music performance with my guitar teacher Dave Dean and he would get me on stage at a local venue to perform in front of tourists on a regular basis. When I returned to the UK in 2005 I got myself involved in bands and performed locally. I also gained 'real world' experience through working with a variety of production companies such as Zip Rock School and I voluntarily helped run live events for the Kings C.E School in Tetenhall, Wolverhampton. In 2006 I attended a BTEC course in Music Technology at the City of Wolverhampton College. Whilst there I also worked part-time at a local music venue in the city as a Live Sound Engineer. My roles included setting up the sound reinforcement for gigs, stage management, running the sound and lighting rigs and assisting the promoters. During this time I also voluntarily worked in a local music shop and gave private guitar and drum tuition.

When you started the degree course, did you have a firm idea of what sector of the audio industry you wanted to work in? And did that change as the course progressed and as new possibilities were presented?
When I started my degree, I had already gained some experience in the local industry. However, my perceptions were soon changed when I was given the opportunity to attend the University of Wolverhampton. The level of professionalism and wealth of experience that came from teaching staff, support staff and external visitors enabled me to gain further knowledge of the industry. Prior to the course I had never imagined that I would even attend university, let alone get the grades that I had achieved during my course. The university completely changed my view on how the creative industry works and opened up a whole new world of possibilities. From doing the course I also had the opportunity to travel abroad and work for a professional recording studio in Italy.

Before graduation, I'm sure you were aware that there could be a distinct possibility of working as a freelancer. How did you prepare for this?
One valuable bit of knowledge that I gained from the course was how to work and survive in the industry. You can't just get a degree and walk straight into a job, you have to make your own work and learn how to adapt yourself professionally. The industry is constantly changing and I had learned during my course that you must be able to keep an open mind and work across a wide variety of subjects within the creative arts.

Throughout your course did you become involved in any external audio/music activities that weren't initiated by the university?
As previously mentioned, I had the opportunity to work as an assistant engineer for a professional recording studio in Florence called Cantine Di Baida. Cantine Di Baida is situated on the grounds of a 10th century castle situated in the hills of the Chianti country side. My time in Italy taught me valuable life lessons and it gave me the opportunity to put in practice what I had learned from my course at the University of Wolverhampton. During this time, I worked with a wide variety of practitioners, some of whom have achieved a high level of status in the country and have become very successful, including Renzo Rubino, Alessandro Fabbri, Davide Esposito and Annalisa Scarrone. I also gained experience working as a freelance live engineer for two live events companies in the city of Florence. As a live events engineer I had the opportunity to work on a variety of events including the Festival of Europe and even a series of celebrity weddings. On occasion I also worked in video production, photography and even a tour guide for the 10th century castle where the music studio is located.

Attitude, in life is important. Any tips on how to survive a three year degree course and into the subsequent years?
My only advice would be to get involved with as many different activities and projects as you can. Attending classes and doing assessments is only one part of many when going to university. Networking and making the most out of your short time there is vital for progression into the 'real' world. The creative industry is made up of a variety of people from all different backgrounds so it is important to learn essential life skills, such as communication and professional conduct before you begin. Try working with people outside of your comfort zone and even across different departments. As I previously mentioned, you can't simply walk out of university with a degree and walk straight into a job, you have to make it work by yourself.

Any general advice that you would offer to a prospective student or one that has just begun a degree?
As I have previously mentioned, going to classes is only one small part of going to university. I normally say to peers and new students that if you're going to university full-time then you should treat it like a full-time job. Just because your timetable only says 9 hours a week doesn't mean you should dedicate 9 hours a week to the course. Use your time wisely because believe me, it will fly past! Also, the best coffee on campus is in the performance hub.

Any advice or tips you could offer those currently looking for employment?
Don't be scared to try something new. Don't give up when times are hard and remember, it's not always about who you know, but it's what you know to get to who you need to know. Study, volunteer, put yourself out there because it is extremely difficult to get anywhere from the comfort of your bedroom.

The creative industry is very competitive. So how do you make it? Unfortunately i'm still trying to figure that one out and although i've never wished for fame and fortune, doing something I love on a daily basis is more than I could have ever imagined and just by arriving at that point for me, is success.

Now you have a Master's Degree, what does the future hold?
I still continue to work in both the UK and in Italy as a freelance audio engineer and work for the University of Wolverhampton as a Visiting Lecturer. However, my current plan is to get myself in a stable academic position where I will be able to research into the field of music technology in more depth. Once I have found myself in a permanent role, I wish to undertake a PhD that will focus on new technologies that can be developed to aid in the educational process of SEN students. I have often found that students with special educational needs can sometimes struggle with certain technologies. In the past I have worked with a number of students who have expressed difficulties when it comes to operating certain equipment. Developing new teaching methods and productions tools for students is an area of research that I am very interested in pursuing.

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