- 19 Jan 19
While all around you are losing their cool, it pays to maintain yours. If you have a passion for music, why not give yourself the opportunity to take it to the limit? By Rob McDonagh
The Leaving Cert was daunting enough. But making choices about my future? That seemed near impossible. When it came to CAO time, I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to do. While everybody else in school was talking about I.T. and PhDs, I could only think about music.
I’ll never forget the day when I was brought into the school career guidance office. They showed me seemingly endless lists of courses I could apply to – but try as I might I couldn’t find anything I liked. There were subjects I really enjoyed doing in school, like History and Art, but I knew I didn’t want a career in them. However, many of the music courses they showed me involved a strong understanding of music theory, of which I knew nothing. I just wanted to play music.
I found what I wanted to do in Ballyfermot College of Further Education (BCFE): a two year-long Higher National Diploma (HND) in Contemporary Music Performance course, otherwise known as “Rock School”. Rock School is a great opportunity to really dive into the craft of making and performing music. I learned how to play in a band, write songs and hone my playing ability. I learned how to record and produce music, write music theory and advance my skill level at Guitar. Other students, meanwhile, developed their skills on their chosen instrument preferences, including Bass, Drums and, of course, Vocals. It has all the ingredients of a band incubation facility. The college also has a great stage, where several Rock School gigs take place throughout the year.
I loved my time in Rock School. I came out of it a far better musician and songwriter. This course was far more suited to me than all of the other options that were being suggested, as it let me build on what I already knew, rather than having to meet a certain musicianship standard that wasn’t relevant to me. It was one of the best things I have ever done!
After the two years in Rock School, I decided I wanted to know even more about how the music industry works. I wanted to get into the business side. For those looking to get into the business end of music, such as artist management, events promotion and organisation etc, BCFE also has a HND course in Music and Event Management. I am currently in the second year of this two-year course. I’ve learned about a wide variety of aspects of the music industry: how to organise gigs, make licencing agreements, understand music copyrights and deal with music artists are all important skills that someone in the music industry needs if they want to get ahead.
You don’t have to be a musician to do this course: anybody with business sense and a passion for music can enter into this aspect of music. This course has given me a head start at managing my career as a music artist, and is something I am very glad I’ve done.
There have been some important things I’ve learned about college which I feel are likely universal to other institutions and courses. Once I got into college, the Leaving Cert became irrelevant. People don’t care about what your Leaving Cert says, whether it’s good or bad. They only care about what effort you put into the work you have to do. College is about what you are capable of doing, not what a piece of paper says your capable of doing.
The environment is not like school, everybody comes from different backgrounds, with different motives and different interests. Certainly in Ballyfermot, and I assume most colleges are the same, everybody is generally accepting of one another, and you can genuinely be yourself. You’ll make friends with people you would otherwise not likely meet.
College is a lot of work. You will need to be committed to learn, and driven to do well to get the full value out of the courses. You will need to take the initiative to go further – just as you will, once you get out into the working world. But your time in college can also be a lot of fun. You’ll make friends and create great memories that will stick with you for the rest of your life. By the end you will know much more about your subject, but you will also know much more about yourself.
The CAO is not the be-all and end-all, whatever it is you choose to do. Whether it’s music or something else that inspires you, it’s important, I believe, to follow your heart, to do what you love, and everything will work out fine.
Good luck with that pesky form!