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Volunteering: How our Music alumni are helping to enhance student development and wellbeing

Carly Bryant - Songwriting and Creativity Workshop

Alumni volunteering offers a wonderful opportunity for our graduate community to share their knowledge, skills and experiences with our current students. Whether it’s through mentoring, subject-specific industry talks or contributing a profile, each makes a valuable and lasting impact. We’re shining a spotlight on our Music department, whose alumni have been volunteering their time and expertise in delivering development and wellbeing sessions for their undergraduates.

Musicians in general are trained to be creative, communicators, problem-solvers and team players. An integral element to the Music BA course at Brunel involves personal development, and the Music team have taken care to extend this, fostering skills in leadership, entrepreneurship, technology and ever-increasingly, wellbeing.

As the leader for the Professional Development modules for first and second year students, our Senior Lecturer in Music, Colin Riley, has built a nurturing arc over the past two years with students sharing skills, producing their own live events, making online teaching videos, curating work on dedicated personal websites and experiencing short work placements. Woven into the modules are a valuable series of talks and workshops from industry professionals, which are often delivered by members of our Music alumni community.

“This past year has seen a strong focus on wellbeing and empathy; aspects that are vital to a flourishing musician and qualities that we ever-increasingly are realising are fundamental components of our society,” said Colin.

“Hearing stories from previous students adds a layer of comfort and, rather than being worried, I am now excited to explore life after university.” Guy Mannion: BA Music, level 3 student

“Staff and ex-students generally keep in touch with each other after graduating as the world of music is not that big. Because of relatively small numbers and the nature of our ‘student-led’ degree programme, our alumni often work alongside staff and like to keep us informed about their creative endeavours in the years following graduation.”

What volunteering means to our alumni

Magdalena Gabriah - Performance Anxiety Workshop

Volunteering means a lot to our alumni - Angus Havers, now a composer and session musician, added: “Having studied Music at Brunel, and during that time having been inspired by external speakers, I felt it was important for me to do the same and give back the skills, knowledge and experience that I have learnt since graduating.”

Sessions from our Music alumni over the last academic year have included: Angus Havers (class of 2000), Working in Music and Film; Finnola D’Albert (class of 2009), Online Music Journalism and Studio Production; Toby Hanton (class of 2014), Venue Management and Artistic Programming; Emily Kezia Green (class of 2017), Teaching in Primary Schools and Musical Wellbeing; Carly Bryant (class of 2004), Song Writing and Creativity; Magdalena Gabriah (class of 2008), Strategies to Managing Performance Anxiety; and Tiffany Berton (class of 2002), A Therapeutic Approach to Singing.

“Sharing a room with [alumni] professionals made me see the future me and plan ahead of what I really want to when I graduate. These sessions inspired us to believe that everything is possible.” Ines Silva: BA Music, level 2 student

Tiffany Berton, currently a full-time singer-songwriter and vocal coach, said: “I felt very privileged to be able to talk to students about my experience, both at Brunel and after. I teach ‘wellness through singing’ and I loved the idea of being able to show students there is so much more to singing than just the performance side.”

Magdalena Gabriah, founder and owner of the Forte Training Company and Ascot Music School and bestselling author, added: “I was pleasantly surprised with how much focus Brunel had been placing on the wellbeing of their students, enabling them to look at their education and performance skills in a very holistic, all embracing but also individual way.” Graduate Emily-Keziah Green, now a musician and teacher, also explained:When I was a student at Brunel, I learnt a lot from the alumni regarding what the industry is like for someone who had just graduated. It was an incredible experience to come and do the same thing for current students.”

The collaborative benefits of volunteering

Tiffany Berton - Therapeutic Singing WorkshopThis bond has been further strengthened over the last two years with the formation of two initiatives; the annual live music event - ‘Played in Brunel’ - at legendary music venue, The Half Moon in Putney, and featuring performances from students old and new; and the Brunel Music Mentor Scheme - an orbit of 12 professionals from all corners of the music world. Both have naturally drawn from our illustrious and supportive alumni community.

There are huge benefits to alumni speaking to students beyond the content of the session itself. It provides a strong validation for careers in the subject and a vital connection to outside networks. “It is in the Q&A at end when you can see just how important this link is,” said Colin. “Students often have anxiety around their future careers and their choice of course and these types of close association with professionals helps to provide a reassurance and inspiration.”

“I find it especially beneficial and encouraging when alumni revisit the university to talk about their careers and achievements. It acts as a great stimulus when studying to achieve similar accomplishments. Now, when thinking about my future after graduating, I am excited and inspired rather than worried and concerned.” Laura Hodges - BA Music, level 3 student

In what have been difficult times of isolation, we can clearly see the need for creativity, teamwork, empathy, wellbeing, use of technology and communication. Not to mention, of course, the value of music itself.

Keen to volunteer your time and expertise?

Read more about guiding our students or email the team at alumni@brunel.ac.uk to find out about our volunteering opportunities.

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