Composition - MA
After completing an undergraduate degree at his local university, Joel was unsure what his next step would be and despite working in education for a short while, the graduate was keen to create and do something more. Joel joined the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and since graduating with an MA, his career has gone from strength to strength, from creating magical musical books, hosting large-scale immersive events and continuing to compose and perform.
“I studied music whilst in school and knew I wanted to be a musician, but had absolutely no idea about how to do it. So I picked a music course close to where I live in Nottingham and did an undergraduate degree. But when I left, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I initially started working in a music store and playing piano in a local restaurant. Then, I set up my own music service. I bought four keyboards and I called every single school in the area and one said 'yes, please come in and teach the pupils'. Soon, I managed to grow it and a team of other musicians would join me to teach students too.
But I still really liked the idea of creating and knew I needed to do something more. So I started looking into returning to university and attending a conservatoire. I loved musicals and commercial music, and so the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire really stood out to me. I went along to talk to them about my aspirations and they were really excited by it. But the best thing about BCU, for me, was that there are so many departments and things you can get involved with. I just knew it was for me.
Since graduating, I have had four main things that I have focused on. Most recently, I created the UK’s first ‘musical in a book’, aiming to inspire young people and families about the beauty of our planet and how we can help to look after it. Since working on the book, I have connected with other organisations to create more musicals in books, including educating young people about space, climate change and more.
A huge part of my working life is ‘Stream Park’, an interactive digital events platform partnered with the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham, Live Cinema UK and Oxfam GB. We are currently undertaking funded research and hosting immersive events for national organisations, recognised theatres, and communities.
I created Stream Park in 2020 to enable events to take place online at immersive and accessible virtual parks, venues and worlds. This started with UPLOAD Virtual Festival, a benefit arts festival which I directed, hosted by BBC Radio Nottingham. Stream Park has since successfully hosted numerous events including a National Woodland Trust festival and Inspired Christmas Concert with Inspire: Culture Learning and Libraries.
I also work as a Composer, and I am currently writing a musical for Lichfield Garrick Theatre, which will be staged in 2022. I’ve written lots of shows, including online musicals ‘The Big Red Rock’. I’m also working with Coventry Belgrade Theatre as part of celebrations for Coventry's City of Culture.
Alongside these, I also do some performance, and work alongside Inspire Culture, Learning and Libraries as an educator in innovation and events. I work in six local schools that offer one-to-one and ensemble group music lessons.
However, all these jobs are a direct link back to the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the people I met there. I was told very early on in a lecture at RBC, to not say you want to be ‘this’ or ‘that’, just be open to opportunities and see what’s out there.
My career can be really difficult from time to time. There’s no agent that can say ‘this is how you get work’. You have to constantly network and reach out to people, share ideas and discover how you can collaborate with others. But Stream Park is what I’m most proud of since graduating. It started off as a favour, and it became a huge success. I’ve never studied tech, but I had this idea and it just happened. I am a composer, but to have this new and exciting part of my career is really great.
Going forward, I want to write more and continue to work alongside others. I have mostly worked with Midlands based theatres, and I’d like to expand my work to more London theatres and wider UK opportunities too.
My advice to BCU students would be to connect as much as you can, you will learn so much from others. Keep in touch with those around you at university, as you never know what could happen in the future. In the arts, it is all about connections and forming those relationships.”