I’m afraid my A Level in English is not going to make me an instant blogging superstar. I’m sure this page is going to be a disaster for a good long while before anything interesting is created, but I have to start somewhere, right? So, I’m going to start with a little bit about me… before I then go on to talk about me some more. I’m a guitarist starting my first of three years at Leeds College of Music, studying Jazz with Popular. I come from Surrey where I studied 3 A Levels in Music, Music Technology and English. I spend most of my time playing and writing music, in my free time, I listen to music and if I’m not preoccupied with any of those activities, I’m probably talking to someone about music. Although my hobbies aren’t eclectic, my taste in music is; I listen to Rock, Pop, Jazz, Indie and have even been caught listening to Orchestral music from time to time. Playing wise, my three biggest influences are Snarky Puppy, Stevie Wonder and Mark Lettieri. I also really dig Michael Jackson, Nile Rodgers, Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, The 1975, Everything Everything, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Esperanza Spalding, Bill Laurance… the list is never ending.
Now, onto the important bit: why am I blogging? Well, I think it’s important to record the next three years, which I have been unanimously told will be the best of my life. Another motivation is that I know a lot of friends and have students younger than me who will be embarking on this journey very soon. When I started looking at universities I had a lot of friends older than me who gave me lots of help and advice which really influenced my decisions about whether I chose the university path or not. One particular experience was when my friend Ben, now in his second year studying music, showed me around the students’ Manchester and the delights of how cheap the SU bar was! I want to record the ups and downs, the thoughts and feelings, the trials and triumphs of being a student in one of the most intense study environments – a conservatoire of music. On top of that, I’ve got so many other relatives and friends asking about my life in Leeds, I think it’s probably easier to write what I’ve been up to here, rather than them get an unenthused, grumpy Ben at the end of the phone, as my Mother experienced this week when she called me at 1pm. Don’t you know that’s the middle of the night here, Mum?! Student Leeds is so far north that the time zone is very different.
So, here we go: Freshers’ Week! After an excruciatingly long and rainy drive to the north, I dumped all my boxes of cables and suitcases of clothes on the floor in my new room before going for my last pint with my Dad and Step-mum in The Wardrobe, across the road from Leeds College of Music (LCoM). I then went back up the 9 flights of stairs (yes, I did climb them) to meet my new flat mates! There’s six of us in our flat and everyone is lovely – I felt so welcome the minute I walked into the kitchen. I also started to meet people from various other flats and something that struck me very quickly after arriving here is that I was now surrounded by people like minded and musical. Suddenly, all these ‘weird’ artists I’m into weren’t weird or unusual. Everyone loves Snarky Puppy! On Saturday evening I was rather nervous – my first night away from home wasn’t easy. So when the flat suggested we go down to the SU bar, I was very much up for getting drunk. And I did. I can’t remember much of the jam session we had when we got back to the flat that evening, but seeing as I had forgotten my Real Book (an essential for every jazzer), I can’t imagine my sight transposing from the Bb version was very good at all.
Sunday was the first day of freshers’ events put on by the fantastic SU at LCoM. We went to a place called ‘SELA’ where the Jazz Tutors were jamming. We got to see the people who would be teaching us next week do what they do best and it was incredible. I also got to meet more of the people on my course and some second and third years, all of whom were lovely. Once the jam was over, our flat joined another and we ventured across town to a club. Up to this point in my life, I’d had a very shadowed experience of clubbing, that being the one local club in my hometown. However, ‘Mission’ in Leeds put ‘Mishiko’s’ in Reigate to shame. It was so much fun, and WKD was £2.50. Yes I drink WKD, it’s tasty and I have zero shame.
Monday consisted of a rather horrible hangover before ‘Mojitos and Burritos’ with comedy in the SU. The Mojitos and Burritos were top class, the comedy not so much. Still, it was another great opportunity to meet more students and network. After that our flat family wandered down to The Wardrobe where the SU had organised a gig. This is where I first got to witness some of the talent of the students at LCoM and it was outstanding. I’ve never been so inspired to get practicing as I was that night. I really wish I’d written down some of the names of the bands I’ve seen this week so I can share them here. As and when I find out who these bands are, I shall definitely be letting you know. After the gig had finished, we returned to our flat for a slightly more sober jam session and, yet again, I was bowled over by the talent I am surrounded by at LCoM.
Tuesday night, we went to a club called ‘HiFI’. This is the best club I’ve been to yet due to me recognising 90% of the music they played. I’m talking James Brown, Chic, Stevie Wonder and then, out of the blue, AC/DC. It was awesome! I was out rather late that night and the walk back consisted of new friends, Sam and Niles, attempting to jump up and climb a massive road sign and then me trying to do what my family refer to as a ‘Jack Bauer’ over the railing surrounding our apartment building, only to end up face down on the floor.
When I got up very early on Wednesday morning for our induction, I discovered that all the stalls and the sofa in our kitchen had been turned upside-down. Clearly we found this very entertaining the night before. Sam and I moped down to a speech from the head teacher about how much money is being invested into LCoM to make it even better than it is already! I then slept for the rest of the day before going to Burger, Beer and a pub quiz in the SU. Everything was fab other than the fact that our team wasn’t very good at any of the questions! The SU had then organised some busses to take us to the ‘Brudenell Social Club’ on the other side of town. We got the full tour of the motorway that runs through the heart of Leeds before arriving in the student town – the place to move to in your second year around here. Ahead of us was another night of amazing student bands – one in particular where I was blown away by the guitarist, before finding out he was only a first year! I then got to jam with him when we got back to the flat, which was great. The SU Big Band were the headline act and they were brilliant! Just amazing arrangement after amazing arrangement, my favourite being their version of Chick Corea’s ‘Spain’. The whole night was for an organisation called ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’ and the family feel that runs throughout LCoM was at its strongest here. After the gig I discovered the revelation that is takeaway food that is both cheap and tasty (you get either or where I’m from).
Thursday, we had a speech from the head of Jazz, Jamil Sheriff, who I saw play keys at the jam on Sunday. He was really cool and completely acted like a musician rather than a teacher. He talked about all the ensembles to sign up for and what we’ll be studying this year. I’ve signed up to audition for the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (Big Band) and the Generation Big Band; this is made up of Saturday School students, undergrads, postgrads and professionals. By Thursday afternoon I was shattered and made the call to have a night of rest. I used the time to talk to my family and have a nice long chat with my girlfriend. I’m really starting to miss them all, lots.
On Friday morning, I had a tour of the library, built new for this year. They have everything; it’s marvelous (I’m running out of adjectives). Books (funny that), CD’s, LPs and lots of different cool study spaces. In the evening, I managed to get the rest of my flat to dress up for the 60s and 70s night downstairs in the SU. I was channeling my inner Austin Powers in my purple DJ. The party was hilarious and went on until 3am! I’ve discovered a new way of bonding with Jazz students here through ‘the lick’. ‘The lick’ is a really smooth phrase that countless musicians have used when improvising without realising. Of course, now every occurrence of ‘the lick’ has been edited together by some magician on YouTube and has become a meme. If you sing it around and about college and someone replies, you’ve found a fellow jazz student.
Saturday, the last night of our freshers’ week, was spent back at ‘HiFi’, our new favourite club. It was really entertaining watching everyone else be a lot more drunk than me (for once)! We left the club at about 2:30am and, oh my, oh my, oh my, Leeds is a different place at this time of night. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. There are bouncers on every fast food place, and for good reason, because the people from Leeds are pretty rowdy. I witnessed one group of lads break out into a fight about Gavin and Stacey, there were ladies of all ages falling over their high-heels wherever you looked, someone asked me if I was selling cocaine, about five minutes later someone asked me if I wanted to buy some cocaine; it was, in the simplest terms, manic. Please don’t be worried, there was no buying or selling of cocaine in our group. We stuck together and found a chicken shop, I ordered 6 wings… they were burnt. I shan’t be returning to ‘Chiko’s’ anytime soon. Especially after passing a man on our way back home who, mid-vomit, told us “this is what Chiko’s does to you”. We went back to another flat for a while, so I didn’t actually make it to bed until 4am.
So, there we are. Freshers’ week completed and I’m still standing. Leeds hasn’t defeated me yet! I’m now sitting on my bed, looking at the pile of washing I have to do before another crazy week starts. My first one-to-one lesson in Guitar is at 9am Monday morning, so I better get practicing!