Each week we feature one of our current students or alumni, as we chat to them about their AMS Online experience and the cool projects they’re getting on with alongside their degree. They tell us about their Online learning experience, how they work and perform alongside a degree, and their current musical endeavours. This week I chat to James Gordon, a current student based in Southport in the North West of England who is currently studying online for a Masters in Popular Music Performance. He tells us about balancing his masters with his music teaching and gets us up to speed with what his band Akoostika are currently up to.

Where are you from, and where you studying from?
I was born in Liverpool, but live up the road in Southport, a seaside town in the northwest of the UK.

What do you do alongside / in addition to your music degree?
I work full-time as a guitar teacher at Rimmers Music here in Southport.

What is your instrument / skill / profession?
I’m a guitarist and, out of necessity, over the last few years I’ve become a singer, too.

What drew you to study with AMS Online?
I’d always regretted not finishing my degree when I was in my early twenties and instead ran off on tour around the UK with an unsigned band and dreams of becoming a rock star. That band broke up six months later and rather than learn my lesson and going back to Uni, I ploughed on with trying to make it in the music industry. Fast-forward fifteen or so years and a friend mentioned AMS Online and Shaun Baxter (who I was already a fan of) and how they not only offered distance learning but also recognition of prior learning and industry experience so that I wouldn’t have to start from square one again. A quick email just to see if I was eligible (I wasn’t sure I’d be up to the task, if I’m honest, I thought the academic part of my brain had probably atrophied after nearly twenty years of rock and roll!) resulted in a really smooth and welcoming admissions process and before I knew it, I was enrolled to do a music degree with you guys.

How do you fit study into your day-to-day work and life?
With more difficulty than I originally thought. One of the perks of my job is that I don’t have to work a crazy amount of hours to get by and as most of my students come for lessons in the evenings, my days are largely my own. Still, finding the time to get everything done proved a challenge, especially as deadlines loomed. I had to put a couple of other pet projects on hold and I missed out on most of the newly released TV shows, films and bunch of sleep, but it was all worth it in the end.

What have been the benefits of online distance learning for you?
I’ve spent ten years building up my teaching practice, so upping sticks and moving to a new city in order to study and also find a new job seemed like too big of an ask. I’d made peace with the idea that I wasn’t going to be able to get a degree. Distance learning meant I was able to still work full-time while studying and the flexibility of doing it all from home and in my own time was a huge bonus, too.

Akoosticka Duo Photo

Are you in a band or currently working on any cool projects?
My band was one of the projects that was put on hiatus while I finished my degree (check out http://akoosticka.co.uk/ or https://www.facebook.com/akoosticka), though once I’d finished, we were booked to headline the acoustic stage of the Yewstock Fesitval in the summer, so we reformed to do that. Now that I’m studying for my masters, the lads are also helping me out with a performance for it. And we’ve got another full band project in mind, too, so that’s bubbling away.

After my degree, I took the songs I’d recorded as part of my course, added some finishing touches, remixed them, did a video for each one, knocked together some artwork and then released them as an EP, with a limited run of physical CDs. That’s available over on Spotify, iTunes, etc. and is also up for free on my website or bandcamp page.

What is on the horizon for you – in the near future, or after finishing your degree?
The biggest thing is finishing my masters in music with AMS Online. Getting a first in my BA gave me enough of a kick up the backside to make me think that I might be able to go further, to do more. It’s hard going, but I’m enjoying it.

Check out James’s music on his website or bandcamp, and follow Askoostika’s progress here.
You can discover more about the online courses we have available , including our Masters in Popular Music Performance, on our courses page, and you can contact us to find out more on how to apply.
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for next week’s feature, we speak to Drew Lowe, guitarist and online BA student who chats to us about how part-time distance learning works around a touring lifestyle.

James Gordon
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jaymzgordon
Twitter: @jaymzgordon https://twitter.com/jaymzgordon
Spotify Profile: https://artists.spotify.com/c/artist/1pE531JDxH7n7FOLEITRAg/profile

Words: Izzy Trott