Grainne McNamara  is the lecturer in music and course co-ordinator in HNC Music Production in the MAPA informs me that “music and performing arts (M.A.P.A…get it?) are a great gateway into education through one department contained within a creative hub in the Tech, are mostly full-time courses and starts with Level-2 Music Technology which is an entry course aimed at those who haven’t done particularly well academically but have attempted four G.C.S.E.’s and want to pursue music”.
 
Course co-ordinator of HND Music Production,  Rory Donaghy,  continues “there’s access for people with no qualifications or people who have just finished their A-Levels or beyond”. I make a reference to my go-to sound engineer  Gerry Craig  being a past pupil and so continues a ream of well-known characters in the local and national music scene who are former students of MAPA including  Roe, Ports, Soak, Touts, Balkan Alien Sound, Cherym, Sugarwolf, New Pagans  and  Foreign Owl.
 
Grainne  continues that “once past levels 2 and 3 there are pathways for students to continue performing or to get into the technological side of the arts after which students do a HNC or HND which they can then top up to full honours degree at Leeds Beckett, Leeds College of Music or Paisley. A bit like in a video game. Or life.
 
Performing Arts works similarly in the running order which covers all aspects of performance, production, writing and stage management,  Jamie  from Waterside Theatre and  Chloe  in the Playhouse are past pupils as well as  Damien McGinty  from  Glee  and  Jamie-Lee O’Donnell  from  Derry Girls.
 
Just to reassure the parents out there who are probably freaking out a bit about their children opting not to go to Queens or Trinity to study law that graduates have followed a diverse range of career paths including Performing Musicians, Performing Singers and Actors, Studio and Live Sound Engineers, Theatre Technicians, Stage Managers, Music Managers, Acousticians, Record Label Marketing, Music Educators and Music Therapists. And to prove it, as part of the course recent guest lecturers have included  Eoin O’Callaghan  (Elma Orchestra),  Phil Nelson  (manager The Levellers, Duke Special),  Tony Perrey  (owner of Windmill Lane Recording Studios, which is where U2 recorded quite a bit of their decent stuff and Clannad did the “Theme from Harry’s Game”)) and  Gareth Stewart  (Head of Celtronic Dance Music Festival).
 
As part of the course students have visited SSE Arena, Belfast (behind the scenes production day for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds), London West End Theatre, Output Music Conference, Belfast and have partaken in student collaboration weeks in Kokkola (Finland), Talinn (Estonia) and Glasgow.  Rory  and  Grainne  then tell me about the end of year show which is a collaborative effort between the departments to re-imagine popular films, last year it was “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and included a pit orchestra and utilised the equipment available to students to reproduce scenes they couldn’t perform live on camera. That sounds magic to me.
 
The department maintains links with festivals which offer performance/production opportunities including Stendhal and Celtronic. Students also participate annually in BBC introducing (collaborative project to create a studio recording and a performance video for the BBC introducing website) as well as various shows and gigs throughout the year in venues around town culminating in the MAPA showcase which includes live performances of both music and dance as well as recorded pieces.
 
“The space is versatile and state of the art”  Grainne  tells me “the theatre can adapt to accommodate band, theatre and dance performances, there are sound-proofed practice rooms, two recording studios and three computer suites of Mac computers with up-to-date software” which conjures up the image of the perfect environment to satisfy the most creative of minds out there. I have actually seen this course being taught myself and, I’m not just saying it, but it is something that I wish I had done myself.
 
The list of Full-Time Music and Performing Arts Courses includes
 Level 2 Music Production
 Level 3 Music Performance
 Level 3 Music Technology
 Level 4/5 Music
 Level 4/5 Music Production
 Level 2 Performing Arts
  Level 3 Performing Arts
 Level 4/5 Performing Arts
 
Prospective students need no qualifications to apply at level 2 and can potentially graduate at Level 5 and do a one-year top up to full honours degree.
 
Online application and details of courses we run can be found at  http://www.nwrc.ac.uk/apply/
 
Start date for Full-Time courses this year is September 2nd.

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