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9TH MAY 2023

Lecturers in Industry: Nicola Cudby, Music

Lecturers Nicola Cudby
Lecturers Nicola Cudby

At GC we’re proud that so many of our lecturers have either come from industry or still work in it. We’ve been catching up with Nicola Cudby who teaches music, alongside playing keys and saxophone and singing backing vocals in her band, Dead Anyway.  

She spent February half-term in the Netherlands playing gigs in Haarlem and Amsterdam after making connections with The Irrational Library, a Dutch band who were played on the same New York radio station. The trip tied in the release of her band’s fourth album, Unspoken Word, and they’re now looking forward to playing a few festivals this summer, including the much-hyped Bearded Theory in Derbyshire this month! 

Which courses do you teach at college, and how long have you been teaching for? 

I currently teach Level 3 Music and Music Production, Level 4 HNC and Level 5 HND. I've been teaching for 23 years now, which is half my life, so you can do the maths! 

How did you get into music? How did that move into teaching music? 

I don't come from a musical family at all, other than there always being something on the radio or stereo at home. I learned how to play my first instrument and read music notation at infant school because I got lucky - they had a volunteer come in and do music sessions with those who were interested, and she recognised I had a knack for it. It just carried on from there, with me picking up more instruments as I got older. I was really supposed to be the lawyer in the family, but when it came to going to university to do that, it didn't feel right. So I took a leap, deferred a year, got a full-time job in banking, and then reapplied to university again, this time to do what I loved, which was music, and figured the rest out from there. I love my subject, so teaching it just felt natural as a career path. 

What’s your favourite thing about being in a band? 

The camaraderie. I'm not into being the focus of attention so I've never enjoyed being a soloist, but having a band around you is just something else that's really hard to define unless you've experienced it. You need to gel musically, but you need different personalities and skill sets to make it work. I'm the organiser who's good at 'bandmin' and logistics. Our bass player and vocalist are great at schmoozing at gigs - the whole talking to people thing. Our drummer is the glue that holds everything together and drives us forward. And he and the vocalist make an amazing social media team. 

How does your time in a band help with teaching and showing students what it’s like being a musician? 

It makes it easier for them to understand the other skills you need to be a musician that go hand in hand with the musical ones. I can show them emails, contracts, negotiations, arrangements, setlists, unwritten gig etiquette and they get it because it's real. That and how to coil cables correctly and why having a gig bag is important! 

What upcoming gigs are you looking forward to?

The Bearded Theory festival in May should be fun - we've got Access All Areas passes and there are quite a few bands we want to see there too, so we get to do that and be paid for it. We've also been asked to play at Charlbury Riverside festival in July, and I haven't played that festival for a few years and loved it then, so it's nice to go back. Plus, it's in Oxford, and as a musical city, they've been really good to us. Internet radio has been a boon in getting heard by people outside the local area - it was a New York radio station that led to our Dutch minitour in February; a UK-based one that led to Bearded Theory, and it's also good to play outside of your hometown - we got Charlbury because the sound engineer at our last Oxford gig got in touch because she liked us in soundcheck. Sometimes it's that simple. 

What’s your best piece of advice for students wanting to work in music? 

Know yourself. Know your own strengths and weaknesses as a person and as a musician and you'll find your niche. Some great musicians don't get gigs and fall out of bands the whole time because they just aren't reliable. You have to be. And if you're playing music or producing music collaboratively, then find your people and keep hold of them! That's what networking boils down to. 

Want to know more? Check out Dead Anyway on social media or take a look at the courses she teaches. 

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