Interview | Jon Wilson

Our alumnus lets us in on how his time at ICMP prepared him for a portfolio career in music education...


ICMP alumnus Jon Wilson's career has come full circle, from studying Bass with us to now forging his own path in music education. 

He studied with us when ICMP was known as the Institute, graduated, then returned to his home of Exeter where he taught at the Academy of Music and Sound (AMS) (with his students including our tutor Ryan Poulter) . 

Jon has balanced his journey in music education with experiences playing in a variety of different bands and groups.

In our new interview, Jon tells us about his time at ICMP as a mature student, teaching and how his career has evolved to explore different areas of the industry...

How did your musical journey begin? Was there a person or record that kicked everything off for you? 

I'd like to be able to say there was one moment that caused that spark, but I think it was probably many moments.

I don't come from a musical family, but I remember I always liked music and was always drawn to the bass. The first contemporary band I remember liking was Blondie, and in my early teens, I discovered rock and metal which in the mid-eighties exploded.

Myself and some school friends decided to start a glam metal band, and I chose bass. My favorite bassist at the time was Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue. I had a few lessons, but we didn't really do anything but make noise! And soon lost interest. I never got rid of my bass, though, and one day in my early twenties, I decided that if I didn't actually learn to play and get in a band, I would regret it. So, I started playing that day and started a band as soon as I felt confident enough. 

What led you to ICMP? And how did you find your time there?  

What led me to the Institute was a near-death experience, a cardiac arrest in June 2007, (not a heart attack).

After this, I think I did the usual life re-evaluation and ultimately made the somewhat foolish decision to give up my job, drag my wife to London, and do a music degree.

I really don't remember how I came to the decision of going to ICMP; I guess the internet led me there. I think I went to an open day, it seemed great, so that was that decision made. 

I guess my experiences at the Institute were somewhat different from the average university student; I was 41 when I started! My first discovery was that there is really no age in music and banter is banter whether you're 21 or 41."

It was interesting to discover that there were a lot of mature students there too. As a mature student who has worked full-time since leaving school at 16 to suddenly be studying and playing music every day was great, and I made the most of every day I was there. Outside of university, living in London for three years was a great experience, and one that my wife and I look back on fondly. 

What were the key things you learned?  

This is a hard question; I learned many new skills. If there is one thing I learned as a musician, it was to never say no to anything. You might regret saying yes to something later on, but in the end, when you're loading your gear back into your car or van or traveling home on a London bus with a double bass, you will be glad you did. 

I'm interested to hear about how you went to the AMS - what led you there? 

In June 2013, I completed the BMus in Popular Music Performance, and my wife and I returned to our house in Exeter. I was then faced with the reality of having to re-engage with the real world, that meant finding a job and ultimately finding a job that justified spending three years studying!

I had become aware of the presence of AMS in Exeter the previous year and had popped in to say hello, introduce myself and say that I would be back looking for a job the following year. I went back in August 2013 and said, "Here I am, please give me a job". Three weeks later, I started teaching Level 3 Btec students music theory and ear training (ear training was my worst subject when I was doing my own studies!). 


And how has your time been? How has your career developed there?  

Having never taught a lesson in my entire life, suddenly being stood in front of a class full of 16 year-olds was terrifying!

But as I walked out of the building on that first day, I couldn't wait to get back.

In December of that year, the FE course leader left and I ended up getting that job. Another in at the deep experience followed! I spent eight years as FE course leader, along the way I have met some great tutors and some exceptionally talented students.

Over the years, many of my students went on to study music at HE level, some staying with the academy and others spreading out around the country, including to ICMP on my recommendation."

I believe one of my first students, Ryan Poulter, is now working at the ICMP having studied on your Masters. In September 2021, I was promoted to Centre Manager, meaning I was responsible for all things AMS, from staffing and timetabling to budgets and overflowing toilets! I have loved every minute of my time here. 

Could you talk a little about the ethos of the academy? 

I think the ethos is that we’ll give anyone a chance regardless of their past academic achievements.

If they have a passion for music above everything else, we will nurture that and push them to become as good as they can be and achieve their goals, whether that be to just be in a band with their mates or to progress to university and the opportunities that may bring.

All our tutors are musicians first and are teaching what they love to students who feel the same. I think the Institute was exactly like that too; all the tutors when I was there were professional musicians outside of the ICMP world which was a great inspiration for the students. 

What other projects have you been pursuing alongside your teaching? 


I have been in a band with ICMP tutor Stuart Cooney since 2013 called Cohesion; we've released a few songs and played some good gigs. Cohesion has included many ICMP students over the years; it's a 'when something happens it happens' kind of band! I am also currently in a band called Wired Design, who were formed during the 2020 lockdown by myself and AMS tutor Jordan Morris (the brains behind it).

Although I have mostly been in originals bands during my musical life, this was my first original project I was involved with in Exeter since I moved back from London. We play post-hardcore music and have a bunch of stuff on Spotify; being in this band has got me back to playing venues like the Exeter Cavern where I first played in 1994. It's odd playing this type of venue now as I'm not only the oldest person in the band but usually the oldest in the entire venue! But hey, there's no age in music! I had been in a grunge/new metal cover band locally for the last eight years, but we called it a day at the end of 2022. I've done some function stuff and was in a Black Sabbath tribute band for a bit too. 

Musically in 2023 things are fairly quiet for me at the moment, but I'm sure that will change! 

Many ICMP students reading this will be considering education as a potential career path - what would you advise them? 

Yes, definitely.

If you're planning on having a portfolio career as many musicians do, having a teaching element to that is a must, whether that be private teaching or in a school or college. It's a steady income stream; gigs, tours, sessions, royalties can all come and go, but if you can teach, there will always be work."

How have your experiences been in Exeter? What is the city's music scene like?  

Apart from the three years I lived in London, I have lived in Exeter all my life. There used to be loads of cover band pubs in Exeter, but they seem to be getting fewer and fewer. The original music scene in Exeter has always been pretty good; we have the Cavern which has been an underground music venue since the early nineties (home of MUSE!) A new venue called Move has recently opened, which is another underground music venue. 

What does the future have in store for you?  

In May 2023, the academy lost two of its major funding partners, and as a result of that, we will unfortunately be closing at the end of this academic year. This is a great shame as although we do have Exeter college for Level 3 music, it will mean there is nowhere in Exeter to do a music degree.

As for my future, in January 2024, I will be taking on a new role as Poles Apart AP Centre Manager in Tiverton which is an alternative education intervention provision based in the South West. This is going to be an exciting new challenge for me, very different from life at the academy but certainly a role I wouldn't have got if it wasn't for my experience. 


Wired Design 

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Shake rooms and arenas with your Bass

As a bassist, you’ll know that mastering the four-string is harder than it looks – but at ICMP, we’ve been training the best for over three decades. You’ll get to lock in with a faculty of top-class tutors, learning not only the secrets behind a great groove and performance, but also the business, music theory, production, marketing and additional skills you’ll need to get noticed. As an ICMP student, you’ll also join a community of new collaborators, friends, and industry contacts – and access our amazing rehearsal rooms, gear, masterclasses, industry events, and recording studios.

To start your music career today, email our friendly Admissions Team at or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

Bass courses
by ICMP staff writer
November 30, 2023
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