Every two years, a select group of students from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California come to the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance’s north London Campus to spend two weeks writing, learning, collaborating, performing and networking with students from the college.
Led by jazz guitar master Professor Richard Smith the students from each school were formed into bands in advance to start meeting virtually and sharing ideas, through Skype and Facebook. For most USC students this was the first time they had visited the UK and London, making it not only educationally beneficial, but also a great life experience and opportunity to check out the centre of the UK’s music scene.
Over the 10 day period the Institute hosted a series of exclusive masterclasses with key tutors and guests covering aspects of songwriting and creativity, including a Musical Director session with the Assistant MD of We Will Rock You. The programme also included a variety of extra-curricular activities; a Tutor Showcase, studio recording sessions at SSR in Camden (at which each band recorded one of their collaborative songs), a Songwriters’ Circle, and gigs at The Priory Tavern, The Bedford and The Hope & Anchor where the students showcased their collaborative works at different stages. Outside of these activities, they visited Camden Market and Abbey Road, and had the opportunity to see Richard Smith feature in a gig with The Hot Orange Band. Two USC students also took up the opportunity to play at a community festival in London the day after the official programme had finished.
Throughout the time many professional and social friendships were formed, and the level of musicianship and creativity was astounding. The headway made by all acts from the start of the experience to the end showed the benefits of collaboration. The students developed individually as and bands, learning from each other’s musical and cultural styles, which not only included American and English backgrounds, but also a strong contingent of Italian students from the Institute.
Carl Rennie (3rd Year BMus) exemplified the success of the project and the feeling the students went away with, in saying: “This was not a task, a class nor an assignment for me. It was an absolute pleasure. I got to do what I do best with other people who enjoy music. I have grown my world musically, geographically and personally and would do it again in a flash”.