Louise Jackson Associate Dean

We are very happy to introduce you to Louise Jackson, ICMP's first Professor and our newly appointed Associate Dean (Academic Development).

The new role of Associate Dean for Academic Development has been created to ensure ICMP continues to keep at the cutting edge of learning, teaching and research. Tony Harris, ICMP’s Dean of Academic Studies, commented:

Louise brings a wealth of experience in institutional and staff development. Her appointment means that there will be more opportunities for our faculty to engage in scholarly practice and curriculum development, all of which impacts on the quality of the student experience." 

We recently met with Louise to find out more about herself, her new role at ICMP  and her musical background and interests.

Welcome to ICMP Louise! We are very excited to have you on board. First of all, could you tell us how did you end up in music & higher education?
Thank you! I’m very excited to have joined ICMP and I’ve been made to feel very welcome by students and colleagues!

I started learning music in my teens - quite late - and was one of the first in my family to go to university. I was originally trained as a classical singer and pianist at University College Chichester (now University of Chichester) where I gained a first-class degree in Music. I went on to study for a MA, specialising in 20th Century Music at the University of Sussex, followed by an Education Doctorate at the University of Exeter focusing on Widening Participation to the arts in Higher Education. I worked in a variety of peripatetic vocal teaching roles and then started teaching in higher education 14 years ago.

I began teaching music theory to musicians who were excellent performers but had not necessarily had the opportunity to develop this other skill set. It turned out I was quite good at working with a range of student musicians in raising their academic levels of achievement while encouraging their practical focus. Over time, I developed skills in managing musicians in teaching roles in higher education settings, and I have taught lots of different topics across Music and Musical Theatre. In 2012 I was offered the chance to join Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance as their first Head of Learning Enhancement, working with musicians and dancers teaching in higher education.

Why did you choose ICMP? What excites you about your new role?
I have been involved with colleagues at ICMP for several years, meeting at various sector events, and more latterly as the External Examiner for both the BMus and MMus in Popular Music Performance. Over the years I have been really impressed with the rigour of the programmes being delivered, the commitment the teaching staff make to the student experience, and the general community within the institution. The Associate Dean (Academic Development) role is completely new for ICMP, and that is exciting, so when this opportunity came up, I was delighted to join the team. I’m going to be working a lot with the postgraduate programme teams, and I think our offer in this area is excellent! 

As the new Associate Dean (Academic Development) at ICMP, what are your main goals/objectives you would like to achieve?
ICMP has some exciting activities planned; we have a new Research, Scholarship, and Professional Practice Strategy, which I will be looking after. This strategy sets out our aspirations to continue to develop how we underpin the student experience and our learning, teaching, and assessment processes with practice-based and other types of research and scholarship, whilst also developing our sector-wide profile for professional practice, including how and what we teach.

I want to ensure that our development of research and scholarship is not divisive, exclusive or elitist, but reaches all colleagues, whatever their level of experience or role."

Most importantly, I want to ensure that all this activity goes towards enhancing the student learning experience. I will be setting up ‘clusters’ for colleagues to participate and will also be mentoring individuals and teams to develop small-scale projects and interventions.

In 2013, you were awarded a National Teaching Fellowship, and conferred with the title of Professor in 2017 – you’re also the first Professor at ICMP! What’s next for your academic career?
The National Teaching Fellowship was amazing – it gave recognition to my approach to teaching at a reasonably early point in my career (lots of people get them towards the latter part of their career). The title of Professor was also a little earlier than expected! I’m proud to now be ICMP’s first Professor.

My next steps for my career are ensuring that we build sustainable models for practice-based research and scholarship at ICMP; I would love to leave a legacy that goes beyond a paper-based strategy and is embedded as part of the institutional culture. I also want to write a book about access and participation to music in higher education as that is my passion, but that’s going to take a while now I’m busy with the now role!

As a woman working in higher education, what sort of gender-based issues do you think need addressing? What’s your take on diversity and equality in the academic environment?
I have been really fortunate to work with some amazing female role models as well as feminist males in previous roles, and I hope I can feedforward their legacy of supporting and mentoring not just women, but all those who are underrepresented both in higher education and in the music and wider creative industries.

I have also been fortunate to work with some amazing LGBTQI+ and BAME students and colleagues who have taught me so much about diversity, or the lack of it. The higher education sector has come some way in increasing diversity, but I think there is still a lot of talk and not a lot action. For example, there is still a significant lack of women in decision making or professorial positions in higher education, which is not very helpful to anyone. In 2019 only 6% of white women held a Professorial title and only 2% of BAME women in higher education held the same. When you combine this with the lack of diversity in industry you can see we still have a way to go.

I think one of the major things that needs to change in both the higher education sector and the creative industries is the ‘excuse making’ that takes place when leadership regimes are challenged on diversity data. I also think that diversity and equality is something that needs to be ‘lived’ through all areas of an institution – for example, it’s no good having a policy that ticks lots of boxes but doesn’t impact on the office or classroom environment. We need more diverse role models, and we also need far more active and engaging programmes of educational and industry-focused interventions that reflect and represent the multiple ways individuals can access education and the professions. We also need curriculums that reflect a much more diverse understanding of creative practice and include repertoire that may have been written out of history.

I see ICMP as playing a vital part in influencing the change to diversity narratives within the creative industries by ensuring our graduates are entering the sector ready to challenge inequalities."

Finally, taking off your Associate Dean hat for the moment, simply as a fan and music lover; What was the first album you bought and what was the last one?
I think the first album was Kylie Minogue’s debut record in the late 1980s. I was about seven years old and my dad made a big scene in the record shop about needing a carrier bag to hide the tape as he was embarrassed… Or trying to embarrass me.

I can’t actually remember the last time I bought an album. One of my favourite albums that I discovered only recently is the Two Wounded Birds self-titled album from 2012 – it’s an amazing piece of work, as is Roger Waters' solo album from 2017, which is an incredibly bleak commentary on contemporary society and politics and is being played a lot at my place at the moment.

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What was the first gig you went to and the last one?
My first live musical experiences were related to learning classical music, so I spent a lot of my time when I was 16-18 years old going to classical concerts at the Portsmouth Guildhall. I think the first pop/rock gig I went to see was Muse at the Portsmouth Pyramids. It was their tour with the Showbiz album and they were supported by Coldplay, who were then unknown. Muse were in a totally different league to anything at the time - absolutely amazing and I remember sitting on the floor just trying to take it in!

The last gig I went to wasn’t a gig as such but was very ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ - I went to Harrison Birtwistle’s Mask of Orpheus performed by the English National Opera, which was an amazing experience of contemporary opera. It combined the most brilliant vocal techniques with a theatrical spectacle that was edgy and challenging – matching the music!

We would like to thank Prof. Jackson for her time and wish her the very best at ICMP.

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