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Alison awarded 'Postgraduate Certificate in Music' from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

I am delighted to announce that I have been awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Music from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

I'm now looking forward to a virtual graduation in August; the formal ceremony at Symphony Hall in Birmingham will take place when it is possible to do so.

This blog post is my reflection on what the course meant to me, what it has given me, and some things I think may possibly be of use to you, the reader.

I am delighted with the feedback from the course tutors. My work in each of three chosen modules was graded at Distinction level, with work that one tutor explained 'exceeds what would normally be expected at this level'. Last week I was also awarded the prestigious Postgraduate Pedagogy Prize for my work outside the course requirements within music education.

'Your passion and commitment shone through, you are a huge asset to the music education community and make a positive difference to all those that you work with. Most recently, the summer concert you hosted online shows an important commitment to providing developmental opportunities for your students to show off their talents! The range of your current work is simply astonishing and we were very impressed indeed with initiative that you have shown in taking on such a varied profile of professional work'.

I have learnt so much this year at the Conservatoire but perhaps not quite what I had expected...

I had signed up to the course with the simple aim of becoming a stronger jazz solo performer. I certainly had plenty of chance to do this, and to receive expert tuition which focused my practice and changed my outlook on music performance in a unique way. I got the chance to see and hear many of the leading lights of the global jazz community as they visited and gave masterclasses. I even had the opportunity to develop my own arrangements and perform them accompanied by an awesome band of up-and-coming musicians in the Eastside Jazz Club. All of these memories sparkle in my mind, and I would never have been able to do this without taking the step to commit to the rigours of the course.

However, I gained far more than I had set out to achieve. I was given the time to review and assess my professional development goals: a rare chance to press pause and reflect on what drives me to succeed. To create music-making opportunities for everybody lies at the heart of what I want to do. This is central to the work I do as McAusland Music and with Your Space Music Lessons, Entrust Staffordshire Music Service and Walsall Music Service.

The course also allowed me to time to explore the political, social and economic challenges and opportunities at the heart of music education today. It allowed me the chance to explore the workings of music hubs in greater depth and gave me lots of ideas and connections which I hope to put to good use in my new role as Tamworth Music Centre Manager in September.

As always, in Music you always find more that you can do to become a better musician. I have had the chance to create my own learning plan and create a map towards the next stage of my own music learning. Musicians always strive to be a better version of themselves but it is not always easy to figure out how to make that next step without expert guidance.

So what have I experienced that is useful for you, the reader? Three things.

Firstly, it is that learning doesn't ever need to stop. I almost chose not to do the course at all because I thought I was too old, that my time for self-improvement was done, and that I would be embarrassed by all the young guns. I would have missed out on so much!

Secondly, it is that you can always learn more by having feedback from an expert. I thought that I was pretty skilled in my playing before I started the course, but I knew that even as a qualified teacher myself I could learn more. Now I realise that there are layers of skill and expertise that I had scarcely even known existed. Even though the course is finished and I was graded at Distinction level in all my modules, I still have enough from the feedback and tuition to take many more steps forward.

Thirdly, it is that it pays to be determined. During the course, there were times when balancing my business, my family and the Conservatoire seemed more than I wanted to handle. Such as when I had finally scheduled a rehearsal and one of the band got poached for an audition for a gig in London (lucky them!); or when I had to drive into central Birmingham in the pouring rain AGAIN only to find the car park was full... At the time, these little straws seemed to mount until they nearly broke the camel's back. But looking back, I can see that because I did not give up I have become someone that I am happier to be.

Now, I can look ahead. When I think about what this qualification has allowed me to become, and what I will be in the future, I realise that I am not the same person that I was before.

I am excited about the journey!

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