Student Story: Andy Solomon, JTC Guitar

 To celebrate today’s release of DIME Sessions, Volume 4,  check out our latest student story written by BA(Hons) Creative Music Performance guitarist, Andy Solomon, who is featured on the album. Andy was one of the first students to enrol on the DIME ONLINE programme when we started four years ago. He’s due to finish up his final semester on the part-time route at the end of the month, and we can’t wait to hear what he’ll do next. Check out his musical journey and how he came to DIME ONLINE below!

My musical journey began in the 1980s when I heard Dire Straits’ track ‘Money for Nothing’. That intro riff really excited me, it just sounded so cool – I knew I had to learn that thing they called guitar! After this, I bought my first ever album, ‘Live Magic’ by Queen,  which inspired me even more. Brian May’s solos and style really excited me – so much so that I remember miming playing the guitar with my mum’s tennis racket in the kitchen! Eventually, I got my first electric guitar.  I remember my first guitar lesson experience – it was with one of my teachers at comprehensive school, who taught me my first chords, A minor, C Major and D major. I distinctly remember going to his classroom at lunchtime with some other friends who were learning and playing guitar together, and every now and then we were allowed to play the school’s electric guitar: a black strat copy. That was a life-changing experience! To us, the electric guitar seemed like something only superstars had!

My friends and I grew up listening to artists such as CreamEric Clapton and the Bluesbreakers, Dire Straits, and Gary Moore. We’d try to copy their tracks by playing and pausing my mum’s mono Sony tape recorder. Eventually my tastes moved more towards rock, and I got into artists such as Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, again trying my hardest to work out their tracks by ear (we had no internet back then!!) I was an avid reader of Guitarist Magazine and began to see the same names cropping up –  some guys called Joe Satriani and Steve Vai! After seeing the adverts for Passion and Warfare (Vai) and Surfing With The Alien (Satriani), I decided I needed to check them out. THAT was where my guitar playing really took off. Hearing the magic, the tricks and blistering technique was yet another eye-opening moment for me – it even led me to painting the scratchboard on the first guitar pink and green in an effort to get it to look like Steve Vai’s Universe!

As a teenager, I decided to take GCSE Music at college, alongside courses in performing arts. Here, I met one of my best friends, who plays guitar and was a massive influence on me as a player (and still is to this day). After college, I decided against university, choosing instead to work while developing my skills as a freelance PA engineer and playing in local covers bands. I have followed this path ever since, with music being a hobby alongside my day jobs – which have always been related to music or performing arts. I taught A Level Music Technology for a period and worked as a technician in a performing arts department. I currently manage a team of technicians in the School of Film Music and Performing Arts at Leeds Beckett University. I’m also an Avid Certified Pro Tools Expert and regularly deliver Pro-Tools training courses.

I have been playing guitar for nearly thirty years and have been an active musician, playing in everything from function/cover bands, to Algerian Rai folk bands, to new-wave British heavy metal band ‘Gaskin’, who have released an album ‘Edge of Madness’ on which I play guitar.  This year one of my tracks has also been chosen to feature on the DIME Sessions Volume 4 album, released by Original 1265 Recordings which was a fantastic experience!

Despite my varied career, not attaining a degree felt like unfinished business, so in 2014 when I happened to see an advert for the JTC Degree, I was intrigued.  I assumed that because I already had funding for my Certificate of Education, I wouldn’t be eligible for any more funding, but on the off-chance I made an informal enquiry to Student Finance UK, only to discover I was eligible for fees funding. This was it, this was my chance to finally get that degree! The DIME ONLINE degree programme was a perfect fit for me as it allowed me to keep my full-time job and work remotely part-time, at my own pace, studying my favourite subject. AND I would get a degree in the process – it was a no-brainer for me!

I study at home in a bedroom which has been converted to a music room, where I have all my guitars to hand. I also filmed all my submission videos here, aside from my Solo Performance, where I hired a local venue. The hardest part of my studies for me is maintaining the pace of daily study while trying to fit in being in two bands, working full-time and the daily tasks life throws at you. However, the thought of the degree and all the extra knowledge I’m gaining really keeps me motivated. The Improvisation and Solo Performance modules have been my favourite, as these combine my favourite aspects of playing. My tutors, Martin Goulding and Jon Bishop have been amazing teachers and I have learned so much during the course. It’s hard to quantify it, but suffice to say the knowledge gained during my four years will be carried with me permanently and will continue to develop after I leave the course – there’s no doubt the course has shaped me as a player and has marked the start of another journey.

What does my future hold? Being a mature student, my career aims may be different to others, but the course has given me the belief that perhaps I can release an album of original material and build my brand as a professional musician, with a view to getting back into teaching and music education.

To anyone thinking of taking the degree, I would say “don’t hesitate.” It allows you to work at home in a familiar environment while networking with players from all over the globe and you’ll learn SO much as a player, with plenty of chance for significant development. Make sure you have a private space to work in and you clear your diary, as you’ll need the time! Get up to speed on basic video editing, recording and mixing techniques and most of all be prepared to learn!

Check out some videos of Andy playing below!

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