This month, we caught up with Michael Runswick. He is a student in Songwriting at British and Irish Modern Music (BIMM) Institute. Michael has been growing as a performer and has done a lot of busking in the past few years while singing in Fingal Youth Choir (FYC) and taking singing lessons with Michelle O'Rourke.
The three years at Fingal Youth Choir (FYC) was a real stepping stone coming into BIMM. All that singing gave me an edge of experience on the vocal side of things. Having sung in 4-parts with my friends in FYC for years, I have found it easier to incorporate vocal harmonies in my compositions in BIMM. I feel I have an advantage because of this.
BIMM Songwriting is a really enjoyable course. Everyone's really sound. I have 7 main classes.
1. Music Business - This is a laydown of the industry, learning how to make a profit from writing music, how to deal with merchandise and branding, etc.
2. Pre-Production - Two students each week from the songwriter stream perform a song they've been working on recently.
3. Live Arrangement Workshop (LAW). In the LAW class, we have one hour to arrange the song we've written in a room full of musicians. There is a house band made up of 2nd years (bass, drums, guitar) plus your entire class work on your song.
4. Song-Writing Techniques - We learn techniques used by other artists, such as David Bowie. Bowie liked to use a cut-up technique. He would cut out 12 newspaper articles, put them into a hat, and then take out 8 random words. From these words, he would try to write a song. This technique started in the Dadaist movement in the early 20th century. The Dadaists tried to make songs sound as different and as interesting as possible by making them almost completely random in their lyrical and musical content. We also have performances every so often when we get to test out some of the techniques we've learned in our own songs and perform them in our own class.
5. Artist Development - We learned how to make a music video and how to record a song on a €1000 budget.
6. Styles Analysis - We study Blues, Classic/Soft Rock, a tiny bit of Pop, Jazz and a little bit of Reggae. We then learn how certain artists have used these styles to make them their own.
7. Music Theory - In term 1, this class teaches you the basic (1st year, secondary school) and builds you up to college music level (1st year, university degree). At the minute, we're studying pentatonic scales - something I'm familiar with from my days in Fingal Youth Choir musicianship sessions.
Overall, I find it to be an extremely enjoyable course. I'd recommend it to anyone with a musical interest who might like to pursue a career in music. I've spoken to a few people in Trinity and DCU who have told me those courses are far too heavy on the theory side and it's really performance-oriented.
BIMM is probably one of the best courses if you're looking for tonnes to people to collaborate with. It's a great place for finding people to play with. There is even a common room where people jam together. So it's great for networking. I've started a band with some mates and there are so many connections to be made in BIMM. We already have a couple of shows lined up.
All of the BIMM staff are currently, or have recently been, working professionally in the Music Industry. The lecturers always know what's going on and everyone's always going off touring and gigging.
For anyone who enjoys performance and a decent bit of music theory, BIMM is great.
I was heavily involved in the music department at my school - St. Fintan's High School, Sutton - and I loved singing and playing traditional music internationally! We even toured to the USA to perform. I'm so glad I refined my singing skills in my lessons with Michelle O'Rourke at Fingal Academy of Music, and my experiences of Fingal Youth Choir (especially Berlin in 2019) were extremely positive. I can't wait to hear FYC perform again soon!