Adam Bushell – College Manager – BIMM (Brighton)

1. Tell me about your background, work wise and music related
I started playing drums at 14, got qualified in Energy Engineering, but turned to drumming professionally in my early 20s. As a professional player I’ve played for many different artists, from Alvin Stardust to Martha Reeves, Freakpower to Jason Derulo! I started with BIMM in 2002, at the very beginning, as Head of Drums, and have been here ever since. I write a regular feature in Rhythm magazine every month, which I’ve done for 12 years, and also run my own drum studio in Seaford.

2. What is your job title at BIMM, how long have you worked there and what does your job involve?
I’m now the College Manager at BIMM Brighton. I started at BIMM as Head of Drums, having wrote the majority of the drum syllabus. I only stopped teaching regularly when I took on the College Manager (CM) role a couple of years ago and became too busy to commit to regular teaching. My role as CM is to ensure that all students at the college are getting the most out of their experience, and the college teams are equipped and focused in keeping the college the fantastic place that it is.

3. Please outline the main courses, and qualifications currently on offer at BIMM
We run courses from Level 2 (GCSE) level, L3 Diploma (A-level equivalent), BA (Hons) degree courses to a post-graduate teaching and learning qualification.  All our courses in Brighton are fully accredited and validated with the University of Sussex (Degree), and Central Sussex College (Diploma). Courses are aimed at students who want to specialize in Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals, Songwriting, Music Business, Live Sound and Tour Management, Event management and Music Production.  The suite of courses on offer is designed to represent a broad cross-section of music industry activity – we liken the experience at BIMM to a microcosm of the broader music industry.

4. Tell me about some of the tutors/lecturers
All our lecturers are active music industry professionals, with a vast body of knowledge and experience between them. This is what brings context to the curriculum delivery, which is one of our founding principals and something we like to shout about. Our tutors have worked and operated at the highest levels of the music industry, and continue to do so. Many of our students see the tutors as role models, living a life they themselves ultimately want to lead. It would be unfair for me to pick out certain individuals, the website will give you an idea of what I mean!

5. How many students on average per year?
We have grown year on year since 2002, from humble beginnings of around 180 students. This year we’re expecting approximately 1500 students to be studying on a full time course at BIMM Brighton. Each year, we welcome around 800 new students to BIMM. Bimm also has colleges in Bristol, Dublin and Manchester.

6. Can you list some of the more significant alumni of BIMM
We have many successful Alumni in many areas of the industry.  There are those that most may have heard of such as Brit Award winning Tom Odell, The Kooks, Luke Sital-Singh, George Ezra (BIMM Institute Bristol). There are those that are working with well known artists, such as Ben Thompson (Drums, Two Door Cinema Club), Adam Pitts (Drums, Lawson) Sandy Buglass (Guitarist, Pixi Lott), Mike Prince (Bass, James Arthur), Chloe Du Pre (Singer, Nicole Scherzinger)  Josh Deal (Drummer, Gabrielle Aplin), Kai Smith (Guitarist, Example), Kelly Barnes (Singer, Katy B/ Beverley Knight), Elliott Andrews (Drummer, Paolo Nutini),  Rob Shaw, (Drummer, Leona Lewis).  But also we have many students enjoying high levels of success elsewhere in the industry such as Natasha Bent who is now a Vice President at The Agency Group, the world’s leading independent talent booking agency, and Charlie Tadman who is an artist manager for ThreeSixZero Group (Calvin Harris, the highest paid DJ in the World!). We are always delighted to see so many of our alumni come back to BIMM to talk to current students about their experiences. Our main aim is to provide our students with the knowledge and foundation for a successful career in the music industry – if that’s achieved, whatever level they achieve, then we consider that success – being able to make a living at something you’re passionate about.

7. Tell me about some of the possible career paths of BIMM students
The music industry has undergone significant change over the last decade, but as it evolves there are ever more new opportunities available. The transferable nature of the skills developed during a music course means that BIMM alumni enter into a wide cross section of roles across the creative industries. Our annual alumni survey shows that 6 months after graduating, 79% are in work so we know our vocational approach really works.  We also promote over 400 jobs a year to our alumni network.
Every year, BIMM Group is proud to celebrate a large number of our graduates going into work in the music industry into roles at major labels, independents, PR companies, pluggers, agents, promoters, venues, studios, song writing companies, management, music journalism, TV and radio broadcasting, tour management, as MD’s, pit musicians, session artists and of course as successful recording artists!
You can find our alumni working at companies such as Universal, PRS for Music, Atlantic, Rock Sound Magazine, Believe Digital, Crown Talent Management, Big Life Management, Republic Of Music,  BPI, Duff Press, Industry Education in Management,  ThreeSixZero Management, Mike Stock Music, One Inch Badge, ie:Management, Raygun Management, The Agency, ITB and the BBC. In wider creative roles, our alumni work at UbiSoft (Senior Creative Producer), Yamaha or as photographers, graphic designers, radio producers or at multi arts venues across the country and of course working within the many creative sectors and events in Brighton.
BIMM is committed to helping students find work experience during their time studying and we are indebted to the companies in Brighton who are so helpful in mentoring our students from independent companies like Tru Thoughts, Republic of Music, Melting Vinyl or One Inch Badge to bigger Brighton events such as The Great Escape or Brighton Festival.
Our curricula are structured so as provide update knowledge and insight into the broader industry, and as students progress they can specialize in certain areas of interest.  We always say that if plan A doesn’t materialize, then there are always plans B, C & D etc – which all exist in the music industry. A life  in music is the end goal for most who come here and we often find that our students go on to work in a number of different roles which very much mirrors the music industry model.

8.Are there any aspects of being a student at BIMM that relate to personal development (ie, non-music related activities/courses etc)?
All our courses focus on music industry related pursuits and careers, music is at the heart of what we do. Elements of the curriculum are designed to address wider transferable skills however – study skills, research, personal and business development, entrepreneurship, communication, digital proficiency, etc. We try to develop transferable skills in tandem with the specialist skills often required of musicians and music industry professionals to better prepare students for their future careers.
9. What are the advantages of going to BIMM?
Apart from access to our fantastic facilities, tutors, and teaching, we feel the BIMM also represents a creative hub, where like minded budding music industry professionals can co-exist and connect with each other. Anyone who’s spent any time working in the music industry knows it’s a business founded on networking – and it’s not just about who you know, but who knows you.  As a professional player I got most of my breaks through the same small network of industry contacts I’ve know since I was a teenager, and still do today. BIMM provides that network, and as we’re now 12 years old, we can see those connections formed in the early years bearing fruit today. It’s a virtuous circle in that regard, and fantastic to witness when it all works out.

10. Are there any bursaries available?
Yes.  At Brighton we have 10 BIMM scholarships worth £1000 each available to any students who qualify.  We also have an EMI Music Sound Foundation Bursary of £4000, which can be split between qualifying Diploma or PGCert students aged 19-25. PRS also offer 5 scholarships worth £1000 each, for Songwriting or Music Business students on the first year of their course. Manchester, Bristol and Dublin also have other scholarships and bursaries available.

11. Brighton was the home of the first BIMM. Why do you think Brighton is such a good place to have such a college
Brighton is a very big pull, it’s a great place to live and work, and a hotbed of creative arts pursuits. Brighton has one of the highest numbers of music venues per capita in the UK, meaning the live music scene is thriving. There is always tons of live music going on, and in the Great Escape coming to town every year we have the second largest independent music industry showcase and expo in the world. To be a part of the Brighton experience as a student studying music must be fantastic, it’s something that’s not lost on our students either. All of BIMM’s centers have opened in places that have strong musical connections. The city becomes their campus and opportunities to put in practice what they learn are all around them.

12. Are (and in what ways) music performance students encouraged to form bands, partnerships etc with other students?
As I mentioned before, BIMM is a creative hub where students are encouraged to connect and develop their network. Younger students studying on Diploma courses who may be less able to do this in isolation are put in bands in certain classes, to get working together.  All our performance and songwriting students will have to perform live many times throughout their time at BIMM in order to achieve their qualification, and we actively encourage them to be in as many bands as possible.  We also release an album of artists’ original material each year, chosen from hundreds of demo entries subsequently short-listed by a team of industry experts.  We have two big ‘end of term’ gigs in big venues, and there are various BIMM bands out playing in the city every night of the week. We also have dedicated networking events where students from different disciplines can come together, get chatting about what they’re into and what they’re looking for, which hopefully leads to new collaborations. Their encouraged to get together and form partnerships at every turn, as we realize that is what leads on to the possibility of great things happening.

13. I see you have guest speakers and lecturers. Any spring to mind? Any anecdotes for me?!
We’ve had some fabulous guests come down, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of my musical heroes. Lots of stories, but one that comes to mind was when we had Lemmy from Motorhead visit.  His rider was basically a bottle of Jack Daniels and 20 Marlboro Red, to consume whilst doing the Q&A. When we politely informed his people that smoking inside BIMM might be an issue, we were told in no uncertain terms that he smokes, or else he doesn’t do it. Creative thinkers that we are – remembering a time  at the theatre royal when the performers were allowed to smoke onstage, we proceeded to bill the event as a ‘public performance’ – and inform every student who attended that there may be smoking and drinking as part of the ‘performance’, to get around it! So, it all went ahead with no complaints from anyone. Lemmy’s ‘performance’ was fantastic! I also remember the day Shaun Ryder from the Happy Mondays arrived at 9.30 so worse for wear that he just signed the wall and left, spelling his own name wrong in the process. The evidence is still on the wall today: “Shan Ryder – call v cops” Classic. But you probably shouldn’t print that, Lemmy story much safer!

14. What has been your personal highlight(s) while working at BIMM?
There have been lots and it’s difficult to pick. I still remember day one – Monday 30th September 2002 – stepping into the class room at 9am, and starting the journey with that first cohort of students, some of whom I’m still in contact with today. I remember having a break at lunchtime thinking this is gonna be a bit special. Everyone was just buzzing, staff and students, to be a part of it!  Since then there have been many memorable moments, from seeing my students play the Concorde stage for the first time, or walking across the stage at graduation and getting their degree. One ex-student of mine, a mature student from that very first year – I remember him having a real tough time at his final assessment.  He wanted to pass so badly – he’d given up his job to study at BIMM. He came into the exam room, and basically told me he couldn’t do it. He’d tried his best, but just couldn’t perform the piece at the required tempo. I told him not to worry, and that I’d turn on the metronome at a tempo where he could do it – so he could at least show me what he could do. He didn’t know, but I actually set the metronome to the required tempo for the assessment and, him thinking it was slower than required, proceeded to play it perfectly. When he then asked me to increase the tempo to the required bpm, with a resigned air of defeat, I gave him the news that he’d just passed it, and showed him the tempo marking on the metronome!  Cue lots of disbelief and a few tears.  It was only later he confided in me that he had MS and had decided to challenge himself to getting the Diploma , he didn’t want any favours so had kept it secret. It meant everything to him.
Another highlight was when I got to interview Steve Gadd, a huge drumming hero of mine, at Dingwalls in London, in front of 150 or so BIMM drumming students. It was a magic hour spent in the company of one of the world’s greatest living musicians.  And the great thing is that we have many more lined up.

15. Does BIMM have any involvement in The Great Escape, Brighton Festival or Brighton Fringe or any other major event?
Yes.  This year just gone, we ran the first ever official BIMM event at the Great Escape.  It was called ‘The BIMM Student Sessions’, and featured a panel of students in Q&A with a panel of music industry experts, from various different areas of the industry (A&R, Digital, Music Festivals etc).  As part of the day, we also had music industry partners and colleagues from the likes of AIM (the Association of Independent Music), BPI and PRS for Music contribute. Tony Wadsworth, chairman of the BPI and one of BIMM’s non-executive directors finished the day in conversation with Seymour Stein, co-founder of Island records, and the man who signed Madonna, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Depeche Mode etc. This day was amazing, with around 200 students and music industry pros in attendance. We’re currently in discussions with TGE for next year, we’re hoping after the success of our first year it’ll be bigger and better.

16. Any future plans/new developments for BIMM?
There’s a lot on the horizon, and we’re currently in a healthy period of growth. We’re constantly investigating the possibility of new courses to compliment our existing programmes to meet the demands of the shifting sands of the music industry, whilst maintaining the best possible student experience for all our on board students. We must be doing something right as more and more potential students are applying, so I guess it’s just a case of carrying on doing what we do – offering the best possible music education experience for those seeking a sustainable career in the music industry. And ensuring we do that to the best of our ability.