Tim Cotterell – Centre Manager – Access To Music

What is your job title at ATM, how long have you worked there and what does your job involve?
My job at ATM is to run the centre in Brighton; it involves everything from writing the timetable, dealing with any issues that arise, keeping Ofsted at a safe distance, getting the bills paid, sweeping up and of course, working with students on their music. 
Tell me about your background, work wise and music related, before you joined ATM
I’ve done a bunch of music industry stuff; playing keys, fiddle and mandolin in various bands, studio engineering work, writing music for various things; libraries, games etc., loads of teaching and workshop leading.
Please outline the main courses, and qualifications currently on offer at ATM
We offer Music Performance and Music Tech @ Levels 2 and 3, Artist Development at Level 4 and Creative Media @ L3. We also get involved in traineeships in the creative industries. 
How does being at ATM help students in their chosen path/interest? In a number of ways, and it’s different for each student. Some people need the time to create and work out what they do next, some are looking for specific skills e.g. how do I use such-and-such production technique to make my music sound better, some want to develop their instrumental skill and some are really focussed on how they can promote themselves and their act.
Are there any aspects of being a student at ATM that relate to personal development (ie, non-music related activities/courses etc)?
Yeah, loads. For a start there’s the experience of being immersed in such an open-minded music community, which is really good for student’s awareness of what’s out there, of the size of the world, if you like. Our curriculum is designed to develop student’s skills in lots of areas as well as music, e.g I.T, communication, presentation, team work etc. The kind of thing that gets called ‘transferable skills’ these days, although that phrase makes me cringe a bit. And because we’re an FE college, we also work with students on their Maths and English as well as on their awareness of personal safety, their role in a democracy etc. ATM isn’t about that traditional music college model where you focus on the two people you think might have a hit and ignore everyone else, it’s much more important to us that everyone develops their own potential, in musical or non-musical ways and we try our best to achieve that. 

Tell me about some of the tutors/lecturers. Many of them are actively involved in music?

Yes, the majority of our team are, of course engaged in music all the time. We’ve got several players, a record label president, a publicist, several songwriters, a couple of engineers, some composers, a couple of solo artists, a mix engineer, a rapper and a bagpiper on the team. It’s really important that we all keep inspired and involved in our subject but we also only work with people who are also good tutors, as it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your musical life if you can’t take advantage of that to help someone else, which is a whole other skill set.
We’re also really lucky to work closely with Brighton Electric studio, who are a great bunch. It means that we are able to make sure of great rehearsal facilities and keep the college open until midnight, four nights a week.
How many students on average per year?
We only have 150 students a year, so it can be quite competitive to get a place. 
Tell me about some of the possible career paths of ATM students
They’re really varied, from songwriting and performing to engineering to working in the Apple store; session playing and being in bands, working in the creative media industries, running events, composition, youth work and a whole host of other destinations, some music related and some not. There’s an unfortunate focus nowadays on the idea that all education should lead directly to making money in some way but I think that for a lot of students they just need time to get involved in art, to feed their souls a little. And a lot go on to work in other industries. But music is something that you never lose…..
Any ATM alumni who have gone on to work in the industry you can mention?
Yeah, several although it’s important to stress that our greatest successes aren’t always those who have music industry success, it’s those who came to us with no qualifications and ended up going to uni that make us the proudest. But we have ex-students like Becky Jerams (see playlist) and Fliptrix who’ve done really well and we’re obviously proud of. Several of our ex tech students have done great stuff in EDM and one of our alumni is currently engineering for one of the biggest bands in the world. And of course Ed Sheeran and Rita Ora were ATM students.
Is ATM affiliated to any other educational institutions?
Not really, except that we now work closely with ICMP in London. Otherwise we’re an indie, not a major!
What has been your personal highlight(s) while working at ATM?
Working at ATM has been a lot of fun, and it’s hard to pick out a highlight but the events that really stand out to me are the amazing gigs that have happened over the years; watching people get up and do their first gigs and become performers is a really nice thing to be a part of. Also, when students who came to us with vey little by way of educational attainment get that university offer, we often have a moment of quiet pride. Colleges are less and less about trying to actually help people these days as they’re all chasing league table positions and stats and that can mean closing the door in the faces of students who, for one reason or another, haven’t got the grades or have had problems at school. We’re trying our hardest to keep the door open and let people have second chances, which isn’t in line with Tory policy but is the right thing to do. So we’re proud of maintaining that ethos in the face of huge funding cuts etc.
Does ATM have any involvement in The Great Escape, Brighton Festival or Brighton Fringe or any other events?
We get involved in the Great Escape quite heavily, by putting on our own events as part of the Alternative Escape but more importantly loads of students get involved in work experience in the festival itself, doing everything from venue management to live sound teching to photographing the events. We’ve done Festival events before too, which are always fun!