Being a mature student at BIMM – Kevin McGee

11th March 2020

I’ve been a mature student a couple of times. Picking third-level courses for fun makes it feel more like a hobby and less like a mid-life crisis. I’m currently doing my third degree – Songwriting, at BIMM Institute Dublin. This one is the most fun yet.

I think that’s because it combines elements of a traditional college course and an old-fashioned apprenticeship. You’re not just taking in information, you’re learning how to do something.

Acquiring a skill feels more immediate than mastering the pulmonary system or an epoch of Macedonian history. The satisfaction is immediate. If you’re better at guitar on Friday than you were on Monday, you can feel it when you play. A wet January is no nicer in BIMM that it is in Trinity, but you will have some new songs at the end of it

It’s also an easier transition from work than you might expect. A lot of work is about problem-solving, usually with colleagues of different skills and interests. BIMM is like that too. Getting a band together is just another kind of task force, but you don’t have to talk to them through a whiteboard.

Unlike at work, people here tend to be interested in what they’re doing. You will end up in a pub talking about the best key-change in pop music*, or the value of a ‘Picardy third’.

The courses also have an academic component. Third time around, I’m more than familiar with that world. I could give you directions to Santry in the Harvard Referencing System. If you’re not coming to BIMM from an academic background, it may be tougher. College assignments are a step up from school, and it’s a bigger step if you left school ten years ago.

But the academic work is introduced gradually. The first essay was 300 words long, not much more than half of this article.

You can also get some practice in. Spend a bit of your summer reading music blogs and magazines, and learn that Harvard Referencing System. It has the same place in BIMM that the monolith does in Kubrick’s 2001. We sit there gaping at its majesty, vaguely aware that everything has changed. You can master it in a couple of hours, and it will settle your nerves to know one thing really well.

“You’ll need WhatsApp too. Ask a passing child.”

Some mature-student nerves are about the brute fact of being older than your classmates. Nobody has made much of this in my year, but it is a factor. You’ve had experiences you won’t want to talk about, and they’re having experiences you probably won’t want to hear.

Everyone is fine with this. A joint enterprise like playing songs together tends to minimise age gaps.
Working with younger people also exposes you to music you mightn’t have heard. That works both ways. It’s fun to watch someone hear Horslips or Captain Beefheart for the first time.

That being said, not many teenagers want to be in a band with someone older than their dad. You will be relieved to see other Pleistocene ruins shuffling through the halls. Reach out to them. The Stones are 278 now. It’s time some sprightly quinquagenarians knocked them off their perch.

*It’s Status Quo, ‘You’re In the Army Now’. I’m as uneasy about that as you are, but facts are facts.


BIMM University

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