“It’s never too late to improve yourself or your life”

Neil Baggley, Outreach Project Coordinator at London College of Music, University of West London explains why going back to education was the right path for him. Neil is managing an exciting ‘Have a go’ event in June for people interested in finding out more about career paths for  musicians, singers, rappers and aspiring industry professionals.

I was quite young when music changed me and the course of my life. I remember it vividly, hearing Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’ for the first time and it simply blew me away. The range of moods and grooves contained within its 6 minutes and 23 seconds exposed me to unknown forms of empathy and fantasy, sharing a glimpse of music’s power and endless possibilities. Soon after, I bought my first guitar and so began my friendship, my romance, my obsession with music.

Fast forward 20 years and my passion hasn’t waned. After years as a musician whilst dabbling with production and helping friends with various live projects, I graduated in BA (Hons) Music Management from the University of West London with first-class honours in May 2017 after making the decision to gain a formal qualification. I was a late starter in higher education and with the decision came certain personal sacrifices, yet I never once considered it a risk or a burden – whenever someone questioned my decision or enquired as to my reasons, my response was always “It’s never too late to improve yourself or your life” before boring them with my Radiohead story.

For so long, I’d dreamed of being able to go to sleep at night excited for work the following morning. Until 2016 I had spent nigh-on 10 years working in an area in which sadly that  was rarely the case! During that time, I encountered countless others from music and performing arts backgrounds who had found themselves trapped in the industry because they couldn’t see a way out without retraining or starting a new career from the bottom. Retraining at any time can be daunting but there often seems to be a stigma attached to adult learners mixing with what might be considered a young person’s environment – this had occurred to me too but never enough to discourage me. The truth is, like so many things in life, these preconceptions are built around our own insecurities which in reality, don’t exist. I very quickly realised that everyone enters with similar motives, similar aspirations, similar insecurities and everyone receives and gives support in equal measure. Here’s where my journey comes back around.

Today, I now work for the university coordinating outreach projects for the music college (London College of Music), ranging from high schools through to mature learners. One of our larger and for me, personally rewarding projects is specifically aimed at helping mature learners make an informed decision about entering higher education by giving them the opportunity to experience our facilities and receive the expertise of our faculty members and guest industry professionals. From varying backgrounds, disciplines, ages and abilities, we equip them with practical skills, creative thought processes and ultimately the confidence to decide either “Yes, higher education is the right path for me” or “It’s been fun but I now know I want to make my own way”. Having the opportunity to help others make this decision, to dismiss any unfounded preconceptions – whilst having fun and sharing our passion for music – is something I find hugely important and rewarding.

Of course, this isn’t where my journey ends. I’m also involved with projects outside of my work with the university and continue to develop in different areas of the music industry. It’s so wonderfully diverse and interesting, I’m sure I’ll still be learning in thirty years time. So, if you’re thinking of following your dream just remember that the start of the journey is right there within reach, new knowledge breeds the confidence to take each step along the way and most importantly, it’s never too late to improve yourself or your life.