It’s been five years in the making but the wait is finally over as the University of Sunderland’s new innovative music degree, led by top North East musicians, welcomes its first students.

The BA (Hons) Modern Music Industries is being run by the University in partnership with the Northern Academy of Music Education (NAME) – made up of The Futureheads’ Barry Hyde, and business partner Dan Donnelly, who has performed with Celtic Social Club, The Wonder Stuff, and The Levellers.

The programme opens its doors to students just a week after it was announced that the University of Sunderland was on the shortlist for University of the Year, the leading category in this year’s THE – Times Higher Education – annual awards.

Barry said: “It has taken around five years to develop the coursework, the partnership and also the venues and facilities for NAME to start teaching this academic year.

“We are really lucky to have brought in some extremely talented industry professionals and educators, who are passionate about mentoring aspiring music makers. Using our experiential knowledge, we aim to give high-quality, relevant guidance to maximise the individual progress of the students.

“Art is of course a subjective topic, but because we are highly experienced professionals, we can give objective direction based on our collective industry expertise, which we hope will inspire our students to be dedicated, ambitious and proactive in their endeavours. Huge motivation is required to become a professional musician and we know exactly what it takes.”

The first cohort of around 30 students will be based in music studios in the art and cultural heart of the city. The main lecture room sits within the new Fire Station venue, which also houses Live Theatre, Dance City, a bar and restaurant and an £11million 800 capacity auditorium. In the nearby Grade II listed former pub, The Peacock, there is a 220 capacity music venue as well as Birdland Studios, a brand new recording and rehearing facility.

The course is designed to fully equip students for life in an industry that has undergone a radical transformation.

“The advent of file sharing and streaming services, along with the development of affordable music production software, has created a rich and diverse environment that has allowed for much greater independence for emerging and established musical artists,” Barry explained.

“The 21st century music maker has creative opportunities that simply weren’t accessible until recently and our course will give students the academic framework to develop the essential, diverse skills that maximise their individual potential.

“The course not only encourages live performance and traditional music skills but also event management. This is a crucial diversification point that can further allow our students to develop and thrive in the modern music industry.”

Despite the arts and creative industries having been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, Barry still believes now is the right time for a programme like this one.

“The arts world is populated by tenacious and innovative individuals that have found ingenious ways of surviving under truly awful pressures and circumstances and it’s fantastic to see theatres, art galleries and music festivals return and thrive once more,” he said.

“Art is such a crucial aspect of our society and civilisation, and clearly by the current reinstated vibrancy, we can see that people are hungrier than ever to experience it. Our course is perfect for the modern climate, which requires innovative people to bring fresh ideas and ambition forward to further develop the delivery of high quality art.

“A modern musician has to be thirsty for knowledge across broad areas of development to take full advantage of the opportunities that are out there, and we are here to give them that knowledge.”

Barry added: “We have been extremely fortunate to find such fantastic partnership with University of Sunderland, who have been providing world class education on Wearside for many years.”

“We look forward to doing justice to the amazing opportunity the University has given us and hope to enjoy a long and productive relationship with them.”

Professor Arabella Plouviez, Academic Dean of Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland, said: “Students will not only have a wide range of resources and a professional environment to really excel in as well as being based in the heart of the cultural centre of Sunderland, but they will also be taught by a whole range of professional musicians and with Barry and Dan both experienced and inspirational musicians as well as music educators, this is a really unique and exciting new venture.

“We look forward to seeing the graduates from this programme and their impact on the music industry into the future.”