Music industry trio awarded Fellowships by Leeds College Of Music

Music industry trio awarded Fellowships by Leeds College Of Music

PRS For Music Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed, Mute Records' founder Daniel Miller and music writer Alexis Petridis have been honoured with Fellowships from Leeds College Of Music. 

Each of the three Fellows have been recognised  for playing a vital role in supporting and championing artists across the industry and shaping the future of music in the UK.

The trio accepted their honours during today's graduation ceremony for the current cohort of graduands at Leeds Town Hall. 

On receiving her fellowship, Reed (pictured) said: “I’m delighted to receive a Fellowship from Leeds College of Music. I’m aware of the vibrant music scene in Leeds and the talented musicians graduating from the conservatoire as many of the artists from the City have come to the Foundation for support. I look forward to extending this relationship and finding other ways to help the conservatoire’s Graduates with the next stage in their career.”

Miller said: “I’m very honoured to be awarded the fellowship at Leeds College of Music. The conservatoire is an exceptional place for music education and I look forward to a long and fruitful association.”

Alexis Petridis, head rock & pop critic for The Guardian, said “I’m stunned and delighted to receive a Fellowship from the Leeds College Of Music - it’s really not the kind of recognition you would expect to get as a rock critic. I’m very proud of my West Yorkshire roots, so I’m pleased to be associated with such a prestigious local institution, and I’m looking forward to hearing some of the Leeds students actually perform.”

Leeds College of Music Fellowships are awarded to persons of high musical standing, or those who have made a distinguished academic or musical contribution to the work of Leeds College of Music.  

Gerry Godley, principal and MD of Leeds College of Music, said: “We carefully select Fellows whose artistic and professional values match those of the conservatoire, and Vanessa Reed, Daniel Miller and Alexis Petridis all have a passion for creativity that reflects that of the community here at Leeds College of Music. They display an integrity and entrepreneurship that we encourage our students to aspire to as they embark upon their career in the music industry.”

In her speech, Reed encouraged those students graduating to forge ahead with a career in the music industry saying: “Follow your passion. Follow your instinct and don’t let anything get in the way of your future career in music. It’s not always easy - it’s hard work, long hours and if you’re a woman or if you’re from anything other than a white, middle class background, you may have more challenges than others. But please don’t be put off by that. Make those challenges the things that you rise to and overcome. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an artist, we’re counting on you, the next generation, to be the change that our rapidly evolving industry will always need.”

Previous Fellowship awards include Marc Almond, Nick Hodgson, Terry and Liz Bramall, Johnny Kalsi, Philip Meaden, Amy Pearce and Fiona Cunningham. 

Reed's full speech is published below: 

It’s a real honour to be here today to accept this fellowship from Leeds College of Music and to say a few words about what it means to myself, Daniel and Alexis to have been acknowledged in this way. 

I was a bit apprehensive when I was asked to be the spokesperson for the three of us – partly because I’m a big admirer of what Daniel and Alexis have achieved and partly because we’ve each followed very different paths in the music industry – Daniel as you know is a legendary record label founder, Alexis is a brilliant music journalist whose words you’ll have read in the Guardian and I’m the Chief Executive of a charitable music foundation and some Leeds College of Music graduates may have met me when seeking funds to help support their next album or tour. So we’re each doing very different things. 

But when I talked to Daniel and Alexis about their fellowships I realized that at the end of the day we do have something very important in common and that’s our unconditional passion for music. That might sound fairly obvious but it is really important. It’s that acknowledgement that music was always going to be central to our lives because it’s the thing we enjoy more than anything. It’s something that we couldn’t live without. You might even call it an obsession. It’s realizing that your first memories all feature music – for me it was learning to play the piano with my mum; for Alexis it was seeing Wizzard on Top of the Pops. For Daniel it was developing an obsession for skiffle at the age of 7. Music shaped our lives even if we weren’t fully aware of this at the time. As Alexis said to me – it almost feels like a mistake that we’ve somehow been allowed to do what we love the most as a job.  

So my message to all of you today is if you relate to any of those sentiments I just described then go for it. Now is your time. Follow your passion. Follow your instinct and don’t let anything get in the way of your future career in music. Why shouldn’t your job be as close as is humanly possible to the thing you most love in life? And why shouldn’t it be the natural follow-up to what you’ve been lucky enough to study here at Leeds College of Music?

When I graduated from the University of Southampton, I didn’t know exactly which role I’d end up playing. I didn’t know about the Foundation I’ve had the pleasure of leading and transforming over the past 9 years for the benefit of thousands of musicians and organisations. So don’t worry if you don’t yet have a detailed masterplan. The industry is changing so rapidly that we don’t necessarily know about some of the jobs that will exist when you reach my age – which for most of you I imagine will be in around 20 years from now.  The most important factor, apart from the passion and determination that I ‘ve already talked about, is being  clear about a few key elements which will play to your strengths and keep you inspired; some core values that are key to your DNA as a passionate and determined music lover. For me two things were important:  

  • first I knew I wanted to work with composers because I wanted to somehow play a role in supporting the creation of new work by the people who define the future of music
  • second I knew I would enjoy and be good at working

internationally, which came from the fact I studied a joint degree in French and Music , I’ve lived overseas and I’ve always been curious about how things are done in other countries. That’s why I recently set up a European version of PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music programme and that’s also why I’m particularly pleased that Leeds is bidding to become European Capital of Culture in 2023 and that Leeds College of Music is part of that). 

So it’s not about knowing all of the specifics at this stage - work out what makes you tick and don’t be afraid to be open, to be curious, to put yourself forward, to listen, to take risks, try things out and, most importantly, make your world as big as it possibly can be regardless of any political frameworks that might make us feel more isolated.

Of course things will get in the way. The music industry is not easy for anyone – it’s hard work, long hours and you don’t often get the kind of recognition the three of us, as Fellows are enjoying at today’s event. If you’re a woman or if you’re from anything other than a white, middle class background, you’ll also have specific challenges:  you’ll find less people who look like you than you might expect; fewer role models to inspire your own particular journey perhaps and yes there’ll be other obstacles to confront along the way.

But please don’t be put off by that. If anything, make those challenges the things that you rise to; the challenges you overcome together. Whichever path you take and whoever you are, believe in yourself, protect your rights, negotiate hard, be clear about for what and for whom you would put yourself on the line and you’ll be able to overcome those obstacles. I’d like to think that every graduate of Leeds College of Music could help ensure that the way we create, produce, promote & write about music in the future is more distinctive and powerful than its ever been because it involves a broader cross-section of talented people from across the UK who each have something unique to contribute. I also hope that you will make the most of the contacts you’ve made here through the College’s growing range of courses including the new Music Business Course that I know was introduced this year.

So thank you again from myself, Daniel Miller and Alexis Petridis for our fellowships, for the opportunity to be associated with this exceptional College and for the chance this has given us to reflect on the direction our own lives have taken.

And most importantly congratulations to everyone who is graduating from the College today.

It’s been a pleasure to be here to celebrate with you and as you’ve probably gathered we’re counting on you - the next generation - to be the change that our rapidly evolving music industry will always need. 

This is where it all begins…and I look forward to following your stories

Thank you.

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