Ethan Kelly, HND Music Production Student

 21 January 2019

Ethan Kelly was the winner of the Creative Student of the Year Award 2018 at the annual Creative & Cultural Skills Northern Ireland Awards. We caught up with Ethan about his achievements and why he chose his course at North West Regional College

"You’ll eventually get to a stage where people will call you talented but before that, you’ll have to be hard working." Photo credit: Simon Mills

What course are you studying?

I’m studying HND Music Production at North West Regional College (NWRC). 

Why did you decide to study this course?

I have always had an interest in music. But coming from a family of music performers I was never comfortable being in front of a crowd, as there was always a family member that was better. I decided to stand out from the crowd and go down a less traditional path for music.

NWRC had a name for being a great learning centre of music and performing arts in my local area.

NWRC had a name for being a great learning centre of music and performing arts in my local area. Coming from Donegal, it was also feasible for me to live and study here as opposed to other cities on the island.

Tell me a bit about your day to day work on the course?

I wake up at 5 every morning, have a cup of tea and watch a documentary on some aspect of music/ sound design.

9:00 - Go to class
10:30 - Finish class
10:31 - Experiment using college resource to replicate what I saw in the documentary.

1:00 - Class.
2:30 - Re-apply what I learned in class or work with other students working on a project.

5:30 - Get in trouble for not leaving when I should
6:00 - Sneak in again for an hour to finish coursework
7:00 - Go home, get food, then run to a gig and do the sound. Usually it’s for a band I met through the college.

What work have you been most proud of throughout the course?

I am proud of several different projects that all deserve mention. From working on amazing projects with Harp / The Ulster Fry to winning the HHB award and being trusted to represent the college at different events. I was an engineer at Leeds Music Festival through Creative & Cultural Skills and Festival Republic. One of my recordings was aired on BBC radio and several projects were aired on BBC Introducing.

As amazing as all these achievements are my proudest moment came when I was involved in a full recording of a BBC project. In the middle of recording I was called and asked to report to the studio, as I did the artist played an idea he had for a song. In the next 20 minutes we recorded an entire song using 3 mics and analog recording techniques. It was the first true time I engineered a session that I had no help with and the first time I had complete control over production. I felt like I knew exactly the sound and style I wanted and was able to capture it.

How did it feel to win the award?

Words can’t describe the emotions I felt as I won the award. For Grainne to even put my name forward was an honour, but to represent the college and win is truly amazing. Being able to have an award for all the hard work I put in over the four years was a great reminder of how far I’ve come.

Being able to have an award for all the hard work I put in over the four years was a great reminder of how far I’ve come.

However, after the award I remembered a quote from one of my favourite artists: “Every time you reach a new level, prepare for a new devil.” The reactions of family members were very underwhelming. After describing how I won the award several people questioned my ego or the “size of my head”, as they put it.

The quote was a reminder that I should be proud of myself, as not everyone will understand the what an achievement like this is and what it means to someone that put in the time and effort to learn the skills needed for the industry. 

What are your plans for the future?

2017 was the start, 2018 was the preparation and 2019 is my year.

What advice would you give to others?

 If you take care of every opportunity that presents itself, and take every single thing you can out of it, those opportunities will take care of you.

Be ready for hard work. You’ll eventually get to a stage where people will call you talented but before that, you’ll have to be hard working. Eventually, people will call you skilled but before that, you'll have to be obsessed with learning your trade.

Take care of every opportunity that presents itself. If you take care of every opportunity that presents itself, and take every single thing you can out of it, those opportunities will take care of you. I can’t describe how or explain why but every opportunity leads to more doors opening, more networking opportunities and eventually the right door will open. 


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