Catherine Tackley
Head of Music, The Open University

  • BA in Music, 1997

How did you find your way into your current position?

I went straight from York into a job teaching classroom music in a secondary school - which involved an incredibly steep learning curve! It was a great experience, but I always knew that I wanted to return to study. I then completed a PhD, continuing to play and teach at the same time. I initially worked in schools but then at Leeds College of Music for 6 years, beginning as Research Fellow and ending as Head of the Centre for Jazz Studies. I joined the Open University in 2008, became Senior Lecturer in 2011 and have been Head of Department for the last year and a half.

What are your strongest memories of your time at York?

Being part of a intellectually stimulating and creative musical community. Of course the music-making sticks in the mind - playing Bruckner and Sibelius in the orchestra, the tour to Greece, a train- themed practical project at the Railway Museum, winning awards with the big band, playing recorders and crumhorns, conducting Rhapsody in Blue and playing Carnival of the Animals in concerts with friends in my last week as an undergraduate.

How did York prepare you for your career?

My study at York equipped me to be independent - in terms of thinking, but practically, too - which has been vital for my career. I learned not only how to research and write about music, but how to devise creative response to a particular topic that would do much more than regurgitate information. I also learned a lot about how to organise myself, and others! My degree taught me that I didn't need to give up practical music-making to pursue the subject academically - which has been really important in everything I've done since.

What advice would you have for current students?

Throw yourself into everything and enjoy it! It took me a while to 'get' the project system and how to produce work in response to it - it was so different from anything I'd done at school. So ask plenty of questions, of lecturers and other students, to make sure you get feedback on your ideas, and don't be tempted to play it too safe. I also spent time making music and socialising with people outside the Department (many of whom were excellent musicians) - so don't miss out on the other opportunities that York offers.

Catherine Tackley