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Never too late to learn: Access to HE students share their stories

Four of our Access to Higher Education students tell us how the course has helped them to pursue a new path in life.


This September, many of our diploma students will be going on to study music technology and production at degree level. But it’s not just 18-year-olds who are getting ready to take their subject to the next level. Many students of our Access to HE programme – which prepares mature students without traditional qualifications for university – will be taking their next step too.

This diverse and motivated group includes individuals from nearly every background and walk of life. Here are some of their stories.

Sofia Bulut

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20-year-old Sofia Bulut was working towards a BTEC in health and social care when she realised she wanted to pursue a future in film scoring.

“Before I came to dBs I was so confused about my future. I thought I wanted to be a mental health nurse, but then I saw one my my favourite films, Maze Runner: Death Cure in the cinema. I had been feeling a bit low, but listening to the score I felt something I hadn’t for a long time. I realised that this is what I want to do. I want to make people feel something with music. 

“I started looking up degree courses and found one that I am now going on to do this September. However, I couldn’t get onto it at the time without a portfolio, and I didn’t have anything because all the music software is so expensive. That’s where the access course at dBs came in. 

This year has enabled me to feel a bit more independent before I go off to university. It’s given me the time I needed to find my own sound and develop skills I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I was also working in retail whilst I was studying, but it was really easy to balance the workload. The tutors made it so easy for me to do all my work in the college so I didn’t have to worry about it in my free time. I could just focus on getting as many hours in as possible.”

Sofia will be starting a degree in Music for Film this September. 

Ibou Tall

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Ibou is a Senegalese composer jazz musician who had been touring for 30 years before joining dBs Music. After working on the soundtrack for Channel 4’s 2018 spy thriller Traitors, he became interested in studying for a degree in Composition for Film and TV. 

“I wanted to learn about orchestration and film composition. When I signed up I was told I needed to do a Level 3, as my International Baccalaureate qualification was considered to be a Level 2. The admissions team suggested the Music Production Access to Higher Education course and I was really interested to do it because I had never had the chance to learn about the technical side of music before. I had only ever focused on the performance. To suddenly be able to understand a waveform was a new universe for me.

“I was the oldest in my class but I never felt like that. For me, learning is an eternal journey and quest, and this was a great opportunity to discover new things. I’m a jazz musician but I’ve always been open to other genres, so it was great to get in touch with the music of the younger generation. It’s like I was absorbing all this energy to generate new energy.

“I’ve also been recording my second album as part of my course. Now I understand more about recording, it’s like a new window that’s been opened for creativity. It’s both enriched how I work with my band and enabled me to pursue this new avenue.”

Ibou will be beginning his BA in Music Composition for Film and TV as dBs Bristol in September. 

Alex Lyons

IMG_7835 copyOriginally from Malawi, Alex has been writing rap lyrics since the age of 12. For him, the Access to Higher Education Course was an opportunity to reconnect with a lifelong passion, after putting music to one side when he moved to the UK.

“Whilst I was learning English I couldn’t really rap anymore, so I just focused on other things for a while. I finished school, but I still didn’t know what path I wanted to follow. In the end, I started working full-time in a restaurant and the funny thing is, while I was there I found an old piano. I ended up asking my boss if I could take it home and he said yes. Then I came across this mic online and I got that too. One day I woke up and realised I have all this stuff. I should start making music again.

“A few people had recommended dBs to me and I was keeping it in mind, but in my head I was thinking ‘I’m 22, I’m too old’. You see, in Malawi it’s different. If I was there and said I wanted to do music, they would think I wasn’t taking things seriously. Luckily I had a friend who was also into music. We had been teaching each other some production and talking about studying. In the end he pushed me and we went to the dBs open day together.

The thing I love most about dBs is the community. Even though we’re all in our own classes, I’ve been able to meet and collaborate with so many people. There was so much studio time. I was in the studio pretty much every day – and the tutors give you so much of their time, both in and out of lessons.”

Alex is going on to study for a degree in Creative Music Technology this September.

Philip Ross

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23-year-old Philip had been DJ-ing and organising his own events before applying to dBs Music. For him, the Access to Higher Education course was an opportunity to formalise his knowledge and develop his musical and professional skills.

“After organising and playing at a few events of my own, I found I really wanted to do it more. I’ve always been known for being right at the front of the rave, so being on the other side of it felt really natural. I wanted to start branching out into a more professional scope.

“What I really liked about dBs and made me want to stay is the people. You can learn how to do music anywhere, but if you’re not with the right people you’re not going to want to be there as much. At dBs I feel like the staff and the students alike are very kind and courteous. And they know their stuff. They give you the knowledge you need to progress.

“Learning how to compose has been really fun. I didn’t know anything about composition before. Being up in the DJ studios, I learn a lot about the different ways people mix and look at music. Pretty much every aspect of how I put music together has changed. The tutors have encouraged me to be more analytical about things. So, whilst I’ve always loved doing music, now I feel like I really understand what I’m doing.”

Philip is going to study for a BA in Electronic Music Production at dBS Plymouth.

Interested in returning to education? You can find out out more about our Access to Higher Education courses here.

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