Masters and Music; the perfect combination

I remember applying for my ucas thinking what on earth am I going to do with my life?

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By studying Maths, Further Maths, Music and Physics, my initial plan was to go down the engineering route. The hilarious thing was getting a D in AS Physics then having to drop it (No more engineering for me)! I think the high expectation from my family got to me a little bit; I always had someone tell me what I should do, rather than what I want to. To their defense, I was a clueless kid, and my total lack of decision-making skills didn’t help my cause.

If I’m brutally honest, Computer Science came completely out of the blue. I genuinely had no idea what I wanted to pursue a career in. I was suffering with Maths overload during A-Levels, so I wanted to escape; and music was that for me. Music has always been a passion, hobby and way of life for me, so regardless of what I studied I know I wanted to have music as my escape from the real world. Coming from a Bengali family too, my parents were supportive of Music (which a lot of people found surprising actually…) throughout my life. Deep down I knew it was something that defined me.

I remember having such a hard time picking my subject for UCAS. I remembered during my school days I used to be into fixing things like mobile phones and being handy with stuff, and randomly one day my mum just suggests that I should do Computer Science. My initial reaction was a flabbergasted one, because I couldn’t find where my mum found a parallel between fixing phones and computer science! But after talking a few days for it to sink in, I realised that this could be something different for me. I kept being disappointed with results, so why the hell not do something different, something fresh out of the Maths cloud?

Once I started at Qmul, I realised that this subject was nothing like I expected it to be. The broadness of the concepts was refreshing for me. A concept like computer science was something that I had clearly been missing due to the Maths overload at A-Level. I definitely didn’t realise what I got myself into when applying, but in the best way possible! The university environment was so different to me too. Going to a grammar school for sixth form, I was so used to the reserved and “to-myself” attitudes of students. To be frankly honest, I expected the computer science crowd to be a little bit boring and not as outgoing. How wrong I was. I made the most amazing friends during my time at Qmul, and found out that actually computer science students were probably one of the best groups of people I’ve met.

Of course side-by-side I was still doing my music. Doing occasional gigs here and there lugging my guitar around with me on campus, however it was my third year of undergrad where everything changed for the better. I was already quite involved in the Asian music scene, but as someone on the border; someone not yet a professional, but I wasn’t quite an amateur anymore either. It was a difficult place to be in. I got my breakthrough when my talent was recognised by a pioneer in Urban Asian music- Mumzy Stranger. I was signed as I started my final year of undergrad, so my take on everything changed drastically. My music was not now a hobby, but it became a profession.

I had to measure my time properly, because my final year as so important, but serious time had to be given to music too. During final year I juggled lectures with studio time, exams with gigs, and coursework deadlines with releases! The amazing thing is I cant say that I regret any part of last year, as in 2016 I made history. “Jaan Atki” (Bangla Refix) was a song originally by Mumzy Stranger, but I wrote Bengali lyrics to the original song and re-released the track. We did not anticipate the response it got… It became the first Bengali song to reach number 1 on an iTunes chart. History was made, and I was a part of it. Even till this day is has not sunk. To be a part of a revolutionary project not just for me, but also for Bengali music was something I can hold with me for the rest of my life, but that’s when the hunger grew bigger. It was a dangerous road I went down; doing gigs one day, attending lectures the next, but however much time I spent doing music, I couldn’t get enough of it.

After graduating from university, I was at the biggest crossroad I have faced. I knew that going into full time employment meant I had to sacrifice my precious time in music, but in this current day and age, unemployment was a dangerous road to go down. I had to come up with a compromise. It would be impossible to go into full time music at this stage in my career, as even with my iTunes number 1, the competition was extremely tough. Unless I was regularly releasing and making serious (and I mean SERIOUS) money, it wasn’t something I could rely on, due to the unstable nature of the industry. From this I concluded that the best route for me to take would be to do a Masters degree in Business Systems Analysis and Design, from City, University of London. This was a more business specific course, closely related to my BSc in Computer Science. I felt that although the masters was always going to be intense and demanding, it would still allow me to have the odd days in the week free to carry on with my music. It was also a bit more forgiving if I didn’t attend one day, whereas in full time work it would be a reason for me to get fired!

Trying to juggle the two is the biggest challenge however. Those who have done a masters degree would understand that it is in a different world to an undergraduate degree. Firstly the age group and personnel is extremely different. During undergrad you were used to having people around the same age, with the odd exception of a few mature students. In a masters, the age ranges from someone who just graduated, to a father of five with 15 years in industry. Also, the workload is a lot more demanding. From the off, you’re expected to had in weekly deliverables in every single module. I guess that extra 9k is getting made worthwhile!

One of the things I love doing most during this masters degree is keeping a low key profile in Uni while I carry out my work. When I made friends in uni, they had no idea that I did music! As humble as I would love to be, I would be lying to myself if I didn’t say that my social profile hadn’t increased since my signed my deal, so it was refreshing to keep myself to myself during uni. Occasionally the odd person would recognize me and speak to me (much to the amusement of my course friends), and although it will always be awkward for me to get a selfie taken with me in the middle of the library, it is always a reminder that what I have done, or doing even is something big.

I aim to finish my Masters degree in September 2017, so at them moment I am trying to facilitate my music career without trying to mess up my education too much! However I would always recommend people to do further education, as nothing in life is promised. Career changes can happen so quickly in life, and the way I am trying to go about mine is to cover all areas. In this case I cannot have any regrets later, and if music doesn’t work out for me, I at least have a masters to fall back on. For now, it’s all about me trying to build as much as a possibly can and learn as much as I possibly can so I can be ready for next year. Whether that is in music or a career in the tech world is a decision I will have to make at the end of the year, but for now I’m just enjoying life as it comes.

Nishat Monsur aka Nish

Follow @iamnishmusic on instagram, YouTube and Twitter

Enjoy Nish’s latest performance at The Asiana Bridal Show 2017 with STARBOY

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