Thomas Chapman, BMus Popular Music Bass Guitar

Why did you choose to study at the RNCM?

I wanted to study jazz but do different types of music as well. I got into Trinity and Birmingham for Jazz, but I wanted to come here and do jazz plus other stuff, because the pop course allows that. I can still do plenty of jazz stuff but also rock and hip hop and electronic stuff and whatever I want. So yeah, I liked the idea of having the flexibility for my musical interests to change and evolve during the course.

Have you always been interested in jazz?

It’s something I really got into after high school when I took two years off from studying. I spent most of that time getting my jazz stuff together. So yeah I did jazz by myself for a bit and here at the RNCM I’ve been able to learn a lot more about it.

How has your experience been studying at the College?

I’ve had a few different teachers. In first year I had Jasper Wilkinson and Ollie Collins last year. In third year I’ve had Steve Berry and Simon Goulding and next year I’ll have Richard Hammond. I’ve especially enjoyed lessons with Steve Berry, jazz is his thing and his lessons are mind-blowing. But you get different things from each person so it’s great getting different perspectives… For me, studying here has been the chance to play tons of different types of music as opposed to it being really specific and specialised. And the way the course is set up allows you to get examined on whatever you’re doing anyway, outside of College. So it’s really supportive and prepares you for the professional world… The most valuable thing about being at College, above even the education aspect, is you get put in a pool of people who are really good musicians and with that comes contacts and opportunities.

When did you start playing bass guitar?

I think 2007, so I would’ve been about 13 or 14. I’d played a little bit of guitar but I had a mate who was super into it and he wanted to go to one of those rock schools where they get kids of different instruments put them into bands and there’s a performance at the end. So I went along to that and they said they were short of bass players and I just tried it out. Because I wasn’t that bad on guitar anyway. And yeah when I did I just absolutely loved it, I just had the best time playing it. After that I went home and begged my parents for one.

What are some of your performance highlights?

Through the RNCM I’ve gotten some amazing jazz performance opportunities. I play in a group called Andchuck with the Jazz North Scheme, an initiative of Arts Council England. Through that we’ve been able to do a bunch of festivals this year, including Manchester Jazz Festival. That’s been really fun… Aside from the jazz stuff there are a fair few rock bands I play with. I recently played a gig at Gorilla with my band Cosmo Calling; it was packed out and the sound system was incredible.

Do you like Manchester?

I’m from a small village called Stocksfield in Northumberland. I didn’t know Manchester before moving here, I’d only come for the audition. I’ve since gotten to know it and I love it. It’s a really nice city, I really like being here… The music scene is great, I go to as many gigs as I can. Venues like Band on the Wall and Gorilla have a lot of good bands. A lot of my mates also play in bands that gig around so I always try and see them. There are some good jazz venues as well; I’ve recently been playing gigs at Matt and Phreds in Northern Quarter – there’s a nice vibe there with people just going to watch the music. I got my first opportunity to play there through College and then developed some contacts.

Any plans for after graduation?

Yeah, I’d like to stay in Manchester, keep it as my base. I’d like to travel around quite a bit and just keep working as a freelance musician. For our fourth year at College we get a sort of placement where I want to set up myself as a self-employed musician and get enough work to make it viable. I definitely want to strike a balance of earning enough to get by and doing creative projects … In terms of immediate plans, Andchuck’s releasing an EP in a few weeks and we’re in the process of planning a tour around the UK and hopefully some countries in Europe. For Cosmo Calling, we’ll be releasing an EP soon and then we’ll be touring as well.