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“You can achieve if you put your mind to it” – how Gareth studied while travelling the world

Gareth Hand

At the age of 19, Gareth Hand from Derbyshire was working as a teaching assistant in a secondary school. His dream of becoming a Music teacher meant he needed a degree, but with a mortgage to pay and a very busy musical life performing as a percussionist all over the world from Dubai to Singapore, going to full time university just wasn’t an option.  Now 23, Gareth has got his degree, completing it in just four years, and is on track for the career he always wanted.

“I loved my job and seeing how music can motivate and inspire teenagers, and I soon realised my ambition was to be a music teacher.  I owned my own house and needed a regular income in order to keep up with mortgage payments and meet the cost of living so being a full time student in a mainstream university wasn’t financially viable.

“That is when I realised the Open University was the perfect way of achieving my degree (BA Hons Open) in music. This was my chance to achieve and change my life.”

Working, performing, and studying

With no previous experience of Higher Education, Gareth knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially as he was performing regularly as a percussionist alongside work.

“I was very lucky in the fact that I started performing at a very high level from the age of 17 and, since then, I have been extremely fortunate to have been around the world playing with some of the world’s finest ensembles in some of the finest concert halls around. This is something I wouldn’t have been able to continue doing if it wasn’t for the flexibility of the Open University.

“I continued working as a teaching assistant and I also was performing regularly as a percussionist. My life was working, rehearsal and concert performances throughout the year with ensembles including the Desford, Carlton Main Frickley and Grimethorpe Colliery Bands to the Birmingham and Nottingham Philharmonic orchestras.

“We played in some of the world’s most iconic venues – The Royal Albert Hall in London, The Symphony Hall in Birmingham and the Sage in Gateshead.   I also spent time touring through countries such as Dubai, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore visiting schools, delivering masterclasses and concerts.

Varied and balanced

The format of the BA Hons Open Degree meant that Gareth could choose music modules to make up half of his degree.

“I found the module materials incredibly well presented, as were online tutorials. The content was extremely varied and well balanced. It allowed me to work on compositions using the latest composition software, as well as looking at historical contexts at the same time.”

Keeping motivated

Gareth Hand

Gareth completed his degree part-time, in just four years

Travelling so much meant Gareth took his study materials with him, reading on planes and completing assignments in hotel rooms. Staying focused on his end goal kept him motivated to complete his degree in just four years:

“I would spend as much time as I could studying. It was vital that any designated time was used efficiently to meet my deadlines. It wasn’t easy, but when I handed a completed assignment in I felt such a sense of achievement and knew I was one step closer to my dream.”

Realising a dream

Currently completing his teacher training, Gareth hopes to have Qualified Teacher Status soon, and realise that long-held dream of becoming an inspiring Music Teacher. And he’s not finished with studying; he’s going on to an MA in Music with the OU too.

“Travelling and performing in different countries inspired me and spurred me on to finish my degree, and I hope soon I will have the chance to share my travels with my own students.”

“Without the help of the Open University I would not be where I am today. To be able to study in my own time, continue working and perform music has made my dream become a reality. I hope my future students will see me as a role model in that you can achieve if you put your mind to it.”

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About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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