“Fay’s lectures are well structured and interesting. She clearly has a great passion for her area of research which allows students to engage with the subject on a deeper level. But as well as being a great lecturer she is an incredible singer.” – A student nomination
I have organised, made and thought about music to varying degrees my whole life. While I thought that one day I’d get a proper job because you can’t make any money singing songs in the pub, it has miraculously come together as a career. It all began at Bacca Pipes, my local folk club… Singing floor spots and choruses, nannying for touring musicians and living with a pro folk musician in Ireland all gave me an insight into this performance context and ‘music industry’. When the BMus in Folk and Traditional Music started at Newcastle University in 2004 I jumped, mainly to critique how they thought they could teach this stuff, but the academic bug got me, and I now spend a lot of my time still asking that same question, and trying out new ways of doing it.
I completed my PhD thesis ‘English Folk Singing and the Construction of Community’ in 2010 and started teaching Ethnomusicology at Sheffield in 2011. I deliver the undergraduate modules ‘Music in the Community’, ‘Music Business’ and ‘Music of the World’. I also teach several modules for the MA in Ethnomusicology, Distance Learning MA in World Music Studies and the MA in Music Management, of which I am also Course Director. Alongside my teaching role, I oversee the department’s activities in outreach, widening participation and student enterprise. This involves developing projects with local schools and other institutions throughout the city and developing students’ abilities to be enterprising graduates.
Beyond the University, I record and tour with The Full English, and my regular band The Hurricane Party. The Full English has been nominated for ‘Best Group’ and ‘Best Album’ in the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and I have additionally been nominated as ‘Folk Singer of the Year’ which I’m rather chuffed about. I have established links in the community and a passion for bringing the experience of amateur music making to wide audiences. This is mainly done through promoting folk music events under the banner of Soundpost Community Network, an organisation advocating educational and entertaining activities.
I think it’s really important to bring all these experiences together not because it makes my life easier, in fact it tends to make everything rather more complicated, but because they enhance each other in interesting ways. For example, students worked on the programme notes for my Full English project and I regularly bring musicians to perform to my ethnomusicology groups, or colleagues from the music industry to talk to my management students. I have also been lucky enough to receive funding to spend time researching the impacts of Soundpost’s activities, bringing external activities under the umbrella of my academic work at the University. I try to involve students in all these activities as far as possible, currently through classroom based teaching, research posts and internships.