James Edward Armstrong
"There are a lot of things happening in the University that I’ve been able to get involved with, and I've been given a lot more opportunities for academic and self-development that weren’t available elsewhere."
PhD title: Beyond an Acoustical Understanding of the Impact of Environment and Space upon Musical Performance
"I graduated with an MSc in Music Production at the University of Glamorgan, Cardiff, in 2012. Prior to that, I earned a foundation degree in music technology at Newcastle University before completing a BA in music enterprises at Leeds Metropolitan University.
I chose to study towards a PhD after my MSc in Music Production left me with more questions than answers, and further investigation showed my topic of interest was under-researched. The University of Surrey offered me the opportunity to combine music performance studies and environmental psychology together for an interdisciplinary research project; I was able to be supervised by some of the top academics in the two fields of interest and work on something truly unique.
I have found my experience so far very positive. I’ve been able to engage with a subject that is important in my profession in great detail, and I’ll continue to use the knowledge I’ve gained effectively throughout the rest of my career.
Guildford is a relaxing place, and there’s a lot of natural beauty in the surrounding areas. It’s also easy to get to London, which has been convenient for leisure as well as work.
There are a lot of things happening in the University that I’ve been able to get involved with, and I've been given a lot more opportunities for academic and self-development that weren’t available elsewhere.
"Both supervisors have provided their expertise and helped me stay on target throughout the PhD."
Being able to dedicate so much time and effort to a subject that I’m really passionate about has been great. I’ve developed an understanding of how musicians respond to different surrounding environments, and how their performances may be affected. The outcomes of the research have already been implemented into recording and live performance practice by a number of professional colleagues.
I’m not from a traditional academic background, so I have benefitted from the academic writing support that is offered at the University. I’m also a regular at the Researcher Development Programme (RDP) coffee mornings and workshops to make sure I’m getting out of the office to enjoy some much-needed social time with my peers from all over the University.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of my research, collaborations with others has been vital. There’s always opportunity to collaborate with other researchers at the University, and I’ve also made a number of professional contacts outside of academia through attending conferences that have involved me in a variety of projects. Getting over my fear of public speaking and travelling to different countries to speak at a variety of conferences has been my biggest achievement so far.
Towards the end of my studies, I have started a new music recording and post-production business based in Farnham, as well as launching an independent record label. I am also working towards a career in postgraduate student support, as the efforts of the RDP and Doctoral College at the University of Surrey have inspired me to do similar work.
The social aspect of doing a PhD at times can be just as important as the workload. Make sure to spend time with friends, away from the office, and really enjoy all aspects of postgraduate study while at the University of Surrey."