Department of Music

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, Chief Executive of UK Music


Jamie is Chief Executive of UK Music. He is also a trained pianist and conductor, and sits on the advisory boards of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and English National Opera.

He graduated from BA Music in 2012, then MA International Relations in 2013.

"I hadn't grown up wanting to do a music degree. I was 16 or 17 and got taken to a concert and this string quartet blew my mind. Now, I am Chief Executive of UK Music!

UK Music represents the music industry as a whole and is that single voice into government. As a music graduate, it's something I've always had a passion for and seen the benefit and importance of.

One of the modules I did in my third year music degree was called 'Can classical music change lives?'. We'd look at all sorts of different projects, from El Sistema in Venezuela, to schemes they’d be doing at the Royal Ballet for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, or singing and the impact on dementia. I've been steeped in that ever since I was at university and really bought that as an argument about the importance of music in the wider arts scene."

Music at Nottingham

"There was this culture where people of different years would know each other, and people who had graduated would still come back up to Nottingham to do events and sing in concerts. The whole department was always a really nice family environment where you knew everyone, you had a close relationship with all your lecturers, and everyone in other years.

Philip Weller, who sadly died a few years ago, was a big influence. Anyone who studied music at Nottingham in the last 25 years will know the name. He was the smartest, nicest, most eccentric and wonderfully kind person. Then there's Nick Baragwanath, Meryvn Cooke…the music department was like a family.

One of the loveliest moments from my whole undergraduate degree was when we were on tour with the orchestra choir.

The tour operator sorted it for us to go to Ypres and sing at the Menin Gate ceremony. We sang the Belgian national anthem having just learned the lyrics on the bus!

We were meant to learn the anthem from one of the guides, but he hadn't turned up. It ended up with this guy who knew someone who spoke Flemish on the phone, trying to show us how we should be pronouncing the Belgian national anthem!

So we go and perform it, we get to the end and there's total silence…Then someone just shouted 'La Belge!' and everyone started clapping. It's a service, you're not really meant to clap, but it was a really lovely atmosphere. It was really powerful."

Skills for success

"I've always been sceptical of the argument that you should work out exactly what you want to do and tailor your degree towards that. I absolutely loved my degree, but particularly because I was learning all sorts of skills while doing something that I was really interested in.

It's about how do you approach issues critically, how do you understand and assess and evaluate information, how do you interrogate arguments – all those sorts of transferable skills. Being able to learn a whole set of skills that come in incredibly useful in all sorts of careers is the most important thing that I found about my university experience.

People sometimes ask me 'Do you wish you'd have done a politics degree, because you've worked in politics?', but the skills I learned doing music were interesting, worthwhile, and taught me a whole load of transferable skills that came in useful working in the Health Department.

Most people wouldn't expect a music degree to prepare you to work at a high level in the Health Department, but actually the skills you find yourself needing in government are the sort of skills you get prepared for at university."

Choosing postgraduate study

"I was trying to work out what I wanted to do post-university. A bit of me felt like I had a year of university left in me. The masters I did was excellent, as it was tailored towards people who hadn't really done International Relations before.

I found it really easy to do an International Relations masters off the back of my music degree, which I think is testament to the brilliant set of skills and academic and research founding that a music degree gave me.

One of the nice things about Nottingham is that the extra-curricular offering in the music department is so brilliant, I still spent most of my masters year there! I was the General Secretary of Mussoc, I conducted the Sinfonia symphony orchestra, the Viva Voce chamber choir, I set up a chamber orchestra…there was lots to be getting stuck into.

A highlight for me was always conducting. I'd never done it before I came to Nottingham. I urge anyone to use the opportunity to give it a go. When you get to normal life you don't just have orchestras kicking around! In Nottingham there were so many opportunities."

Working in government

"When I finished my masters I wasn't sure what to do. There was a load of things I was looking at – public affairs, journalism, parliament – and I sent off applications for about 30 internships to try and get my foot in the door. The only one that came back to me was an MP called Grant Shapps, who at the time was Chairman of the Conservative Party.

So I ended up going and working at Tory Party HQ for a couple of months, which I really enjoyed. I then ended up getting a full-time job in the press office and did that for about two and a half years.

By 2018 I found myself working in government at a reasonably senior level, first at the Culture Department, where I was Special Advisor to Matt Hancock, then at the Department for Health, as Matt became the new Health Secretary, so I moved with him. 

You're having to deal with all sorts of decisions, interrogate information, work out what the flaws in things are – it’s all the sort of things you learn doing an arts degree.

When you're a political advisor, your job isn't to be the expert. Your job is to work out what are the questions to ask. It's not the expertise which is the important thing, it's the ability to interrogate arguments and have that analysis function." 

Looking to the future

"My personal definition of success has always been when I can own my own piano. I’ve got an electric keyboard. When I can buy my own piano, that's going to be my mark of when I’ve made it!"

Go further

Find out more about our Music degrees

Department of Music

The University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts Centre
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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