Founded in 2002 by Geoff Hemsley and Darius Khwaja, London Centre of Contemporary Music (LCCM) is an independent higher education institution for popular music. It attracts talented student musicians who intend to enter the music and related creative industries. The institution’s academic strategy focuses on the preparation of students for an unorthodox, competitive industry based on ideas, creativity and intellect.
The institution’s culture promotes innovation, artistry and initiative through the development of advanced knowledge. LCCM students develop first-class skills in a principle discipline combined with a detailed understanding of harmony, orchestration and musical style set against a background of continuous technological change.
LCCM strives “to provide pre-professional musical training of the highest national and international standards; to produce solo artists, session players, bands, composers and producers who understand the art of music – its performance, theory, technology, history and context within human culture. LCCM aims to equip its graduates with the breadth of skills necessary for sustaining professional careers in today’s industry.”
History of LCCM
In 2001, LCCM’s founders explored the feasibility of creating a new college for music in central London. Having had first hand experience of professional music and an understanding of UK higher education, including a significant involvement with the Royal Academy of Music Jazz course, the founders finally crystallised the concept of the ‘London Centre of Contemporary Music’ in response to four key observations:
- Music education in the UK isolated areas of the industry and built narrowly focussed programmes around them i.e. classical music or Jazz performance, music technology, composition, music business management
- A huge dichotomy in intellectual content and academic rigour existed between the elite conservatoires and the myriad BA courses many of which provided at best only a rudimentary study of harmony
- Technique was too often mistaken as the end rather than the means
- Intellectual depth was stressed at the expense of artistic originality or vice versa
The rationale that continues to underpin the institution centres on how it addresses these fundamental issues. LCCM offers an approach to the making of literate popular music that draws on the breadth of the artform’s interrelated traditions; its curriculum reflects how music continues to merge with the wider creative sector. It accepts that for good or bad, professional musicians and artists are increasingly expected to be arranger, composer, producer and micro-business. Finally, that technical skill, intellectual rigour and artistic originality are not mutually exclusive.
In 2002, development began on the design of a programme that understood these principles. By January 2003, LCCM was located in its main building at 50-52 Union Street, London SE1. The team developed a unique programme of Music Performance and Production, mapping it to a selection of HND units. LCCM gained ‘Approved Centre Status’ from Edexcel in Spring 2003 offering a two year full-time HND BTEC in Music Performance and Production and a one year NVQ Level 4 In Music Performance.
By the summer of 2003, LCCM had been Specially Designated for Student Support in Higher Education by the Department for Education and Skills. This enabled LCCM students to access student loans for the HND programme. The college had also obtained similar recognitions from funding bodies in Sweden and Denmark.
Between October 2003 and October 2007, the college grew from approximately 26 full-time students to 120. From 2006 discussions took place to form a collaborative link with a university. The aim was to take the core themes that underpinned the institution and develop them into a three-year undergraduate degree with honours. During this period the NVQ qualification was replaced with a BTEC Edexcel Level 4 Professional Diploma.
A collaborative link was formally agreed with Middlesex University (MU) in October 2007 with a view that from October 2008, LCCM would provide two programmes: a 3-year BMus (Hons) in Music Performance and Production with MU and a one-year HNC in Music Performance with Edexcel. Also in 2008, the college doubled the size of its buildings with the addition of a second building also on Union Street SE1.
Since 2003, the college has gathered a staff to rival any of the national conservatoire jazz courses without losing its focus on all forms of popular music and in particular on funk, soul, blues, rock, reggae, latin and produced music be it commercial or underground electronic. In addition, the college has held masterclasses with some of the most influential artists from modern music such as George Clinton, Fred Wesley, Randy Brecker, Boy George and Mad Professor.
As LCCM moves into its second decade, plans are afoot for more exciting, innovative developments and in ways that will continue to further LCCM’s position as the UK’s college of creativity.