An interest in anything musical was the main driver behind Stephen Garton enrolling in a double degree in Audio Production and Contemporary Music with the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT).
“I have always had a tremendous love and passion for anything to do with music, including composition, recording and performance,” he says.
When Stephen first began writing songs and playing instruments as a young boy he says he wasn’t all that great, but he is a firm advocate of hard work paying dividends.
“I would even go so far to say that it plays a much greater role in success than talent ever will.
“Hard work shows commitment to your craft, and if you have to put in hours upon hours upon hours of effort to be good at something then chances are you will appreciate it far more than if you were simply “born with it”.
Stephen originally planned to study classical composition at Victoria’s School of Music in Wellington, but then heard about the double degree in Audio Production and Contemporary Music offered by SIT.
“The option to learn about audio and play music at the same time—with zero fees to boot!—was too good to pass up, and the more I thought about it the more excited I was to give it a shot,” he says
“Next year (2016) will be my fourth year studying at SIT, and to think that it is possible to attain two bachelor degrees in just four years with a minimal student loan seems like a no-brainer for fast-tracking your career.”
Stephen says his study has proven very challenging, and advises anyone thinking about completing the four year program, that good time management is your best friend.
“The tutors are world class and genuinely want to see you succeed and do well,” he says.
“If you put the effort in, they will equally match it with a drive to send you out as the most professional, well-rounded candidate for work possible.”
Stephen says winning the Fletcher Award, the Research Award and Top Student this year was a tremendous honour and also a very personal milestone.
“To come from such humble beginnings in both areas and attain the overall “Outstanding Progress” award is a huge honour and I am very proud of the large amount of work it took to achieve it,” he says.
All students in their third year of degree-level study must do a major research project, and the Three Minute Thesis competition is a part of the research paper. It is a globally recognised challenge that involves the student presenting their entire thesis in three minutes using one Powerpoint slide (without notes or slide animation).
“This can be quite challenging as it is essentially a summary of four thousand plus words,” Stephen says.
When he graduates next year, Stephen is undecided between post-graduate study in music education and full-time work in the industry.
“The myth out there is that there is no work as a musician or audio engineer in New Zealand,” he says.
“This could not be further from the truth, and it is entirely possible to make a living from either of these two professions.”
He says in a country as small as New Zealand, the importance of networking during the process of your degree is crucial to being successful once you leave, and suggests this is the biggest key to success in the industry.
“One of my tutors would often say that the degree is essentially one long job interview, and your performance and professionalism is under constant monitoring not just from the tutors, but other key people in the industry as well—Invercargill is a small town and word travels fast of your reliability or lack thereof!”
“Often at times your classmates will also end up being your co-workers, and something as seemingly simple as being reliable and punctual to band practices day-in, day-out, can be a huge factor towards success after graduating.”
Stephen says he would highly recommend both the audio school and the music school at SIT to anyone seeking to become a professional in the industry.
“SIT excels at bringing in beginners in their craft and giving them the necessary training and experience to send them out as working professionals.”