1. Tell us about yourself.
My name is Amanda Shirley and I graduated from ARU as a mature student in 2016. I’m the oldest of 4, and an auntie of 4. Although not the first person in my family to achieve a degree (my younger brother did 8 years ago), I’m the first family member that we know of that ever went to University.
I’m a musician and started at the age of 5 when I started to learn the recorder at school. Now I’m 34 and have been playing the trumpet for 22 years. In that time, I’ve played around the UK, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
I’m a classically trained trumpet player and play in a few bands and orchestras around Cambridge, but started my music life in Norwich where my family still live.
I attend a Church called C3 / Cambridge Community Church, where I’m on the Audio Visual Team, learning how to use their cameras and to vision mix, picking up new skills; possibly future career…?
2. What is your fondest memory at Anglia Ruskin University?
Everyone being impressed that a multi-coloured trumpet exists!! When I took mine out of its case for the first time for a rehearsal, I wasn’t expecting it to cause as much of a distraction for all of the other students!!
3. What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?
If you’re in two minds about going to the ceremony because of the expense, go anyway!! Unless you’re planning on further study, it’s a one off celebration, enjoy it! Post-graduation, don’t worry if it’s not the grade you were hoping for, work places don’t look for the grade, they just look for whether you are committed to something. I didn’t get the A Level grades I wanted, but still have a degree!
4. How did your time at Anglia Ruskin help you?
ARU was the next closest University to Norwich, where I’m originally from. UEA had closed their Music department due to funding shortages before I applied to a university and I wasn’t keen on change. I suffer from anxiety, so going somewhere new where I don’t know anyone was hard. Friendly people made it easier and having an understanding course leader was great.
5. What did you love about your chosen course?
My favourite part of it, I would say was the Music Therapy module; it was the first module that I’d scored a First overall, 90% in the practical too!
6. What would you tell someone thinking of studying at ARU?
The best piece of advice that I was given from a lecturer at ARU was “Don’t look at the degree as a whole, or you won’t make it! Look at the degree as one assessment at a time.”
7. In one word how would you describe Anglia Ruskin?
8. Who was the biggest influence on your career?
The Piano Guys – they prove that anything is possible, and anyone can do it too. They stay true to their faith, their families, their principles, and humble too. They are just as goofy in person as they are in their videos!
9. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I have a degree!! Something I never thought I would have! When I didn’t do very well at my A Levels, I thought that was it… game over. I was always jealous of everyone else’s graduation photo (even my brother’s) knowing that would never be me. About 10 years after finishing college, I was offered a place at University, I laughed and thought, someone like me doesn’t belong in a place like that… but here I am now with a 2:1 in Music.
10. What advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient, and believe more in yourself.
11. What drives you?
Fear of failure.
12. What’s next?
Who knows? One day have a family of my own? But for now, keep working hard!