Flirting with the Unknown: Jazzing Up My College Experience

Like my fellow classmates, I embarked on my own educational journey before joining the MA programme in Literature and Publishing in September 2023. Prior to this, it had been a dream of mine for as long as I could remember to attend Trinity College Dublin. I envisioned walking among the cobblestones and antiquated buildings with the freedom to traverse the Arts Block, sauntering to and from the library without a care in the world other than my studies, the music in my ears, and where I was going to buy my next coffee. Lo and behold, I got in! And to my dismay, it was nothing like I had imagined. I had built up this fantasy in my head that, inevitably, reality could never live up to. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Trinity, I still view it as the Hogwarts of Ireland. It just wasn’t for me – I didn’t even last a full academic year. Such is life. I dropped out, had a great summer, and went to IADT. It’s a much smaller institute, and I loved every second of my four years there. I finished up in 2020, joined the workforce, survived the pandemic, and decided to return to the academic world to pursue a passion that I have only recently realised I could turn into a career. And so, I find myself here, in the sunny, rain-soaked Wes(h)t of Ireland, with new friends, new skills, and new opportunities, one of which I’d like to focus on in this blog post.

The University of Galway has a student-run radio station called Flirt FM 101.3. If you haven’t already heard of it, check it out. It’s one of three campus community radio stations in Ireland, and one of only 21 licensed radio stations on the island. In short, it’s pretty unique. As such, I wanted to get involved in some way. I considered volunteering as a researcher for someone’s show, perhaps for an Arts & Culture hour. To my surprise, however, I landed myself my own show, Saxy Goodness. It airs bi-weekly, as I share the Friday 8pm slot with another show, Jazz Souffle. My tagline is ‘the show where I bring you the best jazz, blues, and soul music from the past and the present,’ and I do exactly that, if I may say so myself. Honestly, it’s the perfect excuse to talk about an area of music that not many of my friends, if any, enjoy. Also, when else am I going to have the opportunity to sit in a fully decked out recording studio?

I have no interest in becoming a broadcaster, and as my show airs, I have no idea if anyone’s listening or if my words are just floating out into the ether, but that’s not what matters. Planning, recording, editing, and listening back to myself is just as much fun for me as it is (I hope) for any of my listeners. I do know I have at least one though, because they emailed in with a query once. Jackpot.

I’ve learned so much from running this show, both about myself and the content I discuss. For instance, I never knew I had the confidence or competence to record and broadcast a show – I don’t even like listening to my own voice messages! I’ve structured it so that each show focuses on a certain artist from the jazz/blues/soul world, and I ‘research’ them in advance. (I use the term ‘research’ lightly because not everything I say is watertight, so please excuse any inaccuracies. I’m a lit student – not a history student – with a passion for good music. That’s all.) The majority of my Artists of Choice are of North American origin or residence, simply due to the sheer abundance of music of this genre produced there in the 20th century, particularly from the 1930s through to the 1960s. Artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley (yes, he wasn’t always just the King of Rock and Roll), and others, have been the focus of my shows so far. I’ve learned things I had never known, such as the reason for the lack of jazz music produced in Ireland in the early 20th century. To cut a long story short, an anti-jazz campaign in the 1930s reaped the country of any such music, which caused a ripple effect across the Irish music scene that is still evident today. Instead of jazz, we favoured trad music and classic rock, producing many talented and memorable voices. The jazzy-bluesy folk only emerged decades later, and even at that, they are few and far between. I am constantly on the lookout for jazz artists of Irish origin, but it’s just not something that’s hugely popular here. We do have our annual Cork Jazz Festival, but most of the music there is either international or, if native, mostly instrumental.

For each show, I discuss the personal and professional history of my Artist of Choice and create a playlist of songs with a slight emphasis on said artist’s music. The songs I choose span from the 1930s right up to today, as my tagline suggests. I have an hour-long slot dedicated to, as I say, the best jazz, blues, and soul music available, and in case you doubt me, you can listen back to past shows on Mixcloud. Sadly, my master’s programme finishes up (technically) in March, though I may stay on campus until April or May, but after that, my show will cease to exist. It may come as a shock, but I actually don’t have a recording studio in my own home, and there’s only so much the little microphone in my AirPods can do.

I’ve enjoyed the experience immensely and will continue to for the remainder of my time here. My confidence and love for jazz, blues, and soul music has only grown, as has my knowledge and the scope of artists I now find myself listening to. I grew up with Fats Waller and Nina Simone, I discovered Billie Holiday, Bill Withers, and Frank Sinatra during my angsty teenage years playing Fallout and watching Meg Ryan rom-coms on repeat, and I fell in love with Leon Bridges and Gregory Porter as their fame grew alongside my own musical independence and curiosity. The range of music out there is boundless and I’m so excited to see who I discover next.

If you’d like to dip your toes in and listen to what I’ve played, give the official playlist a go. I update it after each show (that is, until I have to say goodbye): 

If you’re braver, bolder, and have your shuffle-button at the ready, live a little and listen to my personal playlist (it’s a mammoth – be warned). It features an array of singers, musicians, and instrumentalists spanning almost a century and is called ‘saxy goodness’ which is where my show’s name originated:

When I was accepted into this master’s programme, I did not expect to become a temporary radio broadcaster, and yet, alongside ROPES, it’s going to be the thing I look back on and really appreciate how great an opportunity it was, and realise how bloody proud I am for taking that opportunity by the reigns and committing myself to it. I suppose that’s what college is all about, right? If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend taking it, even if you think fear will get the better of you. Flirt with the unknown and jazz up your college experience. I did, and I have no regrets.

Instagram: @saxygoodnessflirtfm

Laura Murphy

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