With a musical soul and an entrepreneurial mind, the two chords of singer songwriter Vanessa Knight’s career are in perfect harmony.
Citing influences as diverse as Brahms, Mendelssohn, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith and Elbow, Vanessa (BA Music and Drama, 2006) writes and performs her own music and has just released her first EP.
‘I recorded Hidden Song over several months so it is exciting and nerve-wracking to see it released,’ she says. ‘Although I’ve been writing my own music since I was five years old, the first time I performed it for an audience was at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. My show sold out and things just snowballed from there.’
Vanessa’s time at the University also played a pivotal role in her career. ‘The special thing about Birmingham is that you are allowed to study two instruments – for me it was piano and voice – which is hugely beneficial. I was also encouraged to explore my interest in contemporary music alongside classical, and my tutor even sent me the advert for my very first audition as a pianist and singer, which is where everything really started.’
Vanessa got the job and, after performing all over the world for four years, she returned to Birmingham in 2010 wanting to set up her own music business. Established with the help of the University’s B-SEEN enterprise programme, The Piano Project sees Vanessa perform high-energy entertainment using a piano and drum machine as an alternative to a traditional DJ.
‘Although I had musical skills and experience from my degree, I had no business training at all so I didn’t know where to start. B-SEEN gave me the knowledge and confidence to start my business, and the financial support has been a lifeline as I couldn’t have launched my EP without it.
‘I’m still very much in the start-up stages but in the future, I hope to book more and more gigs around Birmingham and perhaps even have a residential club night, as well as continuing to make my own music.’
Find out more about Vanessa from her website.
*The B-SEEN programme offers alumni and students the opportunity to start and run their own business. To find out more visit www.birmingham.ac.uk/alumni/benefits/entrepreneurs.aspx