NTU alumnus recognised as one of the most influential faces in British jazz
Recently described by music critic and writer David Burke as “one of the 25 artists who have engineered the cultural transformation of British jazz over the past four decades", KT Reeder is a British trombonist, sound artist and music producer. He is also a member of our alumni community, having studied law with us back in 2008.
We caught up with him to ask about this latest accolade and his memories of life as an undergraduate.
Q: How did you feel when you heard what David Burke had written about you?
A: I guess I was surprised – as you would be if you were singled out for that level of accolade. As an artist and as a musician, I exist in my own creative sphere – I don’t draw comparisons with others or try and compete with those who do similar things. Having read law at NTU, and music and composition at the Royal Academy in London, I draw a lot from a vast array of different sources and life experiences. It’s this idea that we’re always evolving, always moving forward and we should never stop doing that.
Q: Did you initially want a career in the legal profession?
A: I knew I wanted to study something rigorous and intellectually challenging, something that transcended everything – and that’s what law offered. I just felt I needed a high level of intellectual input at that time in my life and wouldn’t have had it any other way. After I'd qualified, one of my first jobs was working on one of the biggest legal pay cases in Europe. This was followed by a role as a paralegal specialising in employment at a top 50 law firm. During this time I was involved in some amazing cases surrounding discrimination. A career in law gave me a real grounding in how its principles are applied, how it affects people’s lives and how it colours everything we do.
Q: You clearly have a passion for law, so why did you decide to change careers?
A: I ended up moving into education and eventually started teaching people how to play the trombone. Then in 2013, I studied music at Masters level. We were approaching the arts as interdisciplinary practitioners, bringing everything we’d learned – in my case from law, from life – and channelling it into our music. I started to write my own material and collaborate with other artists.
Working in law gave me a real grounding in how its principles are applied, how it affects people’s lives and how it colours everything we do
Q: We often talk about the transferrable skills a degree gives you – what did you learn during your studies that have been useful in your music career?
A: Many things are transferable from a law degree to the music industry! Things like copyright law, freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights – these are absolutely fundamental to what we are as creative musicians. If you have a knowledge of the law, you are able to do more as a creative. I can’t possibly see me existing, doing what I’m doing now, without a law degree. Artists can change the world through art, in the same way that lawyers can change the world through creative interpretations and applications of the law.
Q: Do you have any standout memories of your time at NTU?
A: I always remember the lecturers being very dedicated, the faculty being very strong and there being an absolute dedication to them giving us the best experience possible. My criminal law lecturer was incredibly enthusiastic and this had a long-lasting impact on me. They all made what is otherwise quite a complex subject extremely entertaining. I remember spending something like 12 hours a day studying – but it’s like anything, the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.
Q: Did you get involved with any of the musical groups or societies during your time here?
A: I joined two local brass bands – but kept myself busy studying!
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m looking to become more involved at an artistic level in the development of jazz – perhaps finding some way of connecting different entities of jazz together – both in this country, Europe and beyond. I feel strongly that British jazz has a bright future and we need to provide more opportunities for musicians to perform live. Workshops, masterclasses, these are all possibilities, perhaps working together with other big stakeholders such as the government – it could be a really collaborative effort.