International College of Music – Malaysia
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International College of Music – Malaysia

The International College of Music (ICOM) is Asia’s most prominent contemporary music college. Its primary goal is to discover and develop exceptional music talent through carefully formulated, career-centric programs that meet the specific demands of this intensely competitive industry. ICOM’s comprehensive courses are delivered by dedicated professionals with first-hand experience from the heart of the music business.

The school is aware that its students are both the future and the industry, so each individual is valued as an artist, no matter what their nationality nor their social standing. In fact, in its Mission Statement, ICOM highlights its vision of providing an environment that both welcomes and respects diversity; so we asked ICOM’s CEO, Irene Savaree, how her background and experience has prepared her for success within an environment that holds such a value:

“One of the college’s mission statements is indeed to welcome and respect diversity, and I included this in the college’s mission because “unity in diversity” is the underpinning core of the word “university”. Although ICOM is a college, we operate pretty much as a university and are subject to regulatory frameworks of a university, so introducing a unity in diversity ethos was readily welcomed to celebrate the results of diversity; be it race, gender, socio-economic standing, types of student candidatures, types of music instruments or the types of music played in a community of music students and faculty.

“Growing up in Malaysia, the ‘national-type’ public school system mooted the integration of races…which resulted in some of my best friends in school being Malays and Chinese…My early career as a professional singer and recording artist broadened my multicultural experience through the musical and lyrical interpretation of over 600 songs across 16 languages, including Japanese, Mandarin and Cantonese, and also in meeting and corresponding with multicultural fans at nationwide and European tours.

“Such experiences not only broadened my world view, but also helped me to respect and value the differences each person brings to an institution or a community.”

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Pic: ICOM

Malaysia has long been the choice destination of study for international students from ASEAN nations; South East Asia, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. What do you, as ICOM’s CEO, think that international students will gain from choosing to study at the International College of Music?

“International students make up 40% of the student population at ICOM and the most obvious benefit they gain is their common love for contemporary music. This commonality binds them in friendships as early as registration week, regardless of their musical interest.

“When you have an international group of young musicians under one roof…you hear eclectic sounds from practice rooms, rehearsals, in lobbies, corridors and student projects both on and off of campus. Such sharing of music has resulted in numerous ICOM bands, most with a mix of international and domestic students, winning and continuing to win major music competitions in Malaysia.

“As Malaysian immigration laws prohibit international students from working part-time in music, they can benefit from ICOM’s work-study programs that provide them frequent exposures to planning and staging live sound events organised by the college. Upon graduation many international students are hired by local music companies based on their experience in these college-organised events.”

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Pic: ICOM

From your experience as CEO, what are the challenges that international students face when studying in a foreign country?

There are some challenges that Millennial students face at the beginning of their first year of study- such as being homesick, coping with independence, studentship and communicating in English.”

What strategies does ICOM employ to address these challenges?

“We introduced “First Year Interactions (FYI)” in 2013 to build networks between first year and senior students. FYI offers an opportunity to participate in a series of informal discussions and activities that explore the culture and society in which they currently live. Students are paired with a faculty and peer mentor who serve as guides and help them adjust to college life. Results consistently show that international students find FYI very beneficial, and institutional data shows improved student retention rates.

“The college also supports staff and student initiatives to celebrate festivals, new years and religious holidays. I still remember vividly the Iranian New Year event organised by Iranian students in 2012, where they introduced their culture, practices, traditions and music…which was mind blowing to say the least, as you saw them in a different context in which you had never seen them before, but a context in which they work and exist in, too.

“To address the challenge of communicating in English, ICOM offers a range of English Language courses. Students overcome their initial language challenges quickly, and many have gone on to complete their undergraduate degree at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, having secured credit transfers for ICOM’s English modules.”

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Pic: ICOM

It is clear that respect and diversity are fundamental factors in all of ICOM’s practices. The College has a history of producing extremely capable graduates with the ability to flourish in the musical field of their choosing. It’s dedicated to bringing the inner-virtuoso out of each and every one of its students through industry-based programs that prepare them for a rewarding and multifaceted career in music.

Building on the College’s highly successful degrees in Arranging and Music Production & Technology specialisms, ICOM offer a Bachelor of Music (Hons) in Professional Music which introduces a broad based route focusing on four core areas demanded of professional musicians in the industry. The full time program is career-centric and prepares students for a successful, varied music career. Students may also study a one-year Foundation course in Music, a sixteen-month Certificate in Audio Production, or a two-year Diploma in Music Business.

ICOM boasts a host of outstanding facilities that ensure every student, no matter their musical preference, can get the best out of their music degree. Facilities include a Recital Hall, fully equipped Recording Studio, Surround Production Suite, Multimedia Laboratory, Ensemble Rooms, Classrooms, Private Practice Rooms and the College Library.

For more information on ICOM and the opportunities they can offer to international students you can check out their website, Facebook page, Instagram account or YouTube channel.