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What have Led Zeppelin, Oscar winners, Kylie and female conductors got to do with the University of Surrey?

PUBLISHED: 17:24 17 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:52 20 March 2015

"It's been a long time since I rock and rolled..."


Surrey has a rich music history, with famous musicians living in enclaves across the county. But did you know that the University of Surrey has also made a huge contribution to the music world?

Led Zeppelin (Photo Danny E. Martindale)Led Zeppelin (Photo Danny E. Martindale)

15 of the best Guildford International Music Festival 2015 events


1. Led Zeppelin played their first ever gig at the University of Surrey (admittedly on the university’s original site at Battersea) on 25 October 1968.


2. Tonmeister (music and sound recording) graduates from the university have won Oscars, Grammys, BAFTAs, Emmys, the Mercury Prize, and composed, performed on, and recorded many number one hits. This includes Chris Benstead who won an Oscar and BAFTA in 2014 for his work on the film Gravity.


3. The University of Surrey ran the first course in the country that combined engineering and music.


Alumni Starsmith has written for Kylie (Photo Ian Gavan)Alumni Starsmith has written for Kylie (Photo Ian Gavan)

4. Composer and conductor Odaline de la Martinez, the first woman to conduct at the BBC Proms, received her degree in composition from the University of Surrey.


5. The University has three recording studios equipped to the highest professional standards. Students at the university regularly record local Surrey musicians, both in the studios and at concerts all over the county.


6. Tonmeister graduates from the university have gone on to work in some of the top recording studios in the world including Abbey Road and Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio.


7. University of Surrey graduate Fin Dow-Smith (aka Starsmith) is a multi-platinum selling songwriter, producer, remixer and DJ. He is best known for his writing and production work with artists such as Ellie Goulding, Kylie Minogue, Diana Vickers, Cheryl Cole and Clean Bandit, as well as his own solo work. He most recently produced and co-wrote Real Love with Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne, which was No2 on the UK Singles Chart in November (No1 on UK Dance Chart) and made the top 40 in 12 countries.


Bill Nighy (Photo Alberto E. Rodriguez)Bill Nighy (Photo Alberto E. Rodriguez)

8. The university has been organising the biennial Guildford International Music Festival for over 20 years.


9. The majority of West End shows feature at least one graduate who studied at the University of Surrey’s Guildford School of Acting, and famous alumni include Brenda Blethyn, Bill Nighy and Michael Ball.


Guildford International Music Festival 2015:

The University of Surrey organises Guildford International Music Festival, which runs from Friday March 13 to Sunday March 22. To book tickets, call 01483 444334 or visit the festival’s official website:



And a few more Surrey music tales


Surrey music stories from The Beatles and The Surrey Delta to Mumford & Sons and Disclosure

• Visit Leith Hill Place - childhood home of Ralph Vaughan Williams

• In the four years that John Lennon lived in Weybridge from 1964, The Beatles cemented their status as the world’s biggest band.

Ringo Starr is a keen photographer and has a house in leafy Cranleigh.

• The Faces’ Kenney Jones owns Hurtwood Park polo club in Ewhurst and singer Mick Hucknall lives by Burhill Golf Course in Walton-on-Thames.

• Status Quo's Francis Rossi is happy living the quiet life in Purley's Webb Estate.

• Discover life down The Farm with Genesis' Mike Rutherford.

Recording studios: the now closed Strawberry South studio in Dorking was opened by 10ccs Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, in 1976, and is said to be where parts of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s Ebony and Ivory were recorded.

• Ginger dreadlocked Surrey songsmith Newton Faulkner once worked at Fanny’s Farm Shop near Redhill.

The Manfreds' Paul Jones organises star studded and intimate concerts in Cranleigh every Christmas

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