This week, our Graduate Spotlight shines on Tom Denney, a 2013 graduate from our BSc (Hons) Sound, Light and Live Event Technology programme. Follow Tom’s path from a Derby student to a skilled video programmer and system designer. Thanks to Derby’s hands-on curriculum, Tom expanded his expertise from lighting to video systems, working at notable venues around the globe. Currently on tour with Metallica, Tom’s story showcases the practical skills and diverse career opportunities awaiting University of Derby graduates.
Tom Denney, Class of 2013
Current job + employer:
T15DMX – Freelance Lighting Designer & Programmer – Video Programmer & System Designer
What did you do/study prior to coming to Derby?
A-Levels in Maths, IT, Performing Arts, Music Technology
Why did you choose to go to the University of Derby?
I already knew somebody studying the course and had already spent several years involved in live events, therefore joining Derby on the Sound, Light and Live Event Technology course looked like a good step in the right direction for a career in live events.
Did you start the course with a specific focus or were you undecided?
I always wanted to work in live events even before joining the University of Derby and had always had a strong focus on lighting.
Did that focus change on the course? If so, how?
The course gave me a better understanding of the principles and fundamentals of many areas of live production. This greatly helped me focus on a career in lighting and opened up the idea of working with video.
Has that focus changed on graduating? If so, how?
Since graduating from the University of Derby I have done a great amount of work as a lighting designer and programmer, however in the past 5 years I have transitioned into the world of media server programming and large-scale video system design. I still keep my hand in lighting several times a year, but video has certainly taken over as my main working area.
What was the most useful thing you learned on the course?
The most useful thing I learned while at Derby was the fundamentals of light, the principles of how light works, how we perceive light, and therefore how we can use and affect light for different purposes.
What did you learn on the course that you thought you’d never use, but that has come in handy during your career?
In year 1, we studied a good amount of fairly high-level maths, which has become really useful in daily life ever since. Having a good understanding of maths has been really useful in so many different situations throughout my career so far.
What did you do on the course that you never thought you would enjoy?
I think the Acoustics module for me was the topic that I didn’t know anything about and was unsure of. But I feel that I have referenced back to things I learned in this module since leaving Derby and it was an interesting subject to learn about.
What was your favourite establishment in Derby (pub, bar, club, restaurant, etc.)?
Whilst at Derby my group of friends spent far too much time at the Harvester on Pride Park.
What is your most memorable moment from Derby?
My most memorable moment had to be our Year 3 Show Control project, where we managed to combine a vast array of different skill sets between the members of our group, along with asking favours around the industry to make our show the best possible. Even managing to convince Kit Lane to be the star of our show.
What/who at Derby most influenced your life, and how/why?
I think again our final year show control project gave me a taste of what is possible with show control, something which I have continued to explore and use with a lot of projects I have worked on since leaving Derby.
What would you say to a Derby first year student, knowing what you know now?
When learning about fundamentals in Year 1 no matter how pointless or boring some of it may seem, stick with it as these principles and fundamentals will be crucial throughout the rest of the course and during your career.
What have you done professionally since graduating?
Since graduating I have spent a lot of my time working in both lighting and video, working on projects across the corporate, live music, and TV sectors. I have had the privilege of working on shows all around the world, working with some of the biggest companies and clients.
Have any Derby alumni or staff opened any doors for you? If so, who?
Yes, I regularly work with fellow Derby graduates. There are several people who I met during my time at Derby who have become lifelong friends. We work together regularly and rely on each other’s wide scope of skills and experiences to fulfill projects within the industry.
What is your most memorable moment from your career so far?
It is difficult to pick one moment, but it would probably be one of three. Being the Lighting Designer on a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado which is a very famous outdoor venue in the USA. Being the programmer and screens director on a headline show at Hyde Park in London. Being the video system designer and engineer for the Taylor Hawkins tribute shows in 2022, working for the Foo Fighters alongside a list of top bands and musicians from around the world on two huge broadcast shows at Wembley Stadium and The Forum in Los Angeles.
What are your future career plans/ambitions?
So far this year I have been working on several large corporate shows across Europe and have worked to get two live music tours out on the road. I am now on the road with Metallica for their M72 tour which will span across the next 4 years. I also have some more work in the pipeline for the Foo Fighters.