'Tis but two and a half months now until I return to the true North (10 years in what is essentially the midlands is definitely too long for this Cumbrian lass); and things are looking good!
I mean yes, I may not have anywhere to live yet - minor detail - and I am yet to have a plan for enough money to live; but that's what I want talk about here.
For the past year, I have been working full time, M-F, 9-5 at Sainsbury's HR head quarters here in Manchester. Whilst I am hugely grateful to be able to earn enough money to live in a lovely flat and live a relatively leisurely life, I have noticed one major draw back - the music world forgets you exist.
I remember when I left RNCM last year and people asked what I was doing over the Summer/next year; I was quite blatantly judged for taking full time work outside of the industry. Largely, I dismissed this as immature students not understanding the real world where you actually have to earn money to support yourself, college don't always provide! But then many staff members commented too, 'oh, I thought you were really serious about this'. They doubted my passion and my commitment to pursuing a career in performing because I needed to earn money? What universe do these people live in?
But after a year out of it, I've come to understand many of the issues surrounding the decision to undertake 'non-industry' work. The main one seems to be availability. Quite often I'll be asked last minute if I can jump in for a wedding or funeral during the week. Unfortunately, I generally can't. I don't have that flexibility. Compare that to the world of private music tuition - generally considered to be a complimentary career to that of a freelance performer. As a precursor to this comment, a number of my friends work extremely hard as private tutors and are often forced to miss other events or gigs due to weekend and evening commitments - well done all, I think you're wonderful and I know you work extremely hard. But the truth is that the flexibility is there. If you have understanding students and parents you can occasionally (and with a little notice notice) move this work around without a great deal of hassle. If anything, moving your work for professional commitments will sometimes raise your reputation as a teacher! You're a working professional in the industry!
My next point relates to the fixers and how much they believe you 'need' or 'deserve' the work they are offering. Quite often, the performing work I am asked to do is free or low paying, often done as a favour to both parties. Whilst I love doing any and all performing work and am extremely grateful for it, I can't help but think there's an element of people thinking you don't need the money so you don't need the work. I'd be willing to bet there are private tutors earning more than me each month - even with my 'cushy 9-5 office job' - but as they're freelance, fixers consider them more 'in need' of the work going. Sometimes it's not always about the money. It's about the exposure and learning with your colleagues, experiencing music making with a huge range of different performers and audiences.
The combination of this can lead to you being overlooked when opportunities do arise. Despite how this may sound, I am not starting a pity party - oh woe is me - I have a number of friends who are excellent fixers and very fair and gracious with the work they offer. I am extremely grateful to these friends and colleagues for the fun and interesting opportunities they have concocted for and with myself over the years. I am also extremely grateful to have the opportunity to use many of the skills I have learned as a performer to work in the complex and ever changing world of HR. But please, musicians, don't exclude people for any reason other than talent. Just because someone isn't obviously available at all times, don't rule out that they might be able to make something work. Don't punish people for needing to make enough money to support themselves and their families - you never know what people have going on in the background.
I am currently working out a way to secure a 'regular-ish' income for my time in Glasgow that will fit in with my course at the RCS. Would it be easier if I was a competent teacher? Potentially, potentially not. There are no guarantees either way really. I just hope that being back amongst a group of people all working towards their own goals and doing what they need to do to survive levels the playing field again. Not entirely, but just enough to feel like I have the opportunities and space to pursue what I love - and believe I'm not too appalling at.
Happy April everyone! Spring is finally here!! I personally am very much looking forward to being able to ditch the heavy winter coats and move into my many and varied deluxe cardigan wear. Don't judge me!
Just a quick update to let you know about all the Medyah (Media) I'm up to at the moment.
I was lucky enough to be invited to partake in an interview and photoshoot for Carlisle Living magazine just before Easter. This resulted in a fab 4 page feature in the April edition of the magazine all about my journey to where I am now and plans for the future. The whole article is only available in print, but I can hook you up if you want to see more!
On the back of this (and having the coolest Girl Guiding County Commissioner in the world as a mother) I will be joining Girl Guiding Cumbria on BBC Radio Cumbria's Sunday morning show with Val Armstrong. I spend the first 18 years of my life (plus a bit extra pre-natal) in the Guide Association and I can't wait to go hang out with them and talk about my article and more than a few feminist issues that are close to my heart - I never miss an opportunity. You can listen live or once the show's finished at BBC Radio Cumbria or Cumbria FM 95.6 Really looking forward to it, and I hope you can tune in!
Well it's been an awfully long time, but I'm delighted to announce I have been offered a place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland's Opera School!
Now the quest for funding begins... should anybody have any marvellous suggestions or a spare £10k, please do let me know! I jest...
Anyway, I would just like to thank all the marvellous people who have made this possible! My incredible parents and Grandma for their consistent desire for me to be happy (plus substantial financial input); my wonderful singing teacher Jane Irwin for helping me through an awful lot of vocal and mental... crap... in the past two and a half years; and last but 100% not least, my absolutely incredible friends who have fully supported me whilst I've applied and been rejected for pretty much everything I've tried to do in the past year. I realise I can be a complete mess, but you are truly marvellous for letting me indulge in that without it ever going too far. Love you!
Peace out kids x
Ok, so everybody's doing Education and Outreach things these days, its clearly the 'thing to do'. I've always had a strong interest in youth education and was a keen member of and leader within the Guide Association from 0-18 years! However, I've never been able to turn my hand to specific arts and music education.
But then, a new opportunity came up at college and I just couldn't say no. We will be going into local schools in groups of 4 or 5 with composer and educator Kate Pearson, devising a new opera titled 'Into The Labyrinth'. It will be performed by the studentsin the RNCM's Opera Theatre in early November.
To say I'm excited to get stuck in and try something new would be a gross understatement, I can't wait!
So I did a last minute cover gig on Saturday singing Posession and On The Road by Ethel Smyth. This was the final part of the Working Class Movement Library's Centenary celebration of Ethel Carnie Holdsworth (working class novelist, poet and - in this case - lyricist.)
I only caught the end of the discussion as my performance was the last of the day, but it really struck me how little we research lyricists. Well, me at least. We research the poetry we're singing and work out what it means for us, what it means for the composer (who we've no doubt also researched) and how those two meanings come together to produce a cohesive performance. But it's rare for me to put too much effort into researching the lyricist. So unless its someone with whom I'm already familiar, I might know nothing whatsoever!
Given this conference was all about the lyricist, I thought I'd do a little research. What I found was extraordinarily interesting, much of Carnie's work was highly influential in the Women's Rights movement and in promoting the work of the Working Class, particularly of women. This gave me a whole host of other ideas for my performance that I hadn't considered previously, and has certainly influenced how I will look at lyricists in the future.
Very excited to officially announce that I will be performing at the Poynton Civic Ball this year with the fabulous Matthew Thistleton.
I will also be performing Handel's Messiah with Outlane Singers again. Love that annual gig; so much fun and the choir are lovely. I shall add both these events to my calandar now.