'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.