Music Works: an exciting new podcast for the classical music industry

Polyphony Arts is pleased to announce the launch of their new podcast: Music Works which looks at the classical music industry, how it works today, and explores how it can work better in the future.

The podcast is a natural extension of the vision of Polyphony Arts founder, Katie Beardsworth, who has been a long term campaigner for better work life balances for musicians and improved working conditions across the industry.

Now, since COVID-19 has brought lock down and effectively put a stop to performing arts everywhere, problems inherent in the industry have come more and more to the fore. In response to which Music Works offers a forum for everyone who cares about the arts, whether as a music professional, funder, policy maker or music lover, to express their thoughts, suggestions and personal experiences.

Katie explains her thinking behind the podcast:

“We’ve seen how fragile a musician’s income can be. We’ve seen how fragile music organizations can be, and I want to change that. So I’ve started Music Works with a view to having important, forward thinking discussions around the classical music industry as it is now and how it will work in the future.”

In the first episode the team at Polyphony Arts share their thoughts in an informal manifesto for the classical music industry going forward.

Upcoming episodes include conversations with composers and perfomers such as Ella Jarman-Pinto and bassoonist Fraser Gordon who both discuss the importance of belonging for people who may feel excluded because of their race, gender or social class; business leaders like Jessica Fearnley; and policy strategists such as Ben Cooper, author of the latest report from the Fabian Society “Cultured Communities” on the importance of the arts in society and how to improve our current funding models.

“We can’t just look at artistic content or individual experience unless it goes to helping us explain and develop our thinking on how to improve our sector and build sustainability through improved models,” Katie concludes. “We need a holistic, not a fragmented approach and that’s what Music Works is designed to promote. Musicians work through cooperation and collaboration; this podcast is all about that and more.”

You can find the podcast on the Polyphony Arts website and YouTube channel, social media and soon to appear on all major podcast apps such as Apple and Spotify.

Money mindset in classical music

Classical musicians: how do you decide what to charge?

Classical music organisations: how do you set your fee budgets?

I’m Katie Beardsworth, and I run Polyphony Arts – an artist management and arts project management organisation focusing on classical music. 

Polyphony is about separate parts or strands blending together and becoming harmonious. Musicians today experience complex, multi-faceted professional lives which need to combine with personal or family lives which can be equally complicated. 

We aim to celebrate these complexities – they are what makes life and art so interesting – and to help musicians and music organisations and promoters make sense of them.

This work is all about understanding personalities and circumstances – how people work, what makes them produce their best creative work, how their lives and experience inform and enhance their work, and the challenges they face and how to overcome them.

The biggest challenge? How to make enough money as a performer, composer or other creative. 

I believe that there is a major money mindset problem in the classical music industry. Musicians under-charge (for so many reasons, which I am exploring in my money mindset work). Organisations then know they can get music for very little. Then musicians continue to under-charge, because they think that is the industry norm. 

(Disclaimer: there are loads of music organisations and artists that have great money mindset and set the value of music perfectly. This blog post is about those that don’t – and there are plenty of them, too.)

The solution? Both sides of the industry (organisations that pay musicians, and the musicians themselves) need to shake off the mindset that there is no money in classical music.

Why are fees a challenge? 

The freelance classical music industry (where most of my experience lies; please note I am talking about one-off commissions and performances, not ongoing work such as major orchestral setups) is challenging in several ways relating to fees and earnings:

  • It is not transparent. One freelance string quartet may be paid completely differently from another by the same promoter. Equally, the same string quartet may be paid completely different amounts by different promoters.
  • The process of selecting fees is largely based around what people ask for. Judgement calls are made about the financial capacity of the promoter, and fees requested accordingly. 
  • However, there is another factor at play here: the worth that musicians put on their own work.

How do we currently decide what our performances or commissions are worth?

This decision is highly personal and results in a huge variety of outcomes. Here are some of the considerations I’ve come across:

  • Stage of career (highly subjective; who has decided?!)
  • Budget of promoter, either real or guessed
  • Past experience
  • What they have heard others charge (again, this can be highly subjective)
  • Sense of self worth
  • The fact that musicians are perceived to enjoy their work (somehow translates to not deserving a full fee for it)

What’s wrong with this?

Where I find this problematic is that it results in the following outcomes:

  • People who have a low sense of the worth of their work get paid less
  • Marketing and networking end up being more valuable than the quality of the music
  • Organisations set their budgets with low fees in mind as there is always someone who will do it for less (and they have good reasons for doing this – dwindling audience numbers are a huge challenge, something I’ll go into another time)
  • There are venues that have entire concert series where there are no or very low fees, because they are in desirable locations (such as central London) and there is always someone who wants to perform there for the exposure and the potential to invite reviewers and other promoters

Transparency and fixed fees in the industry would make for a much fairer system. This could be set up to take account of experience – for instance, a rate for early, mid and late career musicians – so it’s not to say all musicians at all stages should attract the same fees, but something like this would avoid the phrase I hear time and time again – 

“as long as I come out of it with £100 that’s OK”. 

To do a concert takes the following:

  • The concert itself
  • Rehearsal on the day
  • Travel to and from the venue 
  • Rehearsal prior to the day
  • Years of complex, time consuming and expensive study
  • Talent
  • Expertise
  • Experience
  • Administration
  • Marketing

£100? For all this?

There are so many problems with this. 

  1. It excludes people who don’t have financial backing from parents/partners/savings etc from working in the industry. People who need this to be a sustainable income source can’t afford to work for free or for low sums.
  2. It means that venues, festivals and promoters set their budget expectations too low. 
  3. It risks some funders undervalue the cost of musicians (although many public funders don’t undervalue them and want funding applications to include good fees for musicians).

Musicians: what can you do?

Changing this system is a daunting prospect, let’s acknowledge that. However, if you feel stuck in your earnings, here are six things you can consider:

  1. Think about the time, training and skills it has taken you to become a professional musician
  2. Think about the fact that you don’t get sick pay, holiday pay, or any other employment rights (most freelancers have a higher hourly/day rate to account for this fact)
  3. Think about how much work you have, what your monthly expenses/outgoings are, and how well these work together. Essentially, do you make enough money?
  4. Look at Musicians’ Union and ISM published rates
  5. Look at Making Music’s Selected Artists Guide, which publishes fees for their selected artists. Think about where your experience sits in comparison with these artists. 
  6. Think about your own view of your work. Do you feel you’re being paid what you are worth? 

I always enjoy this image when considering fees…

[​​​​​​​This image is regularly shared on social media but I can’t find an original credit for it. I’d love to credit it appropriately if I can find its owner]

Music organisers and promoters: what can you do?

If at any point I’ve made music organisers feel uncomfortable in this post, that wasn’t my intention. Part of my work is to organise festivals and concert series, and I’m well aware of the challenges this brings. 

If you’ve read this far, I assume you’re up for trying to break the Catch-22! In my experience, promoters mean very well, so I am sure you won’t mind me suggesting some ideas.

So, here are things you can do as a promoter, concert organiser, or anyone who hires musicians:

  1. Believe that musicians are worth more than they are asking for. (Yes. They almost always ask for less than they deserve.)
  2. Fix fair fees that work within your budget, and stick to them. If someone offers to do it for less, offer them the full amount.
  3. Work on changing the mindset of your audience. Are they reticent about paying high ticket prices? Release blogs, newsletter stories and social media posts about the costs of training as a musician. Make sure your audience understands the picture, too.
  4. Don’t negotiate fees down. Or, if you really need to, make it very clear that it’s for budgetary reasons and not because you think the musicians are worth less than they’ve stated.
  5. Consider how your organisation is run. Are you largely dependent on volunteers? Might that affect your money mindset regarding music events? 
  6. Do what you can to get your budget raised. Apply for more funding. Advocate for good fees with your donors.

I believe in a future for classical music where musicians are paid fairly and music organisations are able to run in an inclusive, transparent way. 

Yes, musicians generally enjoy their work; it’s one of the reasons we do what we do. But so do hairdressers who are consistently voted as having among the highest levels of job satisfaction. 

The question is: when did you last ask your salon for a free hair cut?

“I don’t deserve to be paid”

Do you know what I hear from musicians all the time?

“I can’t charge that, no-one will pay it.”

“People get angry when you put a tip jar on an online gig.”

“We don’t work in music to get rich.”

What do all these things say, underneath?

I don’t deserve to be paid.” 

There are hundreds of nuanced reasons why musicians feel this way about money. I can often be heard proclaiming that musicians should never work for free – and I believe this! 

However, it’s more complicated than that. In fact, here’s a flowchart showing how complicated the decision can be.

Flow chart showing the decision making process of taking a free performing gig

This goes into the practical part of this complex matter – but doesn’t touch on the mindset issues.

In general, musicians don’t believe they deserve to be paid well.

And, organisations that pay them often don’t budget enough for what they need.

There’s a big money mindset problem here, on both sides of the industry. And, I want to change that.

I have an example for you, from this article from the BBC: 

Frank Turner’s Socially distanced trial gig ‘not a success’ – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-53578188

This is an article about a really sad and inevitable thing for the music industry – proof that socially distanced performance can’t make enough money to be viable. 

However, the thing that really stood out for me about this article was Frank Turner’s decision to do the gig for free. 

When I first read the article, I was angry – another example of a musician missing out on their fee for something that they’ve not been paid to do in months. 

But, then, I read his words again. Here is a quote from the article: 

“…the singer-songwriter said he’d agreed to play for free, in order to “demonstrate willingness to try”, on behalf of the decimated industry. 

This is not the start of a series of shows like this – that’d bankrupt everyone involved” he wrote. “But it was, as I say, a gesture of cooperation, an attempt to feel out the situation with an eye to taking steps in a better direction.

“But most of all it was a f***ing GIG. I have missed that, for sure. It turns out, live music really, really matters.”

Doesn’t this say it all? 

Musicians are desperate to perform. It is not just our livelihoods, it is part of who we are. This is the overwhelming thing that I’ve heard from musicians about lockdown. 

I’m committed to helping musicians and music organisations change their money mindset and get the music industry working better financially.

But, to do that, it’s no good railing at everyone to stop taking free gigs  – I have to understand the reasons musicians take the free gigs. 

I believe we’re in a vicious circle – organisations under-value musicians, musicians undervalue themselves, organisations know they can get music for less/nothing… and so it goes on.

I want to change this.

Will you share with me how you feel about being paid? 

Do you believe musicians can’t be rich? Or are very rarely rich? 

What feeds this belief? 

Things you were told as a child? Things you were told as a student? Your experience in the profession?

I want to know your money beliefs, because I’m going to make resources to help with them. Will you help me? 

By the way, here is Frank Turner’s blog post about the event, which is quoted in the article excerpt above, and is a very moving account of what musicians are feeling at this time.

This feels so hard, doesn’t it. Let’s work together to make changes for the better.   

Duo Tandem – “Two guitarists ahead of the curve”

It did not take a global pandemic for guitarists Necati Emirzade and Mark Anderson, otherwise known as Duo Tandem, to figure out how to collaborate across the thousands of miles that separate them.

Necati is a London-based Turkish Cypriot while Mark lives in his native Chicago. The two met whilst studying at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music and began their collaboration in 2011.

Their latest album featuring the music of Turkish Cypriot composer Kemal Belevi, which was issued on the Naxos label earlier this month, presented a not only a technical challenge, but also a significant logistical challenge.

At the start of project Mark and Necati had already been working remotely for some six years, but up until then this usual involved working on at most two new pieces at a time.

Now they were faced with producing 62 mins of music to a definite time frame. Three of the pieces had already appeared on their previous album, but this still left over 40 minutes of music to learn.

“It meant doing what we were already used to,” says Mark Anderson. “Just more, and on a larger scale.”

The two sent endless recordings back and forth using a metronome almost like a click track to ground and discipline the second voice. Then there were the WhatsApp conversations to play around with the results.

Necati sees that discipline as core to the success of the project:

“We agreed a schedule for learning each piece and deadlines for sharing recordings which is how we drove it forward. It was important to be systematic. That was the only way it could work. It might otherwise have been all too easy to let things slip, especially when you think you’re not going to see each other for two months. Remote working has to be efficient and targeted. Then there’s the accountability we owe each other as a duo which undoubtedly helps.”

The album was recorded in Holy Trinity with All Saints Church in South Kensington using sound recordist Luca Gardani with whom they have a longstanding relationship.

“The acoustics there are amazing,” says Mark. “You play a note and it sounds forever. It was also important that we were able to show Naxos the sound quality we would be delivering and give them the confidence that could and would be reproduced for their label.”

The three often worked at recording through the night after the church had closed its doors to the public for the day, often finishing at five in the morning.

“This is where the benefits of our remote practice came into its own,” says Mark. “It can seem mechanical while we’re doing it, but it does mean that when we are finally in the same room playing together, those basics are already dealt with and we can go straight to the real musical discussion.”

But then the task of editing began, organised between London, Chicago and Columbia, where Gardani is based. Once again their existing organisational skills came to the fore and the whole operation was directed via a giant Google spreadsheet colour-coded by tracks and edits.

“So now suddenly everyone is talking about the logistics of how to collaborate and perform on-line – we’ve being doing it for eight years!” says Mark. You can almost hear him rolling his eyes.

This album is very personal for Necati, grounded as it is in the folk melodies both he and Belevi grew up listening to, but with a classical approach.

“Play these melody in Cyprus and anyone, Greek or Turkish, will recognise them at once. We are a small community on a small island and when a community gets smaller, feelings get bigger so this music is very powerful.”

Reviewing the album shortly after its release, the Classical Music Pod podcast praised

Belevi’s idiomatic understanding of the personality of the guitar as a classical solo instrument and the textures and colours with which he adapts these folk melodies creating “a feeling of place and a knowledge of people will transport the listener: a summer holiday in a CD.”

Listening to the different tracks it’s hard to imagine Mark and Necati are not able to practise together for weeks and months, their playing is so interwoven expressing an instinctive, reciprocal musical relationship.

As The Classical Music Pod observes: “It’s almost like [listening to] one giant double-necked 4-handed guitar. Lightness, joviality, a willing to play with each other really comes across. You can tell when people are playing stuff that means something to them personally… these two seem so in command of their instruments, their ensemble, the balance of the parts. The warmth of their playing and the pacing of each arrangement is really, really spot on; a joy to sit down and listen to.”

Perfect Press Release with Polyphony Arts

Are you a solo musician, an ensemble or an arts organisation with a story you want to see picked up by the media? 

Not sure how to pitch your information in a way that will catch the editor’s eye?

As artist and arts project managers, we send out press releases all the time so we’re happy to share our experience of what makes the perfect press release. 

And, if you want help with this, check out our Perfect Press release service – send us your draft press release, and we’ll perfect it for you!

First of all, the clue is in the name: you are selling a story. That means you have information you want to present, but it has to be framed as a narrative and one with a hook to catch the reader’s eye. That’s a story. 

First: get your information in order. 

For example:

  • I’ve got a concert/event coming up/a new album coming out
  • Venue, date, time, label, launch date
  • I’m playing XXX/we’re presenting XXX/the album title is
  • Where can you buy tickets/find out more about the album

Now you have put flesh on the bones and turn those facts into a story. That means something different and/or original to make this a story an editor thinks their audience will want to hear.

“Violinist gives concert in Devon” isn’t exactly “hold the front page” material.

“Award winning violinist to returns to her home town with dazzling programme” already has two hooks in there to show why this story is interesting: this isn’t just any violinist but an award winner and, even better, it’s a local lass!

Think about your hook; think about what turns your information into a story an editor might want to hear.

Here’s a headline we wrote for an album launch in May:

“Classical guitar sensation, Duo Tandem, lead the way in remote collaboration with exciting new release.”

The hook here is the fact that Mark and Necati, have an amazing way of making fabulous music together even though Mark lives in Chicago and Necati lives in London. Given how everyone has been trying to work out how to get their music online during the Covid lockdown, this was especially topical.

Do you have any juicy quotes either about you or your event?

Here’s one from the same press release: 

“pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on classical guitars,” Minor7th

It was from a review of an earlier album by Duo Tandem, but it fitted our story perfectly.

Contemporaneous quote are also useful.

‘“We are delighted that Isadora will be the first to perform live music here again. The fact that she grew up in the town makes it so much more special for us and for our audience,” said the centre’s artistic director, Julia Wishbone.’

Tip: if you don’t have a quote, get in touch with friends/colleagues/the promoter and get one!

You’ve heard of the elevator pitch. You find yourself in an elevator with a big movie producer and you have just so long as it takes to get to his floor to pitch your script idea.

Tell your story simply and effectively and get back out the door. Editors are busy people and they get bored very quickly. If you haven’t sold your story within the first few lines, you’ve missed the boat.

You also have to consider what type of media you are aiming for. If you’re giving a recital to a small concert society in Norfolk, don’t target the national press. Look at local papers and radio. Get online, find the name of the editor (or better yet the arts correspondent) if you can, plus email addresses, phone numbers.

Tip: if you haven’t already, now is a good time to start building a database of press contacts.

If you have a good quality photo, send it along. 

If you have some online video performances, include the links.

And don’t forget to include all your contact details at the foot of the release!

Head your press release: “PRESS RELEASE” and put “ENDS” after the body of the text. All you extra information – your details and any links – come after that. Don’t send it as an attachment; copy it into the body of your email. 

We had a lovely live discussion on our live series about the ins and outs of writing the perfect press release. You can watch the full video here.

Katie Beardsworth and Margaret Pinder

Invisible barriers

Do you have something you want to do, but find you can never quite get around to doing it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about invisible barriers recently. I had a big one when lockdown started – I wanted to do exercise, but my usual swimming wasn’t an option. I used to run a few years ago before my son was born, so decided I wanted to start running again.

But, it was really hard. My mind was full of messages –

you haven’t done this for years, you’ve lost all your fitness, you don’t have the right clothes, you will be the slowest….

A friend of mine had told me about the Couch to 5k app recently, so I thought I’d give it a go. It worked a treat. I took a bit longer than the 9 weeks, but I taught myself to run for half an hour without stopping. To do that, I have to run two laps of the park. Then, because I’d been motivated by the app, I went further – I gave three laps a go, and I did it! 

I’ve just got home from running three laps of the park for the third time in about ten days, and I am so proud of myself. Exercise isn’t something that comes naturally to me, and I am almost always the slowest/worst at any sporting activity (picked last in PE, every time!). 

It feels really amazing to do something better than I did before, especially when it’s not something that comes easily. It’s spurred me on and the motivation will keep building alongside the success. My invisible barrier has been broken down!

The Couch to 5k app was essential to this success. It didn’t do any of it for me – I did all the work myself – but it provided the mindset, motivation and encouragement I needed to unlock my potential.

Many musicians have invisible barriers about promoting themselves pitching for work. Fear of failure, fear of what other people will think… perhaps even fear of success… there are so many, and I’m always thinking about how I can help remove these barriers.

we can help you feel great about pROMOTING YOURSELF.

We have a range of services available to help you feel confident and raring to go.

Strategic career coaching (2 month in-depth career coaching)

Polyphony Arts membership (manage your own career with the support of an agent for those tricky moments)

Strategic plan for musicians

Become Your Own Agent (online course)

Perfect Pitch

Perfect Press Release

Social Media Guide for musicians

We all feel wobbly sometimes, and sometimes we don’t see how much it is holding us back. The right support at the right time can make all the difference.

What are your invisible barriers?

What are your tips for overcoming them?

Are you ready to make a change? I think you are!

Katie Beardsworth

Three mindset tips to help you become your own agent

Are you a musician who pitches for their own work? Have you thought about getting an agent, but prefer the idea of managing your own career? What is holding you back? 

As an artist manager and artistic director, I have a deep understanding of the music agent industry, and I want to share my three top tips for becoming your own agent.

When things hold me back in my career, they are almost always to do with mindset. I know from my work with hundreds of musicians how powerful mindset is in the music industry in particular. 

Are you ready to take control of your music career?

Here are three mindset altering tips to help you become your own agent.

Tip 1: Make sure you love what you’re offering

I believe that the most important thing as a musician is to be working on projects that fill you with joy and enthusiasm. Music is so personal. What you’re doing has to feel right to you. 

Tip 2: Tell people, clearly, why you love it

Plan ideas clearly so that you can easily explain to others what is wonderful about it. Write it down so you can send it by email, and talk to friends and family about it – see if you can express the main idea in a sentence. Listen to their feedback – can you make them love it as much as you do?

Tip 3: Send it out with confidence

This is your ideal project – use that experience of explaining it to friends and family to explain it to others. Be warm, confident, and share the love for what you’re doing. Is your inner voice telling you that the person you’re pitching it to might not be interested? Overrule that inner voice! Replace it with the evidence that you’ve gathered from your conversations – this is a project that is inspired and special, and you are the perfect person to be doing it.

Did this resonate with you? Do you want more practical and mindset exercises to help you maximise your music career?

My online course, Become Your Own Agent is available now, as a self-paced online course. It costs £150, and you can spread the cost over three months if you wish. When you sign up, you receive the course materials and exercises, and can work through it at your own pace.

You will also be able to join the Polyphony Arts online course community, where you can develop your network further, and share tips and ideas with like-minded musicians. 

Find out more and sign up here.

Do you have tips to add? We’d love to hear from you on social media!

Perfect Pitch with Polyphony Arts

Are you a musician who pitches for work? 

As artist managers, we pitch for our clients all the time. 

Our performers want concert, oratorio, concerto and chamber work, both on the concert platform and in the recording studio. 

Our composers want commissions, and performances and recordings of their works.

We are also concert promoters, which means we book musicians for work, and therefore receive countless pitches.

We wanted to share our insight into this part of the music industry, having seen it from both sides, so today we reached out with a live discussion on this very topic, full of insights about the ins and outs of pitching for musical work.

You can watch the full video at the bottom of this blog post.

However, if you want a quick round-up of our top tips for pitching, here they are.

What to include

  1. Headline – what is the most interesting thing about your project?
  • What instrument/s you/your ensemble play – unbelievably, I often have to search pitches for this information! A photo can be a great way to make this clear.
  • What we can expect from the performance – a sense of repertoire or theme
  • Why it will be high quality – career highlights / competition success / press quotes / testimonials
  • A link to a recording or video of your work (if you are a composer, a midi file is fine)
  • Links to your website and socials
  • Your contact details
  • Your availability – even if you suggest a date patch and it doesn’t work for the promoter, it still helps them focus on the possibility of booking you if you mention a specific date or time of the year. Bonus points for working out when the promoter usually has events and suggesting something that fits with that pattern, for example…

I notice you usually hold concerts on Thursdays”. Golden.

How does this make you feel?

A note on the above, especially number 4 – this does not mean you have to make it sound as though your career is in a different place from where it is. If you are a frequent visitor to the Wigmore Hall, say so. If you are just finishing education, and making your first steps into your professional career, say this.

Concert promoters don’t only book musicians whose careers are in full flight, and you will always come across better if you are honest and genuine.

So, are you ready? Are you raring to go? 

Do you feel like you could use a second pair of eyes?

We have a special offer for you. 

From 1 June 2020 we are launching a new service: Perfect Pitch with Polyphony Arts. You can send us your pitch and we will perfect it for you.

More details of how this works and how you can get your perfect pitch for only £60 are here. We look forward to hearing how you get on!

Katie Beardsworth and Margaret Pinder

How to build your musical career during lockdown

Are you feeling motivated? If so, I have something you need.

During Covid-19 lockdown everything has changed. In-person music performance has come to a sudden halt, festivals cancelled, and dreams of summer concerts have all but disappeared. The impact of this on our industry is profound. And it’s scary.

But anyone who works in music or the arts knows that we always have to adapt, look after ourselves and embrace those challenges that come our way.

We are seeing so many different reactions from people in our community. Some have set up online concert series, some are furiously practising and expanding their repertoire, some are teaching online. Others are looking after their families, or taking a well-earned break, learning new skills/hobbies. There are no right or wrong answers here. 

There are a lot of messages circulating about all the wonderful ways you use this time in lockdown. You can learn seven new languages, become a master baker, start a business, volunteer to support those in need… 

How do I feel? I run my own business and juggle a young family. There’s been lots of disruption, adapting to the new situation and the changes it brings in time and space available, and creating a good working relationship with my new toddler colleague.

I know that at any time, you may feel motivated, or you may not – either way it’s totally understandable. If you want to sit on your sofa consuming the entire back catalogue of Netflix and the entire range of Ben and Jerry’s, then that makes perfect sense to me! 


However, I do feel that everyone has the opportunity to use this time to learn new skills to futher their careers, and build a launchpad for when things (slowly) get up and running again.

Those uncertainties of the post-lockdown music industry… Here’s where I think I can help. No matter about the stage of your career in music, by becoming your own agent, you’ll be able to unlock lots of opportunities, possibilities and efficiencies in the new artistic world.

When we come out of lockdown and the industry starts to recover, imagine if you had your network all mapped out, your publicity materials all up to date, your projects articulated, and a system for getting your own gigs in the diary. 

With my online course, this is what you end up with. 

The course will teach you to:

  • Get more performances/commissions
  • Achieve your ideal fees
  • Attract work offers from higher profile venues and artists
  • Boost your profile in the industry
  • Build a list of useful contacts
  • Get the best out of your network
  • Tackle imposter syndrome and other barriers to promoting yourself

At the end of the course, you will have:

  • Written and/or fine-tuned your ideal marketing material
  • Planned how you will distribute it
  • Planned how to get the most out of your existing network and any upcoming performances
  • Considered how you feel about selling your work and any practical or emotional barriers that you face when promoting yourself.
  • Access to a closed Facebook group especially for course participants to network, share their work and discuss their marketing challenges and successes.

The course is self-paced and you can start whenever you like. It costs £150 – you’ll make this back in your first booking. I know money is tight for a lot of people right now, so I’m offering a payment plan – £50 per month payable over three months, and the course is available once you’ve made your first payment. 

Use lockdown to Become Your Own Agent. You’d normally be making bookings around a year in advance anyway, so it’s the perfect time to get your system and resources perfected. It is also do-able alongside a serious Netflix schedule.

Find out more and sign up here: https://polyphonyarts.com/online-course-become-your-own-agent-self-paced/

Social media for musicians

For most of us right now, social media our only way of communicating with our audiences. In place of a concert hall, we perform Bach partitas in our living rooms. Tens of thousands of people watch the Kanneh-Masons perform family soirees from their living room via Facebook Live.

Concert halls doors may be closed, but digital channels are open for business. It’s the perfect time to pick up your smartphone and connect to the masses of people on social networks. If you do this properly, it’s an opportunity to build your audience, communicate your message, and futureproof your brand.

Social media Benefits

Some of the benefits of investing in your social media strategy include:

  1. If successful, you can reach many more fans than you could in a concert hall
  2. You can build networks with other musicians, critics and promoters in the industry
  3. You have control over your messaging and tone of voice
  4. You can show your networks the diversity of your work
  5. You are more likely to reach new audiences as your fans share your content with their networks.

The hard truth

Now here’s the bad news. It takes a lot of work to build your social profile and following. One tweet won’t bring you millions of followers (unless you’re extremely lucky). At first, it will feel like you’re shouting in an empty hall (a typical Facebook page’s posts are only seen by 5.5% of its followers). But, like with music, the more you practice the better you become. Have a look at other musicians on social media: What channels are they using? Who does it well and why?

Help is at Hand

Social media isn’t as easy as pressing send on a tweet, or recording a video and expecting to go viral. It requires strategy, structure, and an understanding of every channel.

We sat down with social media expert Kyle Macdonald. Kyle’s day job is as Senior Social Media Editor at Classic FM, editor of the world’s biggest classical music social network. We discussed the most pressing questions musicians have about social media. He has a few great tips too, to help every musician unlock their social media potential.

We’ve put together a Social Media Guide for Musicians to help you get started with your social media. In it, you can find real examples of good social media practice and actionable recommendations.

Good luck!

NEW ARTIST! WE ARE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME MEZZO-SOPRANO LINDA FINNIE!

Polyphony Arts is delighted to welcome the internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano
Linda Finnie!

Regarded as “one of the finest artists of her generation”, Linda achieved numerous prestigious prizes, including the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Award (London) and Kathleen Ferrier Prize (The Netherlands). Within only a few years from the start of her career, Linda had made her debut at a number of major international opera companies including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, English National Opera, the Frankfurt Opera and Nice, where she sang Waltraute in Die Götterdämmerung, a performance that established her as a new star in the Wagnerian repertory.

During her distinguished career, Linda made her first appearance at Bayreuth under the direction of Daniel Barenboim, singing Fricka, Siegrune, and the Second Norn in a new production of the Ring cycle, performances which were issued as award-winning recordings on both CD and DVD. She went on to appear in the late Wolfgang Wagner’s production of Lohengrin. Linda performed with Barenboim on numerous occasions, their musical collaboration on Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Israel Philharmonic being one of the more memorable highlights of their musical collaboration.

Recordings from Linda’s extensive and diverse discography can frequently be heard on Radio 3 and Classical FM. Performance highlights, on both the concert hall stage and in the operatic repertoire, include inaugural performances at the Tokyo Opera House and Arts Centre of Ortrud and performances of Mahler’s Symphony 2 with the St Petersburg Philharmonic, conducted by Mariss Jansons.

Linda Finnie is available for concert and oratorio performances globally.

Read more about Linda Finnie here

What a pleasure to have you with us, Linda!

NEW ARTIST: A WARM WELCOME to VIOLINIST MIRIAM DAVIS!

Polyphony Arts is delighted to welcome international prize-winning violinist Miriam Davis! Miriam is a British violinist based in Norway. She performs extensively throughout the world, both as a soloist as well as in various chamber ensembles, and has won numerous international competitions – including a First Prize at the International Grand Virtuoso Competition (May 2019).  Other recent prizes include 1st prize from IMKA competition, Virtuoso Belcanto International Competition dedicated to Paganini, and the North Online International Competition. Recent solo performance venues include Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Royal Albert Hall and Stavanger Konserthus, among many others.

At the young age of 12, Miriam performed as concertmaster of the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain, in concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (London). At the age of 13 she was accepted to the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, in which she went on to perform as Co-Leader at the BBC proms in Royal Albert Hall London. Since 2017, Miriam has studied with renowned French violinist, Philippe Graffin, including receiving her Artist Diploma at Hague Royal Conservatory in 2018.

Miriam’s greatest passion lies in the Romantic and Early 20th Century repertoire, whilst still enjoying a versatile spectrum of musical styles — ranging from the Baroque to new, personally commissioned works from contemporary composers. She is also currently embarked on a Debut CD recording, featuring several of the Ysaÿe Solo Sonatas. Miriam performs regularly with leading Dutch pianist, Jelger Blanken; 2020 saw a return to her native UK in concerto engagements, USA debut concert and further upcoming concert-tours.

Miriam is currently accepting concerto and chamber music engagements. Find out more about Miriam and sample concert programmes here: https://polyphonyarts.com/miriam-davis/

We are thrilled to have you with us, Miriam!

It’s Bad news, Good news from the chancellor for the self-employed: love and the freelance musician in a time of COVID-19

The Chancellor has announced help for the self-employed with a new grant scheme.

So, it’s good news, bad news for the self-employed, but at least there is some news at last.

We’re already well aware of the help the Chancellor has offered to businesses and people in PAYE employment, but until now, the plight of freelancers i.e. the self-employed, – and that means almost every professional musician – has gone unaddressed.

No longer. After much public debate and pressure from various political and business quarters, the Chancellor has finally announced a scheme to help sole traders and those of us who do work for ourselves.

That’s the good news.

The scheme will offer a taxable grant worth 80% of net income up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months. There is also an acknowledgement that, given the uncertainty as to how the current situation will pan out, this may be extended as and when.

So far so good, but this contains within itself much of the explanation why it has taken so long for Rishi Sunak to lay out the government’s measures for such an important sector of the country’s workforce.

The clue is in how to work out how much grant you can expect. 80% of ‘trading profits’ (that means net income to you and me), seems a clear enough sum, but the question is how will this be calculated?

But first things first. The initial question must be: who can apply? How is self-employment defined?

Does this apply to you?

The announcement specifies five criteria that you must meet to count as self-employed:

  1. you have submitted an Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018/19
  2. you have earned money as a self-employed person in the tax year 2019/20
  3. you are actively working (self-employed) at the point of making the application, (or would be but for COVID-19)
  4. you intend to continue doing so in the tax year 2020/21; and
  5. you have lost income due to COVID-19

The net income derived from your self-employment must make up more than half of your income and must total less than £50,000.

This is where the calculation becomes more complicated, but bear with me and read slowly.

The government will not limit itself to calculating the amount you may be able to claim based on your 18/19 tax return figures, but will average these over your after-tax income for the previous two tax years as well i.e. 2017/18 and 2016/2017. (Don’t forget , this must also make up more than half of your total taxable income in each of those tax years).

All of which makes reasonable sense with one proviso:, what if we have only been working in a self-employed capacity for one or two years, I hear some of us cry? Does this mean we will fall through an especial unpleasant crack? Mercifully not, if you started your self-employment between 2016-19, the Inland Revenue will only use the figures for those years for which you have filed a Self-Assessment tax return subject to the criteria set out above.

(Please note: if you have not already submitted your self-assessment tax return for 2018-19 (!!!), you must do this by 23 April 2020.

I repeat, once again, piu forte for added emphasis: IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY SUBMITTED YOUR SELF-ASSESSMENT TAX RETURN FOR 2018-19 DO IT NOW, AND AT THE VERY LEAST BY NO LATER THAN 23 APRIL 2020.

But what if you have only become self-employed in the current tax year (2019/20)and therefore filed no return? Unfortunately, in that case, you will not qualify for this scheme and you will have to rely on Universal Credit (see further information at the end of this article).

How much can you expect to claim?

This is the nub of it. We have seen that the Treasury/Revenue will look at your net income averaged over the last three tax year and allow 80% of that figure  (i.e. 3 years’ net income divided by 3 x 80%).

But (and there almost most always is a but), this will be capped at a maximum of £2,500 per month payable for 3 months as things currently stand.

But that’s still good news and there’s more: the grant will be paid directly into your bank account in one lump sum.

Please note, the grant does not have to be repaid – it’s a grant, not a loan (more good news!) –  but it will count as income for tax purposes when you are filling out your 20/21 return. (May we all live so long.) If you claim tax credits, you must include any grant you receive in your claim as income.

So, what’s the bad news. (Apart from the whole lousy situation?)

The bad news

You can’t apply yet. In fact, you can’t actually apply at all, and you can’t expect any money before June.

So how will you know if you are eligible? Don’t worry, HMRC will contact you if you are, and invite you to apply online.

Do not call them, do not hassle them now; our trusty tax folk are working their socks off to get all those self-assessment tax returns that were submitted for Jan 30 this year processed so they can make the necessary calculations and identify who will qualify. Let them get on with it.

I’m sure you will all have heard it before: “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

On a brighter note, although the grant may not be paid until June, it will be backdated to March.

A word of warning

With this in mind, be on your guard for scammers who are always looking to make a fast buck out of someone else’s crisis. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam. Hang up the call, delete the text or the email and carry on with your day.

But what about now?

Having read all this you may be feeling what might at best be described as modified rapture. There is help at hand, but that hand is not going to show itself for a good two months. Many of us are hurting now.

So what other more immediate help is available?

Other help you can get

Until this grant scheme kicks in, here is a list of additional help for the self-employed the government is also providing:

You can find details of this and the information set out in this article on the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

Help Musicians has also launched a £5million financial hardship fund. You can find more details here: https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/news/latest-news/advice-relating-to-coronavirus-covid-19

Final advice

We’ll keep you posted if and when we get more information to help all you music freelancers out there, but, in the meantime:

STAY SAFE; STAY POSITIVE; STAY HOME and WASH YOUR HANDS!

Margaret Pinder

Polyphony Arts

27 March 2020

Join our mailing list for career tips and more advice for musicians and get our FREE guide “Four Essential Tips For Building Your Network: A Resource For Musicians“ : https://polyphonyarts.com/mailing-list/

NEW ARTIST! A warm welcome to award-winning composer Edwin Roxburgh!

Polyphony Arts is delighted to welcome Edwin Roxburgh to the Polyphony Arts team!

Distinguished composer and virtuoso oboist, Edwin has won numerous prizes and Fellowships. As a student, he was recipient of the Elgar Trust Award through a BBC Symphony Orchestra commission, as well as a British Academy Award for his Oboe Concerto, An Elegy for Ur, and a Cobbett Medal for Services to Chamber Music.

Edwin’s musical works encompass a broad range of instrumental setting, adventuring through a variety of sophisticated, fascinating sound worlds. His work Saturn, with a tribute to Holst, explores the mythical characters of its moons and satellites, in “an epic orchestral and electronic space-scape effortlessly blending Roxburgh’s understanding of Boulez and Stockhausen with a Birtwistle-like sense of ritual” (The Wire). He awaits a performance of his opera Abelard (libretto by Edwin and Julie Roxburgh), published by United Music Publishing under the auspices of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. Other commissions include How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear, for narrator and orchestra, produced on ITV’s Aquarius with Vincent Price and Diana Menuhin as narrators. Recordings of Edwin’s works are available on various prestigious labels, including NMC, Naxos, Warehouse and Metier.  

Beside his busy career as a composer, Edwin’s artistic activities include performing, conducting and teaching. He is currently a visiting tutor and researcher at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship, and has conducted numerous premieres – originally with the Twentieth Century Ensemble of London, which he founded, and later with several other principal orchestras of the UK.

You can read more about Edwin here: https://polyphonyarts.com/edwin-roxburgh/

What a pleasure to have you with us, Edwin!

The implications of the impact of COVID-19 for musicians and live performance venues: an agent’s perspective

As international concern about coronavirus spreads and different governments give different advice and introduce different measures to deal with what has now been designated a pandemic, those of us who work in live performance are facing an uncertain professional and financial situation as venues close, engagements are cancelled, and predictions over the severity and duration of the outbreak seem confusing, not to say downright contradictory.

As a boutique music and events management agency, we at Polyphony Arts are extremely sensitive to the impact this will have on our clients. We are a team of three women with differing demands on our time, which means we are used to flexible and remote working, enjoying the ability to use email and videoconferencing calls to manage our clients’ business around the world as well as enjoying each other’s company in our regular co-working sessions. If we have to self-isolate, we can, technically, continue with business as usual.

But our business is dependent upon the artists and arts organisations we represent, and our concern has to be protecting their careers in the medium to longer term, and their income as an immediate priority. These are the questions we have been increasingly facing as the virus and the accompanying measures dominate our headlines.

There are, of course, several aspects to this crisis which have implications for musicians who rely on their physical presence and skill to earn their living, and venues and organisations who rely on the physical presence of those performers and the wider public to generate their revenue.

So the first question, of course, is how is the virus likely to impact the performing arts in light of this?

The evolving medical situation

We know the virus is highly contagious. The statistics show a high rate of infection and spread within the population. People with compromised immune systems and other underlying health issues, especially the elderly, are particularly vulnerable. All of us are asking, how can I protect myself and how can I protect those who are close to me and those who are especially vulnerable? This is, understandably, almost immediately followed by question: what are the implications for my work is a live performer or for my business is a live performance venue or event?

Our first port of call for help and advice on how to manage ourselves is, not unreasonably,  our government(s). In the UK this can be found on the UK government website under various headings. The current advisory for those who believe they have contracted the virus can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

The main messages are:

  • if you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home and do not leave your house for seven days from when your symptoms started.
  • plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home
  • ask your employer, friends and family to help get the things you need to stay at home
  • stay at least two metres (about three steps) away from other people in your home whenever possible
  • sleep alone, if that is possible
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water
  • stay away from vulnerable individuals such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions as much as possible
  • you do not need to call NHS111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after seven days call or contact NHS 111 online.

Arguably these measure should also apply if you believe you have been in contact with someone who has contracted the virus.

Travel restrictions

Staying home is fine, if you have no engagements and need to put in some serious time practising your scales (assuming the dry cough that is one of the symptoms will let you), but not if you have engagements in your calendar.

And what if you feel perfectly well, but those engagements are overseas? We now know Italy is in lockdown so all concerts and public events are cancelled even if you could get a flight into the country. The US has (reluctantly) introduced a ban on travel to and from various countries (but not the UK and Ireland?!) The landscape is changing every day. When I began researching this article two days ago, there was a page on the government website with advice for travellers returning to the UK from overseas. Visiting it again today, I find it has been withdrawn and I am redirected to the page quoted above giving stay at home guidance.

International travel seems to be pretty much off the table. Flights are being cancelled (we might spare a thought here for the airline industry which operates on extremely tight margins and which is also deeply worried about the survival of some carriers).

But, even if you managed to get yourself to your venue in Belgium, say, or Japan? The likelihood is that you will find it closed and events cancelled. Yesterday, classical-music.com, the official website of BBC music magazine, published a list of tours and festivals that have been cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus (which we should now refer to by its proper title: COVID-19)

http://www.classical-music.com/article/coronavirus-updated-list-tours-and-festivals-cancelled-or-postponed-due-covid-19

That list is only set to grow.

Contractual matters

So the next question for both performers and venues is, inevitably, what about our contracts? What are the terms for cancellation and how will this affect my income?

Solicitors, Harbottle & Lewis, who represent a number of significant music clients have a issued an overview of the likely legal position regarding those contracts in English law – many of the principles are likely to be similar in other jurisdictions. You can read their insight here:  https://www.harbottle.com/coronavirus-contracts/

To summarise, it is likely your contract contain a force majeure clause. This is a clause which spells out what happens if any one of the parties to that contract cannot perform their contractual obligations because of events outside their control. This is likely to cover the coronavirus pandemic as a “triggering event”. The clause will also set out if the parties are allowed more time to perform their obligations, who pays any increased costs, and whether there is a right to terminate the contract. But this is a matter of interpreting the contract’s exact wording. Many force majeure clauses require contract performance not to be possible at all. If a venue has been closed because of government requirements that may be seen differently from a musician deciding to self-isolate because they feel unwell or have had contact with a sufferer. This is important! Harbottle & Lewis are very clear: “careful analysis of the wording of your contract is important to make sure that you are not jeopardising your position. Getting it wrong can have serious consequences, and may put you in breach of your contract.”

But what if you have read your contract and it does not appear to contain a force majeure clause? In that situation you may find you are subject to what lawyers call “the doctrine of frustration”. Now, we are all feeling pretty frustrated with the whole COVID-19 situation, but this is a specific legal concept which arises where a party to a contract simply cannot fulfil a fundamental obligation under that contract, due, for example, to an unforeseen event such as the government locking down all travel or a venue closing due to a contamination. In this case the parties are released from their contractual obligations. (Again, it all depends on the exact wording of the contract in question).

Financial consequences

But, of course, that includes the obligation to pay fees. It may be frustrating and disappointing to find you won’t be playing the Walton viola concerto to a packed audience in King’s Lynn, but it is downright worrying to know that you won’t be getting paid either and there’s plenty more of that coming down the line. Similarly, it may be heart breaking to see all the careful preparation and plans you have made for your beautiful festival coming to nothing, but it may also, and more importantly, be actually bank-breaking to have paid out in anticipation of the event and not being able to realise the income. And what about all that grant funding you have been awarded and, in part, already spent? We are still waiting upon the Arts Council to decide on its policy in this regard and many other grant funding bodies large and small will have to be taking similar positions regarding the repayment or otherwise of moneys awarded to projects that have to be cancelled.

What can you do? The answer at the moment is not a comforting one. If you have cancellation insurance, that’s great, but it is very expensive and only large venues and events can really afford to carry it. The latest budget announced by the Chancellor this week offered a lot of help to small businesses who are affected by COVID-19, but most of this is unlikely to reach arts organisations and individual, self-employed musicians.

People who are not eligible for sick pay such as the self-employed will now be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from day one of illness rather than day eight. ESA is form of aid to those who are too sick to work (provided they meet certain conditions) and is worth £73.10 a week (£57.90 if you a child genius i.e. under-25). Not exactly riches. There are now calls for statutory sick pay to be extended to the self-employed.

But there are also knock-on effects that are not caught directly by advice or legislation. How do people with young children manage to continue working if child care centres and schools close? Our founder and director, Katie, has a three year-old son. She is very dependent on regular childcare to run the agency. We have had a lot of conversations among ourselves about the implications for her and all three of us if Sam can’t go to his pre-school. We all know musicians who are in a similar situation.

Some options you may have

As agents we can’t force venues to open or contracts to be honoured nor should we if we want to be responsible in doing our bit to help mitigate the spread of the virus, but what we can do for our clients is be proactive in managing cancellations and asking for rebookings even if these are as far ahead as 2021. If a venue liked our artists well enough to book them now, why wouldn’t they be sympathetic to moving that booking to a time when we all hope this situation will have finally passed? There is a lot of good will out there amidst all the stress; tap into it!

If you do not have representation, this advice still works for you. Speak to your promoters and venues. Some circumstances are out of your control; being pro-active about managing cancelled engagements going forwards is something you can and should be exploring.. 

A final word

Finally, and this is a personal message from us all at Polyphony Arts, one of the best things you can do, and one that can get lost in the blizzard of conflicting information and anxiety, is to take care of yourselves. This is a stressful time for all of us and one of the hidden casualties of the virus is not our physical, but our mental health. Take care, and be aware of your stress and do your best to manage your well-being. The music community is a close knit and supportive one. We need to stand together, to be responsible, and to take care of ourselves and each other. Our livelihoods and our industry depend upon it.

Margaret Pinder

Music Manager, Polyphony Arts

www.polyphonyarts.com

At Polyphony Arts we strive to support musicians through the opportunities and challenges of being part of the modern music scene. If you’d like to join our mailing list for free tips and advice, you can sign up here https://polyphonyarts.com/mailing-list/

If you are interested in our range of services and online courses for musicians, you can read more about them here https://polyphonyarts.com/services-and-courses/

Disclaimer: this article is drawn from a number of identified sources. Polyphony Arts does not hold itself out to have any expert knowledge of the medical or legal content of this article. If readers have any questions or concerns about the issues touched on here, we recommend they seek appropriate specialist medical or legal advice.

LINKS:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-specified-countries-and-areas/covid-19-specified-countries-and-areas-with-implications-for-returning-travellers-or-visitors-arriving-in-the-uk

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance

The World Health Organisation also provides some advice on how to cope with stress during the outbreak: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

https://www.afm47.org/press/advice-for-musicians-in-relation-to-coronavirus-covid-19/ (USA)

https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/News/2020/Mar/advice-for-musicians-Coronavirus-covid-19?utm_source=Musicians+Union&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=11373985_March+Newsletter+2020&dm_i=2QJ%2C6RS81%2C4VVQ7Z%2CR2YVJ%2C1

https://www.harbottle.com/coronavirus-contracts/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/uk-governments-coronavirus-advice-and-why-it-gave-it

Deadlines – love them or loathe them?

Katie Beardsworth, Director and Founder of Polyphony Arts

Do you work well with deadlines? Do they motivate you, or fill you with dread?

Personally, I need deadlines – I need the pressure and motivation to get things done, especially when they aren’t my favourite tasks. I often set timers on my phone while I’m working, giving myself 20 minutes to complete tasks and move on to the next. I set imaginary deadlines for work that doesn’t have an in-built deadline to make sure it doesn’t languish on my to-do list. I love deadlines!

I started doing online courses last year. When I first signed up I was unsure; would I learn anything? Would it be worth the cost?

However, when I started doing them, I discovered that they are a fantastic way to learn new skills, for a fraction of the cost of more formal learning options. As a freelancer, I am responsible for developing my own career, and with the online course market booming, I soon found I could offer myself career development in a really rewarding way that is really effective in both cost and time.

I have experienced courses that are ‘self-paced’ – i.e. you buy the course and do it in your own time, with little or no further contact from the course creator – and that have deadlines and feedback. There are pros and cons to both, but for me personally, I got more out of the courses with deadlines and feedback. Being accountable for doing the course in a timely manner really helped me to learn a lot in a short space of time, and I came out of it fully prepared to use my new skill.

When I was planning my online course, Become Your Own Agent, I gave a lot of thought to whether to set deadlines on the tasks, or keep it self-paced – open and flexible. The course is aimed at professional musicians, and that means that my own experiences weren’t necessarily the best gauge – the working week of a professional musician is very different from mine, often with minimal computer-based time available. However, I wanted people to get the best of the content I had to offer, so I launched the course with deadlines and weekly feedback available from me.

It went really well – those that signed up were totally engaged and I read some great work! It was fantastic to get to know those people and their work. They said some lovely things about the course, too – I was so thrilled to hear this!

“Incredibly insightful to see things from the point of view of the promoter”

You inspire confidence and your approach is encouraging”

However, I also had a great deal of feedback from people who didn’t sign up, saying that the challenges of doing tasks to a deadline in the midst of freelance life was too difficult, and asking for a version that they could access and complete in their own time. I also heard that the cost of the course was difficult for freelancers to manage as an up-front cost, and was asked if I could offer payment plans.

So, I am delighted to say that all of this is possible! I now have two versions of the course available from 3 March 2020. Both have the same content, but one has deadlines and the option of feedback from me if you meet those deadlines; and the other is self-paced, with a price that reflects that, and a monthly payment plan available.

Check out the full details here, and sign up to take your career to the next level! https://polyphonyarts.com/services-and-courses/

Do you work well with deadlines?

I need deadlines – I need the pressure and motivation to get things done, especially when they aren’t my favourite tasks. I often set timers on my phone while I’m working, giving myself 20 minutes to complete tasks and move on to the next. I set imaginary deadlines for work that doesn’t have an in-built deadline to make sure it doesn’t languish on my to-do list. I love deadlines!

I started doing online courses last year. When I first signed up I was unsure; would I learn anything? Would it be worth the cost?

However, when I started doing them, I discovered that they are a fantastic way to learn new skills, for a fraction of the cost of more formal learning options. As a freelancer, I am responsible for developing my own career, and with the online course market booming, I soon found I could offer myself career development in a really rewarding way that is really effective in both cost and time.

I have experienced courses that are ‘self-paced’ – i.e. you buy the course and do it in your own time, with little or no further contact from the course creator – and that have deadlines and feedback. There are pros and cons to both, but for me personally, I got more out of the courses with deadlines and feedback. Being accountable for doing the course in a timely manner really helped me to learn a lot in a short space of time, and I came out of it fully prepared to use my new skill.

When I was planning my online course, Become Your Own Agent, I gave a lot of thought to whether to set deadlines on the tasks, or keep it self-paced – open and flexible. The course is aimed at professional musicians, and that means that my own experiences weren’t necessarily the best gauge – the working week of a professional musician is very different from mine, often with minimal computer-based time available. However, I wanted people to get the best of the content I had to offer, so I launched the course with deadlines and weekly feedback available from me.

It went really well – those that signed up were totally engaged and I read some great work! It was fantastic to get to know those people and their work. They said some lovely things about the course, too – I was so thrilled to hear this!

“Incredibly insightful to see things from the point of view of the promoter”

You inspire confidence and your approach is encouraging”

However, I also had a great deal of feedback from people who didn’t sign up, saying that the challenges of doing tasks to a deadline in the midst of freelance life was too difficult, and asking for a version that they could access and complete in their own time. I also heard that the cost of the course was difficult for freelancers to manage as an up-front cost, and was asked if I could offer payment plans.

So, I am delighted to say that all of this is possible! I now have two versions of the course available from 3 March 2020. Both have the same content, but one has deadlines and the option of feedback from me if you meet those deadlines; and the other is self-paced, with a price that reflects that, and a monthly payment plan available.

Check out the full details here, and sign up to take your career to the next level! https://polyphonyarts.com/services-and-courses/

Do you work well with deadlines?

I need deadlines – I need the pressure and motivation to get things done, especially when they aren’t my favourite tasks. I often set timers on my phone while I’m working, giving myself 20 minutes to complete tasks and move on to the next. I set imaginary deadlines for work that doesn’t have an in-built deadline to make sure it doesn’t languish on my to-do list. I love deadlines!

I started doing online courses last year. When I first signed up I was unsure; would I learn anything? Would it be worth the cost?

However, when I started doing them, I discovered that they are a fantastic way to learn new skills, for a fraction of the cost of more formal learning options. As a freelancer, I am responsible for developing my own career, and with the online course market booming, I soon found I could offer myself career development in a really rewarding way that is really effective in both cost and time.

I have experienced courses that are ‘self-paced’ – i.e. you buy the course and do it in your own time, with little or no further contact from the course creator – and that have deadlines and feedback. There are pros and cons to both, but for me personally, I got more out of the courses with deadlines and feedback. Being accountable for doing the course in a timely manner really helped me to learn a lot in a short space of time, and I came out of it fully prepared to use my new skill.

When I was planning my online course, Become Your Own Agent, I gave a lot of thought to whether to set deadlines on the tasks, or keep it self-paced – open and flexible. The course is aimed at professional musicians, and that means that my own experiences weren’t necessarily the best gauge – the working week of a professional musician is very different from mine, often with minimal computer-based time available. However, I wanted people to get the best of the content I had to offer, so I launched the course with deadlines and weekly feedback available from me.

It went really well – those that signed up were totally engaged and I read some great work! It was fantastic to get to know those people and their work. They said some lovely things about the course, too – I was so thrilled to hear this!

“Incredibly insightful to see things from the point of view of the promoter”

You inspire confidence and your approach is encouraging”

However, I also had a great deal of feedback from people who didn’t sign up, saying that the challenges of doing tasks to a deadline in the midst of freelance life was too difficult, and asking for a version that they could access and complete in their own time. I also heard that the cost of the course was difficult for freelancers to manage as an up-front cost, and was asked if I could offer payment plans.

So, I am delighted to say that all of this is possible! I now have two versions of the course available from 3 March 2020. Both have the same content, but one has deadlines and the option of feedback from me if you meet those deadlines; and the other is self-paced, with a price that reflects that, and a monthly payment plan available.

Check out the full details here, and sign up to take your career to the next level! https://polyphonyarts.com/services-and-courses/

‘Become your own agent’ is back!

Booking is now open for ‘Become Your Own Agent’, our online course which helps musicians take their careers to the next level. The courses are available from 3 March 2020.

Are you a professional musician without an agent? You’ll know promoting yourself and getting noticed by the right people is often a huge challenge, no matter what stage your career is at.

The industry is also changing rapidly, so many of the old rules and conventions no longer apply. With digital, social media, limits on time, and many other people competing in the same space, there’s more to do than ever.

Here’s where I can help, creating an agent who knows you best: You!

I’ll help you learn all the tools and tricks of the trade so you can promote yourself and your work to the venues, promoters, broadcasters and festivals that you want to reach.

You’ll also have the option to join our Facebook community, exclusively for Polyphony Arts online course participants, to connect with other music professionals and share advice, challenges and successes with them.

The course will teach you to:

  • Get more performances/commissions
  • Achieve your ideal fees
  • Attract work offers from higher profile venues and artists
  • Boost your profile in the industry
  • Build a list of useful contacts
  • Get the best out of your network
  • Tackle imposter syndrome and other barriers to promoting yourself

Participants on the last course said:

“Incredibly insightful to see things from the point of view of the promoter”

“You inspire confidence and your approach is encouraging”

The course is available in two forms – with weekly tasks and feedback, if you like deadlines and want to see results in four weeks (course starts Tuesday 3 March 2020), or self-paced, if you need to spread the work and the cost over time.

Details of the course with feedback and deadlines

Details of the self-paced course with payment plan option

Undecided? Visit our Services and Courses page to compare the two options and decide what is right for you. Or, email us with any questions.

We’d love you to join us on one of our courses!

“Never mind, maybe next time” — The Need of Closing the Gap between the Arts and Disabilities

By Graziana Presicce

My dad has Parkinson’s disease. It’s one of those things which, unfortunately, just happens. As with any disability, new circumstances inevitably bring some adaptations and new routines in one’s everyday life: whether involving medicines, more frequent visits to the toilet, or the need of taking into account how tired the body may feel on particular days, making walking more challenging than usual.

Through my work, being fully immersed in the arts, there are numerous events to which I wish to bring my parents along. Yet, there are often times where the answer eventually turns into a “never mind, maybe next time”. Being a classical pianist myself, my love for classical music, attentive audiences and concert halls is granted. Yet, the expectation of a still, quiet audience often does not make these concerts an ideal environment for people affected by Parkinson’s. It is unpredictable how strong the uncontrolled movements or shaking may be on certain days or times of the day. It is also unpredictable who is going to sit next to you: there might be the occasional glance on you; and it’s an uncomfortable feeling. Stress certainly does not help towards the effects of Parkinson’s, and such events should certainly not be a reason for stress—quite the opposite! Anyone, regardless of one’s condition, should have the chance to fully enjoy music, without having to think twice whether “it’s OK or not” to attend. 

It’s thrilling to see initiatives from the arts in taking a step closer towards disabilities; for instance, through relaxed performances. If you are in Hull and surroundings, we are excited to be hosting Hull Chamber Music’s very first relaxed concert ‘A Musical Journey’ at the Ferens Art Gallery, Friday 21st February 2020 at 11am! Carers and under 18s are welcome to attend for free (Standard Ticket: £10). Anyone attending will be free to move around, without any need of sitting still and quiet. The performance will also be BSL interpreted, as BBC Music Magazine’s Instrumental Award winner violinist Fenella Humphreys, alongside international pianist Nicola Eimer, will guide the audience through a musical journey around the world. Babies and toddlers are also most welcome to the event.

To book, visit: https://www.hullboxoffice.com/event/hull-chamber-music-and-culture-tots-present-a-musical-journey-around-the-world/

It would be lovely to see you there — do spread the word!

One final note: we recently launched a Crowdfunding campaign to give away tickets to those who cannot otherwise afford them. Tickets are distributed through local charities, including Parkinson’s and Mind, among others. We would be incredibly grateful if you could chip in to let us reach our new target; if this is not possible for you, simply sharing the link below and encourage your friends to do so would be immensely helpful (we have only 8 days left to achieve this!):

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/hullchambermusic

We have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity so far. We hope to reach our new target and making chamber music more accessible to all.

Thank you for reading. Now let’s make the difference together! 


Graziana

WE ARE THRILLED TO WELCOME “THE COME AND SING COMPANY” TO POLYPHONY ARTS!

Polyphony Arts is delighted to be working with a new, exciting company: The Come and Sing Company (CASC)! CASC brings people together in song, with the aim of creating tailor-made musical workshops and events to help people connect through music. To deliver this, CASC’s exceptional team of performers, conductors, workshop leaders (and more!) share decades of musical experience.

Co-founded by Tom Appleton and Elenor Bowers-Jolley, CASC’s clients include the National Trust, Silver Spoon, Wexford Mental Health Association, Snape Maltings, the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Wellington College, among many others. With Norfolk Music Hub (NMHub), CASC brought 27 primary schools together in a fusion of Norfolk folksongs and the music of South Asia. Among the numerous projects, a partnership with Arts and Gardens (supported by the National Trust) gave rise to ‘Lyveden New Bield–A Secret Concert’ and ‘Come and Sing in Secret’, with the aim of making a visitor’s experience closer to founder Thomas Tresham’s original vision for the site, whilst better connecting with the local, regional and national audience.

CASC led a number of other events, such as choral workshops for adult choirs, vocal and conducting technique CPD sessions for teachers, prep school choral days, come and sing Disney/musicals, health and wellbeing sessions, and many teambuilding days for businesses.

You can read more about CASC here: https://polyphonyarts.com/come-and-sing/

A pleasure to have you with us, The Come and Sing Company!

NEW COMPOSER JOINS POLYPHONY ARTS: A WARM WELCOME TO EDWARD COWIE!

Edward Cowie: Composer

Polyphony Arts is thrilled to welcome composer and all-round artist Edward Cowie! Described as ‘one of the most distinctive musical minds of our time’ (Observer), Cowie’s music frequently fuses his rich knowledge and interest in science, nature and the visual arts. Many of his works are preceded by pre-compositional drawings—many of which have been presented in numerous public exhibitions; in addition, studies and collaborations with leading physicists led to a body of new works that directly translate scientific theory and experiment into music.

Edward Cowie has been a composer in Association with the BBC Singers (2003-5), and the first Artist in Residence with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Among Edward’s prestigious successes as a composer, his numerous awards include a Gulbenkian Award to study at The Royal Ballet, The Radcliffe International Composer’s Prize and a Chopin Fellowship to study with Lutosławski in Poland. His work for television has included a major film on Edward Lear for Granada TV, and his acclaimed BBCTV2 film ‘Leonardo of 1986’. As an academic, Edward has held major professorships in two Australian and one British University; his reputation continues to grow worldwide, and new CDs emerge with high praise and appreciation.

You can read more about Edward’s work here: https://polyphonyarts.com/edward-cowie/

What a privilege to have you with us, Edward!

Ella Jarman-Pinto: Composer

Ella Jarman-Pinto: Composer

“I’ve had to stop and restart my business three times. Every single time I start from scratch. If I’d had access to shared parental leave, my husband and I could have managed to keep both businesses going… My husband pays his taxes, contributes to society, so why on earth doesn’t he get paid paternity leave?”

Ella Jarman-Pinto, composer, talks about work/parenthood balance, the inequalities of freelance maternity and paternity leave, and how she can work creatively with other musicians and film-makers as well as raising a family.

Composer Ella Jarman-Pinto

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have three children, two of them living. Marvellous would have been 5, Otis is 3.5 (threenager, argh!) and Vita is 13 months.

Tell me a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I help media and film producers by creating unique and timeless musical compositions, ensuring that their creative vision remains at the forefront. I find it fascinating that music can completely change the emotion of a scene, and my job is to unpick exactly what a producer or director needs and channel it into music. This is the perfect career as it means that I can work from home. My husband is studying away on a music therapy masters for half of the week, so it means that if the children are ill I can just work in the evening to catch up. The children are in nursery three afternoons a week, and my mum helps me for one evening when I have to teach. In addition I help people of all ages and experiences in the community unleash their inner creativity, whether that’s through singing or composing. My new singing group ParentSing, (Fridays, 1.15-2.30pm, Penrith) is for parents who need to take time for themselves but struggle with childcare.

  Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

It’s hard and it’s still evolving. We’re only four weeks into my husband’s two year course, so we’re adjusting as we go along! I think I’ve changed nursery days three times over the last two months. But I spend a wonderful amount of time with my kids. They’ve only just started playing together and it’s just amazing.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent?

I don’t think I have, but I’ve been on maternity leave so much in the last few years that I have really been able to pick and choose what I want to do. I’ve felt more empowered with less time, because it means I have to focus. The work that I do is exactly what I want, and that means I write better music and am a better teacher. I do have to big up Harriet Wybor at PRS at this point, because I was invited to take part in the Wild Plum Songbook/PRS/Cheltenham Music festival workshops for female composers. Vita was only six months and exclusively breastfed, so I said I needed to bring her with me. Harriet didn’t bat an eyelid, organised enough food for my sisters who looked after her and arranged a room that I could care for her in. It meant that I could go and have this fantastic experience and I’m so grateful to them. Vita loved it too!

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

My husband is freelance as well. He has been doing a lot of peri teaching all over the county as it is a relatively stable income and has helped us while we had our family. However, September has always been a very scary time. One year none of his schools had confirmed, we were two weeks into the new school year and he was the main wage earner. I ended up taking on a lot of teaching on an instrument I didn’t enjoy in order to make up the shortfall. It was fab to start with, but we struggled with winter illnesses and nursery and lost a lot of money between us. By the time I went on maternity leave we were clear that I should pursue composition more as it meant I could work from home and be more flexible.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form?

We send our kids to a fab nursery with a beautiful meadow out of the back! The children spend most of the time outside and are really happy there. The nursery is as flexible as it can be, but we have had to rely on parents and friends a lot. We can’t afford and don’t want full-time childcare, so until now have split the remaining days equally between us. We also have a rule that whomever was supposed to be with the children has to organise the childcare if they then get work.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

When both kids were tiny I’d regularly sing with them in slings on my back or front. A number of times they’ve made a grab for the mic or joined in! 

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

Creche, quiet rooms, food(!), regular breaks, an understanding smile, etc.

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

I mentioned PRS above. Love them. They were so so lovely!! Plus, Vita was the star of the show. Every break she would come out and everyone, mentors and composers alike, came to say hello. I joked I should do all of my networking with her with me.

Were you freelance before you had children? If not, what prompted the change?

I’ve been freelance for ten years. I worked in a couple of PAYE jobs straight out of uni, but I like the freedom and being my own boss. Having children has made me even more grateful to be self-employed. I can choose my hours, and spend time with my children. And I think my husband spends more time with them than he would as PAYE because he’s not stuck with the old patriarchal ideas that men shouldn’t be adjusting their hours at work.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

This is a subject that I feel very strongly about. I’m a follower and supporter of Olga FitzRoy, who is campaigning for shared parental leave to be extended to self-employed parents. I’ve had to stop and restart my business three times. Every single time I start from scratch. If I’d had access to shared parental leave, my husband and I could have managed to keep both businesses going. I’m also so angry when it comes to KIT days. I work hourly. So telling me that teaching one lesson in a day (for example, if there are difficulties scheduling) counts as a KIT day is completely ridiculous when you compare it to someone else working a full day and getting paid three times the amount. It’s also ridiculous that PAYE parents can start a freelance job and not be under the same rules. Don’t get me started on paternity! My husband pays his taxes, contributes to society, so why on earth doesn’t he get paid paternity leave?

Ella Jarman-Pinto is a Cumbria-based composer and vocal leader. She studied composition with Julian Philips at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Ella was one of six composers selected to take part in the Wild Plum Songbook workshops, a collaboration with PRS and Cheltenham Music Festival, with Everyday Magic, in March 2019. She was Composer in Residence with Streetwise Opera from 2016-17 and an RPS Young Musician from 2013-14.

Ella provided the original music score for award-winning short film, AstraZeneca’ The Attack’, with Maker Projects and Havas Lynx, that won a Bronze award at Cannes Lion for Cinematography in 2018. Other recent commissions include a short film with Maker Projects that won a Bronze award at Cannes Lion for Cinematography in 2018; Savage and Allan Jeffers for The Art of Change as part of their staged song cycle, The Reckoning, premiered July 2018; and Songs for my Children for Hull Urban Opera as part of Brain Jar Session #2, July 2018. Ella has been featured in BBC Radio 3’s International Women’s Day (2016) and BBC National Music Day (2015) celebrations with BBC Singers performances of Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep. She received a further performance and broadcast by the BBC Singers of Heigh Ho, The Holly!, in October 2016.

Ella writes for voice, TV and film; she teaches singing and composition in Cumbria; and works alongside BlueJam Arts to encourage children and adults to follow their creative impulses and to make music, whatever their experience.

Links:

Ella’s website: http://www.ellajarman-pinto.co.uk/

Ella’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ellajarmanpinto/

ParentSing: https://www.facebook.com/parentsingpenrith/

A WARM WELCOME TO OUR NEW ARTISTs, DUO TANDEM!

We are very excited to welcome Duo Tandem (Necati Emirzade and Mark Anderson) to Polyphony Arts’ performers! The instrumental guitar duo, with an emphasis on story-telling through music, has been hailed as “trad[ing] musical ideas back and forth so effortlessly” by Classical Guitar Magazine and described as “pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on classical guitars,” by Minor7th.

Their shared artistic vision blends their distinct, individual cultural backgrounds into a unique, combined musical voice. The duo formed in 2012, while studying at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Since then, the ensemble captivated audiences with performances across both the United States as well as Europe. Recent engagements include their album “Watching the World Go By”, chosen by Blair Jackson (editor of Classical Guitar Magazine) as a top-ten 2018 album. In 2020, Duo Tandem will release a further album on the Naxos label, and will include the Cypriot composer Kemal Belevi.

You can read more about Duo Tandem here: https://polyphonyarts.com/duo-tandem/

It’s wonderful to have you with us!

Laura Perrett: Video designer

“I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.”

Welcome back to our blog series, talking to leading musicians who are also parents about their experiences of balancing their careers with family life. This week we hear from someone working on the technical side of the music, theatre and TV industry – Laura Perrett, freelance video designer, talks about the challenges of long and inflexible tech rehearsals.

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have one son who is nearly two.

Tell us a bit about your work and how it is structured.

Before I got pregnant I was a full-time video designer working in a freelance capacity. I design and create visuals for projection, LED screens and broadcast screens. I balanced theatre jobs with more commercial arena-sized music concert jobs as they pay a living wage whereas theatre and opera rarely do. I never tour, but I do have to be present for tech-rehearsals and preview periods, the hours for which are dictated by the production.  Jobs can range from being many months long for arena tours to just a few weeks for small theatre productions; the design stage of jobs offers me far more flexibility on hours than the tech-rehearsals stage which offers zero flexibility. It is the tech-rehearsals part of my job that is preventing me from working. 

Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

There is none at the moment. Apart from a very small job I did in November for the Royal Variety Performance which allowed me to work at weekends (so my partner covered), I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? 

Yes

How did this make you feel?

Frustrated, isolated. I accept that it was my choice to be a parent but the lack of flexible and affordable childcare means I cannot meet the needs to work in an ad-hoc fashion. I am considering changing career or re-purposing my skills!

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

My partner is freelance, and currently has a very reliable client who offers regular work and pays incredibly quickly. If I was the main breadwinner, I would be very anxious about my clients paying me on time. So we let him work full time purely for the sake of economics. My partner works in the television industry and the hours are long, which means he cannot do nursery drop-offs or pickups either. We have no family help.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

Yes – nursery two days a week. We pay for this to give me a chance to work, but currently as my hours are so limited to two days I week I am struggling to find part-time work in my sector. It’s basically full time or nothing. I often use these days to train, build my website or try and speak to potential new clients if I do not have paid work.

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

I don’t see how hours can change or be flexible tbh. A show is a show, and one has to be there for tech rehearsals to make it happen! It would be nice if hours could be 9-5 instead of 12 hour days! No nursery in the world is going to cover that.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

Being a freelance video designer is pretty much the same as being a freelance anything. Minimal Maternity Allowance, and somehow you have to find a way to keep your name and business out there! Which is hard when you are not creating new content.

Laura Perrett is a designer specialising in creative video content and moving image for theatre, opera, music and broadcast. She has over 15 years experience working with some of the best artists, directors and storytellers in the industry. Recent design and associate design credits include the creation of screen content for: Take That Wonderland Tour 2017 (UK Tour), Half a Sixpence (Noel Coward Theatre), Murder Ballad (Arts Theatre)Turn of the Screw (Teatro Alla Scala), The Sessions : A live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios (Royal Albert Hall), Mary Poppins (UK Tour), Hamlet (Barbican), Black Sabbath at Hyde Park, The Rolling Stones (US Zipcode Tour), U2 i+e (World Tour) and ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ on Channel 4. 

Read more about Laura’s work here: www.lauraperrett.com

POLYPHONY ARTS WELCOMES NEW ARTIST: JENNIFER BATE!

Polyphony Arts is delighted to be representing international organist Jennifer Bate!

An “esteemed wizard of the organ” (The Times), Jennifer stands as a major figure in the top rank of international organists. Her vast repertoire ranges from the 18th Century to the virtuoso writings of the present time. She has performed in nearly 50 countries across the globe, and numerous composers have written for her, inspired by her phenomenal technique and her ability to bring out the colours of the organ.  

Among her numerous achievements, Jennifer became Messiaen’s organist of choice, following her recording of the composer’s complete works at Beauvais Cathedral. The numerous awards for her recordings of Messaien’s works include the Diapason d’Or and Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. Jennifer has a deep knowledge of the history of music; she lectures on a wide range of musical subjects at Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol Universities, and particularly enjoys  working with young people.

You can read more about Jennifer here: https://polyphonyarts.com/jennifer-bate/

A honour to have you with us, Jennifer!

Martyn Roper: Blues Guitar

“The beauty of having Albert is that we see more of family and friends than before and I’d like a chance to start allowing those family and friends to support us as freelancers in real life.”

Welcome back to our blog series, talking to leading musicians who are also parents about their experiences of balancing their careers with family life. This week, we meet Martyn Roper, blues guitarist, who talks about how his busy gig schedule works alongside his wife’s freelance career, the challenge of working when breastfeeding, and the importance of friends and family.

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have one child, a sweet and lovely boy named Albert. He was born in August 2018.

Tell us a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I generally work ‘one nighters’ which can be 3 to 14 (a record in one week!) gigs a week. 3-6 gigs is normal for me in a week. They range from weddings, parties, festivals, pubs, bars, restaurants, care homes, etc. At various times over the year my duo do longer tours for weeks at a time in arts centres and venues all over the UK. All weeks are different but 80% of the time I’m booked up Thursday to Sunday every week.

Tell us about your work/parenthood balance. 

I make at least one full day a week where computers / phones aren’t really used unless in desperate circumstances and the aim is to get away from the house and out. During time at home I make sure we get out to do stuff even if just a walk and try and give my son complete attention for periods of time between work / rehearsal time. I usually structure this around meals and cooking.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

Not sure I’ve turned things down but it does take good organisation to fit things in. I’ve been happy to let some gigs slide if a week was already well booked so we can have family time.

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

Chloé is a freelance graphic designer / web builder / photographer and I think home time with a baby can get messy at times. We’re 100% breast feeding so although I can do lots of shopping / cooking / washing etc baby needs to be with mum or near all the time which makes it hard for her to get a good run at work. On the other side the fact that we’re both in the house nearly all daytimes and free especially on Mondays to Wednesdays means that Albert probably gets more face to face time than working a 9-5 as his bedtime would mean only a few hours a day instead of the 10 – 16 hours he probably gets now.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

None, due to the reasons above. I have family nearby but visits tend to be social due to his feeding needs. I would like to be able to start passing Albert on a little bit more soon as the support of family could make it possible for us both to get more done and hopefully have more family time afterwards. Even if we’re in the house but they just baby sit him while we get a couple of hours to sort some admin.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

Some venues and festivals especially in the daytime have been great to us and welcomed our boy and gone out of their way to make it as pleasant as possible for us.

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

The same thing they do to anyone to make their life easier. I think we’re all equal with or without children and its down to us to manage our lives and children as well as work.

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

My work is varied so I wouldn’t take the baby to say a private wedding. The nice blues / jazz festivals are so lovely. Some of the dementia wards are very inquisitive once I mention I have a child, and we’ve all been invited in when I perform. We did this once and had a lovely afternoon at a home in Harrogate.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

No such thing. I cleared a two week period (apart from one gig) around the birth but he was born over a week late so I had to find cover for a gig the day he was born. I had an afternoon wedding gig near Leeds the day after the birth so left the hospital for about five hours and came straight back ASAP.

Were you freelance before you had children? If not, what prompted the change?

For about seven years before.

Are you part of any online social groups for freelancers/freelance parents? 

I’m not. To be honest, I don’t have time to do all the work I need to and am trying to find ways to minimise wasted time so more social media interaction that kind of ‘sucks you in’ isn’t good. The beauty of having Albert is that we see more of family and friends than before and I’d like even more of that and a chance to start allowing those family and friends to support us as freelancers in real life.

A professional musician since 2011, Martyn Roper specialises in 1920s, 30s & 40s blues, jazz and swing music on guitar, banjo, ukulele and double bass. He plays over 200 gigs a year largely between three acts; Leeds City Stompers (trio); The Washboard Resonators (duo) and solo sets, and lives near central Leeds. He likes collecting vintage guitars, cooking, reading and his two beautiful cats.

Anna Leese: Soprano

This blog post contains Anna Leese’s honest perspective on life as a freelance musician, parent,and full time carer for her partner, who is terminally ill with Motor Neuron disease.

Writing this blog has allowed me to share the stories of many inspirational people, and I am honoured to have been trusted with the stories and experiences, many of which are highly personal. This one has been the hardest to read and prepare, and I share it with Anna’s permission and in the hope that it will help others whose lives are unusually complex and difficult. Thank you so much for sharing this, Anna.

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have one son, Matteo, who is 3 and 4 months.

Tell us a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I teach 4-5 days of the week when I am home (not performing out of town). I am a voice tutor at the University of Otago, I teach private voice, and music classes to littlies (all of which I love). Probably 10/15 weekends a year I travel away for orchestral concerts throughout New Zealand and Australia, and sometimes the UK. A trip away for an orchestral concert is usually 2-5 days away. And I perform an average of one opera a year, which means 2 months away from home. I have control over my schedule to a degree. On average I think I probably work 40 hours a week, not including my home duties, raising my son and caring for my sick husband. I do some sort of work every day, and I often work in the evenings after I’ve put my son to bed. I’ve also just enrolled in a DMA, which means my workload is going to change!

Tell us about your work/parenthood balance. 

I have my son in care 5 mornings a week while I teach. I get some weekends with him, and two afternoons a week. I am either working or caring for my son, 100% of the time, there is pretty much no downtime. But I have learned a lot about myself doing this, and I’ve become really resilient and also really efficient! I think I’m a better person for having been given these challenges, which means my son will have a kick-arse, hard working mum 🙂

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

Absolutely. But it’s becoming less so. My husband is terminally ill, so I need to think of his care as well as my sons’ care when I travel. Unfortunately all Stefano’s family are based in Italy, and they don’t visit us, and both of my siblings live overseas, so my support network is only my mum, which does limit me as most of the care I need has to be paid for,

Toward the end of last year, the stress of caring for Stefano at home began to overwhelm me and he is now in full time care in a rest home. Since there things have been much more settled, and his level of care is now consistent, whether I am away working or at home. Stefano still comes home often to visit, and we see him most days, so I am still one of his primary caregivers.

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

Yes. He is terminally ill with Motor Neuron disease and needs 24/7 care. Stefano used to be a winemaker, a steady job with little travel, which made my performing/travelling life easy. It was going to be the perfect setup, till the S*%t hit the fan.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

Yes. Monday-Friday, 8am-2pm and my mum cares for my son for my short gigs. For operas and local concerts I hire babysitters. This is incredibly costly, and particularly in the case of operas, can eat away at your profit so severely, you end up working for free. Many of my opera singing friends share this same story! There is no assistance for childcare outside of 9-5 in New Zealand.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

Yes, Festival opera in Napier, NZ- they were amazing with letting me bring my 9 month baby to rehearsals and I was feeding him at the time. It worked well. My mum came and sat with Matteo just off the set and I came to visit when I had a moment free. At the moment I’m singing with NZ Opera and they’ve helped with car seats and airport pickups with a seats for Matteo- they’ve worked hard to make sure I had the right accommodation as well.

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

Be open about mothers having their breastfeeding babies at rehearsals. Allow babies in the rehearsal room. 

Help facilitate childcare if there are more than a few children who need to be cared for- if there was a parents/play room set aside at the rehearsal venue so mums can have more contact with their kids that would help. With a change station.  

They can give advance warning for all calls and promotional commitments so that babysitters can be arranged well in advance.

Be realistic about what new mums can and can’t achieve, and keep hiring us!!! We often sing better after having a child (I know I am!). 

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

DSO in Dunedin have always been amazing, they let Matteo and also my husband watch rehearsals because they’re unable to come to the show. Auckland Philharmonic and Orchestra Wellington are both wonderful, in fact NZ orchestras in general have done everything they can to help. 

Festival Opera were really good. 

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

My parental leave unfortunately didn’t happen because my husband suddenly became ill two weeks before the birth, and was only able to continue working for about a month afterwards- he suddenly lost all strength in his hands. We were forced to go on a benefit for a year or so until I got back on my feet and started back into work properly.

Were you freelance before you had children? If not, what prompted the change?

Yes. Full time. And I taught some private voice students. It was a conscious decision to slow down the long-haul travel, for environmental reasons, but also because I wanted a better, more balanced home life. 

Are you part of any online social groups for freelancers/freelance parents? 

The Babies and Show Business Facebook group, which is mostly useful for UK things. There is a NZ Opera Chorus facebook group which has been my sole source of finding babysitting and support for my NZ engagements, 

If so, do they cater for your line of work?

Yes, particularly the NZ Opera group, which is full of lovely, helpful people, who have found themselves in similar situations and are happy to help.

Anna Leese is a soprano opera singer with an international career. She made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2007, as Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème. Other roles include Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo with the Auckland Opera Studio, Female Chorus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte and Rosalinde in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, all for the Benjamin Britten Opera School and Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette with the British Youth Opera. She has performed the role of Tamiri in Mozart’s Il re Pastore at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House (where she made her debut at age 24) and three Mozart heroines Fiordiligi, Countess Almaviva and Tamiri with the Classical Opera Company.

Visit Anna’s website, Facebook and Twitter.

How do you decide what to charge for music performance?

“As long as I come out of it with £100 after expenses, that’s OK”

I’ve heard this said so many times. And who by? Talented, trained professional musicians, with innovative, interesting programmes. Heading for the heights of their careers. Talking about giving a full-length professional concert as a soloist or part of a small group of musicians.

Pay in music performance is, like in many other professions, totally baffling for a lot of people. The more musicians I talk to, the more I think people are, on the whole, basically being paid what they ask for.

This is very troubling indeed. What we feel comfortable asking for is totally different, depending on our backgrounds. There is a lot written on this subject – just google “imposter syndrome” or “gender pay gap” (for example) and you’ll find a whole wealth of reading about how various minority groups have always accepted less for doing the same as those who are exactly as qualified and experienced, but don’t calculate their own worth in the same way as those who have been lucky enough to come from a background where they feel confident enough to ask for exactly what they want.

I’m deliberately using vague terminology here, as those who we generally associate with privilege and good self-confidence have been amongst those who I’ve heard saying they’ll gig for £100. Whilst there are definitely demographics that are more prone to this (and I may write more about this another time), lack of confidence in self-worth and imposter syndrome can be felt by anyone.

Often, people feel they need an agent to negotiate on their behalf. There’s no doubt that it’s easier to negotiate for someone other than yourself – I find negotiating for my clients much easier than negotiating for myself! – but this is not the only option.

It is possible to learn to do this for yourself, and it feels great, too!

In my new online course, Become Your Own Agent, I will help you work through any doubts, concerns or barriers that prevent you from charging the fees you want. (For those of you thinking this isn’t as simple as just asking for more, you’re right – I provide information on reasonable price points for different career stages, different occasions, and more.)

By the way, for anyone thinking £100 sounds OK for one concert, just have a think about the time spent rehearsing for said concert – does it still sound OK? Then think about the cost of all those music lessons. £100 might cover two lessons, maybe. Hmm.

Good news – I’m offering MORE than £100 off my Become Your Own Agent if you book in October! I’d love to see you there.

Julia Kogan: Soprano

International opera singer Julia Kogan shares her experience of balancing motherhood and an operatic career in the 90s.

Julia Kogan Soprano

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have two sons, both are adults.

Tell us about your work and how it was structured when your boys were younger.

When my boys were young, I did quite a bit of teaching.  When they were 12 and 9 respectively, I began to travel much more, taking on long opera contracts, concert work abroad, etc.  I continued to teach, though, because I absolutely love it!  Paradoxically, teaching is a great way to learn more about singing. 

In terms of scheduling, as any freelancer knows, if you want to keep working, you can’t be turning too many things down.  As any parent knows, you need to be home as much as possible, especially if your kids are young.  If I’m perfectly honest, I’ve seen musician couples with utterly neglected children, at least by my standards.  Years later, I still feel anguished when I think of the times I was away from home singing for more than a few days at a time, not to mention a month at a time, which also happened.  My husband was home with them, but that doesn’t alleviate my guilt.

Tell us about your work/parenthood balance during that time. 

When my boys were little, it was very heavily skewed towards parenthood, though I worked on my singing constantly throughout.  Then this changed, and not a moment too soon in terms of my career!  I kept doing concert work locally, but in terms of the real thing, my career only took off when I was well into my 30s, after having had my sons in my early 20s.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

I almost turned down my entire career, having taken so many years at home.  I remember flying to Germany once for an audition when Sam, my younger son, was three.  I made it a day trip to avoid missing a night at home, was exhausted as a result and had therefore sung badly – it was all a total waste of time and money.  I got home just as he was falling asleep.  He put his arms around me in his bed and said, “Promise me you’ll never do that again!”  I’d been gone twelve manic hours.  It was years before I went anywhere alone again.  It’s a brutal choice…and a highly personal one.

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

I was lucky to have had a husband who was a research professor and was able to work mostly from home when he wasn’t teaching.  It made a huge difference to us.

Did you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

We really made it a goal for at least one of us to be home with our sons.  The price to pay was mostly in terms of my own professional life.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

Sadly not!  And I must say that I don’t think that opera houses, or indeed anyone else, should be responsible for that.  It would be amazing if they were, but I’m afraid our families are indeed our problem.

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

I know of one festival where volunteers took on childcare duties for the festival director, but that’s exceptional!

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

None.  But if I am ever in a position to do something about it, I will.  If I am ever a full producer on one of my projects, I will make sure there is childcare on the premises, if at all possible.

Julia Kogan is an international award-winning American-French opera singer, author and presenter.  She has performed at top venues around the world (Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, etc.), released five solo albums and has had her work featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Opera News, BBC Radio 3 and 4, and many others.

Julia’s BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Lost Songs of Hollywood, was chosen ‘pick of the week’ by the BBC.  She is the author of Hipstory, a book of Amit Shimoni’s art with text by Julia, as well as a series of children’s books, essays and screenplays.  For now, she remains the uncredited co-author of feature film Florence Foster Jenkins.

Read more about Julia on her website, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Musicians: how does marketing yourself make you feel?

Do you know how to get the work you deserve? Are you confident finding performance opportunities, commissions, appropriate fees, good venues, recording contracts?

I’m Katie Beardsworth, director and founder of the Polyphony Arts agency representing a diverse client base of classical musicians, and I’m offering a bespoke online course – Become Your Own Agent – to help musicians like you acquire the skills and confidence to build a professional portfolio.

In four weeks, I will show you how the music industry works, teach you the best ways to promote yourself and your work, and provide advice on how to tackle the kind of challenges you will face such as fee discrepancies and imposter syndrome.

Whether you are just starting out or have years of experience as a professional musician, this is the course to help you achieve the career you aspire to and deserve.

The first course starts on 4 November, and there is a discount! Read more, and sign up:

Kieran Szifris: Octave Mandolin

“I find that it is possible to spend endless amounts of time working or parenting.”

In our 3rd blog post with freelance musicians who are also parents, we meet Kieran Szifris, folk musician and dad of one, with twins on the way.

How many children do you have and how old are they?

Technically 3! One’s 2 and the other two are 0…

Tell us a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I have regular weekly teaching work Monday-Wednesday with two local music schools and I have a few private students.  Around this commitment I can do rehearsals, often at those music schools or at the University. Then from Thursday to Sunday I am free to gig. My teaching commitments aren’t permanent so I can cancel or move them to suit any touring that comes up. I currently work with two well-known bands (Monster Ceilidh Band and Kathryn Tickell & the Darkening) and various other projects as and when. My schedule changes weekly.

Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

I find that it is possible to spend endless amounts of time working or parenting. Getting the right balance is often extremely hard as shirking your responsibilities on either front leads to anxiety.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

Yes but really I have just become more picky about what I want to do. I feel I’ve sacrificed much more socially. Which, as a freelancer, can be problematic as I don’t meet as many  new musicians as I used to.

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

Yes, and yes. We both find it hard to find time to do as much office work as we’d like and will trade the childcare responsibilities with each other in order to get what needs to be done done.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

We put our son into nursery every Tuesday morning. He sleeps in the afternoon so it generally gives us a day to do what we need to do separately.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

No. There is little to no childcare provision at most venues

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

Make sure there’s always a clean, sanitary, dry, safe room with access to fresh water and hygienic waste disposal. They could also always provide the exact rider requested and if not consult the artist.

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

Not particularly.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

Lol – parental leave? My wife was gigging again 6 weeks after she gave birth. We don’t get holiday pay, sick pay/leave, maternity or paternity leave. 

Are you part of any online social groups for freelancers/freelance parents? 

No, but we have a loving and supportive family and lots of friends who are always eager to help.

Would you be interested in joining a social media community (such as a Facebook group) specifically for freelance musicians who are also parents?

Neither of us use Facebook though an easy to use guide for cities and towns with child friendly cafes/restaurants and things to do would be handy. 

Kieran Szifris is a musician who has spent most of his life in Newcastle upon Tyne. He began a career in music after graduating from Newcastle famous folk music degree and currently plays Octave Mandolin for Kathryn Tickell & the Darkening and Monster Ceilidh Band amongst other projects. Excitingly, the song “O-U-T spells out” which he co-wrote with Amy Thatcher and Kathryn Tickell has been nominated for a BBC Radio 2 folk award. He is known for his bombastic and lively playing style on his 8-stringed octave mandolin, which he often distorts the sound of through the use of guitar pedals.

https://kieranszifris.com/

New Facebook community for freelance musician parents

We are delighted to announce that we have created a Facebook group as a support network for freelance musicians who are also parents: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2369471933370782/?ref=share

Since I set up my business in an attempt to achieve good work/family balance, I’ve found a huge amount of online support for people doing what I do – mainly working from home, on their own schedules – but the reality for freelance musicians is completely different. The quest for good family/work balance is much more challenging when you are at the mercy of late-released schedules, engagements all over the world, and evening/weekend work where no regular childcare is available (to name but a few challenges!).

This group’s purpose is to provide a safe space for musician parents ask for help/advice, share successes, or have a moan, and to take steps to improve the world of work for freelance musicians.

If this speaks to you, please do join, and share with your friends!

The picture is of me and my rambunctious two year old, enjoying a pub lunch!

Nina Danon: Composer

Welcome to week 2 of our blog series on freelance musicians who are also parents. This week, meet Nina Danon, composer. She talks about managing the work/parent balance, and how it can feel like we have two sides to ourselves – something I think a lot of us can relate to!

Photo credit: Andreas Nold

When my partner and I decided to try for a child, I had only recently reached a point in my career where I was financially stable doing only music related work. I was balancing running my own private teaching studio with developing my career as a composer and sound artist. I was working full time, mostly long hours, and the idea of adding a baby to that was, frankly, terrifying. Throughout my life, various teachers, mentors and colleagues, both men and women, had warned me against starting a family if I was serious about becoming a composer, and I was afraid that becoming a mother would mean having to sacrifice my career. Luckily, I have always enjoyed proving people who make assumptions about me wrong, and I had always known I wanted to be a mother, so my husband and I decided to go for it!

A few months before I got pregnant, I got accepted as a composer into BOOK Music and Lyrics, a series of professional development workshops for musical theatre lyricists, composers and librettists. The course lasts two years, over which participants attend weekly meetings and are asked to present a new song every three weeks on average. I was over the moon about this opportunity, as I had always dreamt of working in musical theatre but had only very limited experience in that field. The first term put my resolutions of finding a good work/life balance to the test, as I went through a miscarriage, a wedding, and the first trimester of a new pregnancy. At the peak of my morning sickness (which was definitely NOT limited to the morning!), I had to write and present 4 songs in 5 weeks, working with 4 different lyricists, and moving house in the process. I suppose that’s when I realised that I was going to be ok…

The rest of the pregnancy went smoothly, and I continued working until a few days before Maël, my son, was born. The second year of BML started three weeks after the birth, and for my first six months of motherhood, keeping up with the workshop’s deadlines to develop my first musical was all I was able to do. My husband is a freelancer too, so he was able to take a lot of time off and was a tremendous help. We were also fortunate to have my family close by to look after the little one in situations where both of us had to work at the same time. I made a point of not missing any single deadline at BML, no matter how hard finding the time to write and rehearse with a newborn son was! It was extremely difficult, but also allowed me to feel like myself again while navigating through the life changing process of becoming a new parent.

I still find it tricky to reconcile the desire to be my child’s primary caregiver with the need to develop my career. I often feel like I am two different people, the stay at home mother who wishes to spend more time with her son, and the composer who wishes to create all the time. Switching from one to the next is hard, and I am still experimenting with different ways to balance the two. When Maël was seven months old I began applying for opportunities again and developing new projects, gradually increasing my workload. The unpredictability of my schedule makes it difficult to stick to rigid timetables, so I tend to avoid jobs that have strict working hours over several days or that would require too many meetings in locations where I wouldn’t be able to bring my son or at times where I wouldn’t be able to find a suitable childcare option. Becoming a mother has forced me to revaluate my priorities, be more strict with the type of projects I would accept, and as a result I have found the work I have done since having a child much more rewarding. I have been lucky enough to work with several collaborators and organisations which were very understanding of the needs of a new mother, and made me feel completely at ease, such as Psappha Ensemble, and my colleagues at BML, but this is not an industry that was built with parents in mind, and too often having a child is seen as a disadvantage, rather than the huge source of inspiration and strength it actually is!

If anyone reading this would like to encourage freelancers with young children to apply to their opportunities, please hold meetings/rehearsals/performances in child friendly venues!

This includes having a comfortable private area for breastfeeding and pumping and holding breaks long enough to allow a mother the time to do those things. Also, let parents know that their children (and a nanny or family member to look after the kids) are welcome, and offer a bit of flexibility to allow parents to fit their work around their children’s schedules (which are always very rigid). Too often, parents will feel uncomfortable talking about their obligations and special needs (imagine being a young woman and having to discuss your breastfeeding requirements with your middle-aged male employer) or fear appearing unprofessional if discussing any child-related issue. So, if you want to help, be the one to initiate the conversation. Offer all artists you work with a more flexible schedule, ask them what their requirements are. You will make them feel heard and comfortable, and they will be able to give you their best work.

Nina Danon is a Franco-Italian composer, pianist and audio-visual artist. She regards music as something that can be experienced through all senses, and collaborates with artists from all disciplines to establish new connections between their creative processes and redefine the relationship between music and other forms of art.

Her work encompasses sound and audiovisual art, film music, musical theatre and multi-sensorial experiences for galleries and museums. Over the years, she has collaborated with artists and ensembles including David Friedman and the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg. Her music has been commissioned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Zeni Winery and Wine Museum amongst others, and performed in venues such as the Museum of Oriental Art of Turin, the Criterion Theatre and The Place in London. In 2018, Nina was selected to take part in Psappha Ensemble’s Composing For scheme, writing a new piece for clarinetist Dov Goldberg.

Nina is a member of the Advanced Group of BOOK Music and Lyrics, a programme of ongoing workshops for the creation, crafting and development of musical theatre writing and related specialist skills.

Website: https://www.ninadanon.com/

Twitter: @ncdanon (https://twitter.com/ncdanon)

Bandcamp: https://ninadanon.bandcamp.com/

Máire Flavin: Soprano

Welcome to our new blog series, talking to leading musicians who are also parents about their experiences of balancing their careers with family life. This week, meet international operatic soprano Máire Flavin, who talks about the issues surrounding operatic contracts and pregnancy, and the childcare challenges for opera singers.

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I am a new Mom to a gorgeous 5 month old girl.

Tell me a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I am a freelance opera singer with concert work as well of course. I am not tied to any one house although most of my work is in the UK and Ireland. I do large scale tours with the big companies but no longer do the smaller, but longer, tours with smaller companies. In terms of control over my schedule, I can of course say yes or no to projects, but this is the arts so usually you are saying yes to as much as possible! Once on contract I have no control over my schedule. Most UK companies work on a weekly schedule sent out on the previous Thursday or Friday. I have spent only 30 days at home this last year, but that is also due to my husband’s schedule (he is also an opera singer).

Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

We are very new to the work/parenthood balance and will only really see how it works this coming year.  Already, over the summer, we have both had roles to learn so have needed to find ways to give each other time! We are also in different countries for all of our contracts this coming year so it will be a challenge as a family.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

Of course I had to turn work down towards the end of my pregnancy/nearing my due date. I have not yet had to turn any work down due to being a parent but I suppose there is more financial pressure – if the contract doesn’t pay well enough to cover childcare and unless it is hugely artistically fulfilling i.e. a role I have always wanted to do and never had the chance to, then it just won’t be feasible. At the end of the day it is my choice how I balance being a parent and my work, this is just a very complicated industry within which to do that.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

At the moment we do not have regular childcare. I am looking for childcare on location in each of my upcoming contracts and getting family help where I can for tech week when she is little as I’d rather family were doing her bedtime routine where possible.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

I think the work that Swap’ra is doing is invaluable. They have already made progress with companies in the UK giving advanced schedules to facilitate booking childcare etc. During my pregnancy, and for one of my first contracts back, Opera North have been fantastic. They really looked after me when pregnant but also trusted me to get on with my job and also trusted, by rehiring me post-pregnancy, that I would make sure I was back on form after giving birth. This, unfortunately, is certainly not always the case. 

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

One of the biggest differences opera companies can make is to be willing to give advanced scheduling where possible.  There are still companies in Ireland, and it is the norm throughout continental Europe, who give out the next days schedule at 6pm the previous evening. This makes organising childcare extremely complicated, not to mention unnecessarily expensive. Expecting your childcare provider to agree to either be needed or not, or for how many hours, the evening before is ridiculous and most would not agree to be hired on that basis, so why it is acceptable to expect that scheduling to be ok for artists is beyond me.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

Parental leave is not really a thing when you are freelance. Depending on where you pay your tax and what is available from the state you may receive some basic maternity pay but essentially time away from work is time not being paid and not being seen and potentially not getting future work. Certainly my husband only got 2 days off, including the day of labour, when our daughter was born as he was mid-production and mid-tech week. Of course the flip side of our job is once the show was up he was around to help more than a 9-5 Dad.

Are you part of any online social groups for freelancers/freelance parents? 

There are several great online support networks on the like of facebook for parents, especially Moms, in the classical music/opera business and it has already been a great resource to me. We really do support each other in the opera world!

Dublin-born soprano Máire Flavin represented Ireland in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, where she was a finalist in the Song Prize.

Her album Baby Mine is a collection of animated childhood film classics with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. Any artist profits will go to Autism charities in the UK, Ireland and USA.

Last season saw Ms. Flavin make her Austrian debut as Contessa d’Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro (Salzburger Landestheater); her company debut as Contessa d’Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro, and perform the role of Hannah in the World Premiere of The Second Violinist (Irish National Opera); two role debuts with Opera North as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow and Anna Sørensen in the UK premiere of Silent Night; Mimi La bohème (Cork International Opera Series); and Mozart Requiem & Once upon a Dream: Celebrating Disney (RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra).

Previous highlights include roles with Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Glyndebourne on Tour, Opera North, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Northern Ireland Opera, and with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Orchestra of Welsh National Opera, and the Deutsche Philharmonie.

In the forthcoming season she will make her debut at Wexford Festival Opera in the world premiere of Andrew Synnott’s La Cucina and return to Opera North for Countess in The Marriage of Figaro

Check out Máire’s website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Polyphony Arts welcomes a new team member, Margaret Pinder!

We are thrilled to welcome a new music manager on board at Polyphony Arts!

Margaret studied English and Modern Languages at King’s College, Cambridge, where she was deeply involved in the music scene, playing co-principal double bass for both the University and her college’s music societies. She went on to qualify as a solicitor in the City, before moving to the United States, where she specialised in international corporate law going on to teach at Harvard University. Margaret has also enjoyed a successful career as a consultant in the public sector, and recently worked as Head of Market Intelligence for a major international law firm.

She currently serves as a local councillor and was Town Mayor of Beverley in 2012-13, using her position to promote the arts and music education for young people. Margaret continues to play the double bass, sitting as section principal in the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra, for which she also serves as an executive committee member. She is involved in various other local music societies and festivals including Hull Chamber Music.

When taking a break from music and local politics, Margaret takes to the stand up comedy circuit where she performs at venues in London and across the North East. She is also in demand as an after dinner speaker.

You can read more about Margaret here: https://polyphonyarts.com/about/

What a privilege to have you with us, Margaret!

Beardsworth Arts is becoming Polyphony Arts – and here’s why

Katie Beardsworth, founder of Polyphony Arts

Beardsworth Arts is becoming Polyphony Arts, and here’s why.

Polyphony is about voices blending together and separate parts making something bigger and more harmonious. Beardsworth Arts started as one idea and one voice in a busy industry. In just 18 months it has grown into something much bigger than ever we first thought, with many other weaving parts.

I love the polyphony analogy because musicians today experience complex, multi-faceted professional lives which need to combine with personal lives and family. Creating harmony from the various strands of life is something we all aspire to.

As our work develops, our core values have become clear:  we are all about clarity, inclusivity, flexibility, and making life and work be the best it can possibly be.

Polyphony and these complex, interweaving lines is a value. Here’s how we live it:

  1. We help musicians deliver, develop and market their projects and programmes, giving them the practical support they need to allow them to focus on their artistic work. This gives our artists the space for what interest them most, and allows them to see their work come to fruition in the best possible way.
  2. We specialise in planning and delivering classical music projects – festivals, concert series, organisational advice, and more – that are inclusive, accessible, sustainable in today’s arts climate, and bring audiences, musicians and communities together.
  3. We live and work by our values; I started the company in order to allow myself to pursue the work I find the most rewarding, in a way that gives me the best possible work/life balance with my young family. Our team is fully flexible, allowing the members of the team to have this work as part of their lives in the way that works best for them. As a talented team of musicians with multi-strand careers, we are experiencing the life and work challenges that our clients do, and this allows us to provide outstanding support to them.

Tell us your project and programme ideas, challenges and dreams, and Polyphony Arts will bring it together for you.

New Client: a warm welcome to composer Ella Jarman-Pinto!

Ella Jarman-Pinto Composer

It’s a real pleasure to welcome our new client, composer Ella Jarman-Pinto to Beardsworth Arts! Ella’s music is enchanting, direct and thought-provoking, often drawing on her personal experiences as a mother. Ella’s work ‘This Little Rose’ is included on the new album release ‘Emergence’, by Nadine Benjamin and Nicole Panizza, and commissions include an award-winning short film for AstraZeneca, with Havas Lynx and Maker Projects in 2018. Ella also received an invitation to take part in the PRS/Wild Plum Songbook workshops in 2019.

Ella teaches singing and composition in Cumbria, and works alongside BlueJam Arts, encouraging children and adults to follow their creative impulses and make music, whatever their experience. Ella runs ParentSing, a singing group for parents where babies and children are welcome; she is also a breastfeeding peer supporter at her local breastfeeding group and is delving into the world of sewing with ‘a naive sense of adventure’!

It’s a pleasure to have you on board, Ella!

How being a doula has improved my work on inclusivity in the arts

By Katie Beardsworth, Founder and Director, Beardsworth Arts

I trained to be a volunteer doula in 2018.

For those of you who don’t know what a doula is (as I didn’t, until I was introduced to the concept after my son was born), it is a birth companion who supports women through pregnancy, birth, and postnatally.

Goodwin Doula and Breastfeeding Support Service

My doula training took place with the fantastic Goodwin Doula Project in Hull. The training is the equivalent of an A level; the eye-opening training topics including pre- and post- natal support, birth support including vaginal and C-section births, breastfeeding, safeguarding, domestic abuse awareness, FGM awareness, and many other things.

I went into the training considering it to be completely separate from my working life, and seeing no relevance to a career in arts management; this was about my personal development, and a desire I had to be a volunteer supporting families going through the life-changing experience of having a baby.

However, the training gave me an unparalleled (in my experience) insight into the makeup of society (especially in Hull, my home town) and the various issues that people could be facing at any time. The Doula Project deals with vulnerable women across the full range of social, economic, racial, and health backgrounds, and I had my eyes opened to the huge range of factors that might (among other things) prevent someone from accessing the arts.

I always considered myself to be understanding of the challenges that people face, and I was certainly sympathetic, but in order to write about this experience, I have to acknowledge that I was definitely in my own bubble of experience; I think we all are, to varying extents, and acknowledging this is important.

Goodwin Doula and Breastfeeding Support Service

I used my new understanding to write a successful funding bid for funds to re-structure Hull Chamber Music, in order to allow them to offer considerate and appealing chamber music offerings to people from all the social backgrounds found in Hull, and not just those of a certain economic and educational background.

The funding has lead to a new vision for HCM, and a new long-term strategy for offering inclusive chamber music to as many people from Hull and the surrounding area as possible.

We launch their new season this Friday, 23 August, and I am incredibly proud of this work; it is a real career highlight for me, and we’re only just getting started!

Have you had an experience of training in one aspect of your life affecting another? Did it surprise you?

#inclusivity #inclusivearts #doula #womensupportingwomen #hullchambermusic #chambermusic #hull #goodwin #volunteer

Interested in becoming a doula or breastfeeding peer supporter? It is truly rewarding and wonderful volunteer work. This wonderful team is always happy to welcome new members. Get in touch here.

Beardsworth Arts welcomes the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra to the team!

Extremely delighted to announce a new client for Beardsworth Arts! It’s a pleasure to welcome the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra on board, with an exciting new season ahead. Do have a look at the wonderful concerts lined up here: http://www.hullphilharmonic.org/current-season/

The Hull Philharmonic Orchestra has been a major feature in the city’s cultural landscape for over 130 years. Over the years, Hull audiences have been able to enjoy a wide variety of orchestral works, from the well-known classics to newly commissioned pieces—and most recently, a premiere of the adventurous 8-Bit Symphony project, which showcased 80s gaming music for symphony orchestra!

A warm welcome to the team, HPO!

Bassoonist Fraser Gordon joins the NLCE

The New London Chamber Ensemble are delighted to welcome newest member Fraser Gordon!

Fraser initially studied violin at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and upon graduation returned to study bassoon, graduating with First Class Honours and being awarded the Peter Morrison Prize for Excellence. After several busy years freelancing in Scotland, he was appointed to his current post as Principal Contrabassoon of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 2011, serving on the Board of Directors for five years. He is a regular guest player with orchestras around the UK as well as participating in several recent projects with the World Orchestra for Peace. Fraser is a member of staff at the Royal Academy of Music and is an active musician in the RPO’s Community & Education programme: RPO Resound.

Fresh from a recent successful performance with the NLCE at the Big Malarkey Festival, Fraser says he is “looking forward to working with the group on their exciting future projects including newly commissioned works written especially for NLCE as well as getting to perform some gems from the existing wind chamber repertoire.”

Our remote team is growing! What do teams mean to you?

Graziana Presicce, newest member of the Beardsworth Arts team

Beardsworth Arts has a new member of the team!

I am delighted to welcome Graziana Presicce to the Beardsworth Arts team. Graziana is a pianist, on her way to a PhD in Performance at the University of Hull. We have worked together before, on concerts held at the university, and I am delighted that she will bring her expertise to Beardsworth Arts!

She joins Veronica Colyer, professional oboist and piano teacher, who was the first person to join the team, and has been working with Beardsworth Arts for a few months. You can read more about Veronica and Graziana here.

I thought I would take this opportunity to write a post about what it means to me to have a team.

Veronica Colyer, the first member of the Beardsworth Arts team

Running your own business from home is wonderful in many ways, but it can be a lonely thing to do, at times – you don’t get that offer of a cuppa, that person to complain to when your computer decides to do updates at the wrong moment, or something is taking longer than it should… you can miss out on the energy that is created by having conversations with other people that understand what you’re doing and how it is making you feel. It is one of the things I miss the most about working in an office.

With a remote team, you still don’t have that daily contact, but you do have a whole new source of energy, ideas and inspiration.

When my business grows enough for me to need a new member of my team, I feel enormously proud – working with people really contributes to my energy, and makes me feel like together we can achieve anything!

New clients also make me feel like this, and I am excited to be announcing more new clients soon! However, welcoming someone new into my team, building that working relationship and seeing them form part of my work and take on and develop their own role as part of my business is a very special thing for me, so I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to Veronica and Graziana for their wonderful work and for being part of Beardsworth Arts!

Are you in a team? Office-based, or remote? What do you like most about your team?!

#team #teamwork #remoteteam #artsadmin #artsmanagement #freelance #freelanceteam

CLASSICAL MUSIC AND INCLUSIVITY: WHAT CAN WE DO BETTER?

I recently attended the IETM (international network for contemporary performing arts) plenary meeting, on a theme of inclusivity; specifically: do we all intend to produce art that includes everybody; do we succeed in doing this; if not, why not?

I attended with some misgivings; any time away from my desk is a risk for me, as I have limited work time alongside childcare and other commitments, and I hadn’t got childcare for the first session, which meant that – after some consideration and a lot of worry – I had decided to bring my two year old with me to the session.

This turned out to be absolutely fine; not my most impressive parenting moment, as my son spent two hours watching CBeebies on my phone and eating gingerbread men, but I was made to feel genuinely welcome and at ease, learned a lot, and afterwards had the pleasure of hearing a couple of the participants say that they felt it was entirely their job to make me and my son feel comfortable with the situation.

This, along with the excellent keynote speeches by Sade Brown of Sour Lemons and Jess Thom of Tourettes Hero, really set the tone for me; all my concerns vanished and I felt I was in for an enlightening couple of days.

I was not wrong. Inspiration, understanding, and new vocabulary to deal with difficult subjects, flowed out of every thought-provoking session. However, at the end of the first day I was left feeling that classical music didn’t feel as emphatically represented as other art forms, especially dance, theatre and spectacle events.

As time went on, I found the other classical music specialists attending – I was right that there were fewer, but they were there – and I also developed an idea that perhaps this was the case for a reason. Listening to the talks about inclusive theatre and dance projects, I realised that, with the exception of some outstanding projects, classical music has some catching up to do when it comes to inclusive performance. 

What are the barriers to inclusive performance in classical music?

Classical music, perhaps more than other art forms, is generally perceived to have a niche culture; that its audience is largely white, middle class, middle-aged to elderly, and educated. This perception is, I hope, far from the truth, but, as the Artistic Director of a chamber music society for whom all these things are true (despite our best efforts), I have been asking myself what the barriers are to inclusive performance in classical music.

The answers I can come up with are steeped in history; the idea that classical music must be enjoyed in silence is key, although this is an idea formed in the 19th century; 17thcentury audiences would famously have talked, eaten, drunk and gambled through performances.

This has led to a culture of ritual and, therefore, exclusion within classical music; woe betide any ill-informed person who accidentally claps between movements (again, so far removed from pop/rock/folk/jazz etc, where responding to the music as you hear it and are moved by it is the norm), or dares to open a cough sweet…

Something that has been enlightening for me as a result of considering these issues, is the fact that, despite being someone that considers themselves fully committed to inclusivity, my attempts to include new audiences from different backgrounds and abilities in my musical projects have been somewhat apologetic; I am always concerned about alienating existing audience members. Obviously, no-one wants to do that, but do I really think my existing audience would refuse to come to a concert if it was truly inclusive, and, say, a relaxed performance? And, if they would, why am I more concerned about upsetting the person who is not willing to embrace inclusivity, rather than the people that currently feel they are unwelcome at classical concerts?

How do we change the barriers to inclusivity in classical music?

Firstly, concert promoters/committees/boards etc need to get behind inclusivity, beyond just audiences. The boards of such organisations generally tend to represent the audiences I mentioned above. In order to have diverse audiences, we must have diverse leadership; we cannot expect audience trends to be changed if our decision makers, programmers and marketers do not understand the people they are trying to attract.

Secondly, we must talk to our audiences – both our existing audience, and the one we are trying to attract. Good, open lines of communication make all the difference in making people feel understood, catered for, and welcomed. I believe it is possible to take existing audiences with us on the journey to a more inclusive model.

On the other side, we must not assume that if we provide BSL interpretation we will suddenly attract the entire deaf community; we must connect with those potential audiences before we decide on what our changes will be, and make sure they are right, appealing, and carried out in a manner that makes people feel welcome.

Thirdly, we must not allow ourselves to be held back by the existing culture. We must be brave, well-informed, considerate, and in touch with our audiences and our sector. There is a great deal of press coverage on this issue at the moment, and I for one feel called to action!

What do you think? What enables or prevents you from going to concerts? What could concert venues, organisers and artists do to make you feel welcome?

BBC PROMS: WHY ARE ONLY SIX OUT OF 90+ CONCERTS ‘FOR ALL THE FAMILY’?

I love the BBC Proms. There is no more varied, high-quality festival of classical music. But, I was shocked to read the headline on the Royal Albert Hall’s website: ‘Six fantastic concerts for all the family’. Six?! Out of how many, I wondered. On checking – as I suspected – 75 concerts, and 90+ events listed in total.

Why does the Royal Albert Hall think that fewer than 5% of the Proms being ‘for all the family’ is a positive headline?

And, only one of those concerts actually listed as a relaxed event. The article says that this event will be ‘suitable for children and adults with autism, sensory and communication impairments and learning disabilities, as well as individuals who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and partially sighted. There is a relaxed attitude to movement and noise in the auditorium, plus ‘chill-out’ spaces outside the auditorium – you can move about, dance, sing or just listen. The Relaxed Prom also features audio description and British Sign Language interpretation.’  

Sounds absolutely wonderful. But why only one concert like this?

Is it so hard for the organisers of the Proms to believe that their audiences would like to hear more of their world-class performances in such circumstances?

As a mother of a toddler, and an advocate of inclusive performance, I certainly would.

I don’t mean to be critical of the Proms – as I said, I am a huge fan – but as I scan their list of events, my personal circumstances significantly limit the number I can go to. I’m sure if I looked at a list of classical concerts going on across the country, the percentage that would welcome my son, or other individuals mentioned above, would be even lower than 5%.

I am sure that the fact that the Proms can see six family-friendly concerts, only one of which is listed as fully inclusive, as a topic for a proud headline, is indicative of the mindset of… who? Classical music programmers and promoters? Audiences? Artists?

What do you think? What would make or break you going to a concert?  

BEARDSWORTH ARTS IS LIVE!

Welcome to my new website, which is designed to showcase my freelance arts management portfolio. I am an artist manager, arts project manager and social media consultant. I started working freelance in early 2018, in order to have more flexibility and choice over my work, and to enable myself to spend the right amount of time with my young family. Since then, my client base has more than doubled, and the range of projects I take on has widened and diversified in truly inspiring ways. I feel very lucky to be working with such wonderful people and projects!

You can read more about me, my projects and artists on this website, and follow me on social media at the links shown.