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
“I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.”
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.
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?
How did this
make you feel?
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.
promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are
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?
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
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.
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.
“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?
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.
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
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are
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.
there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are
particularly supportive of performers who are parents?
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?
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?
about seven years before.
Are you part of any online
social groups for freelancers/freelance parents?
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
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.
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.
many children do you have and how old are they?
I have one son, Matteo, who is 3
and 4 months.
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!
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 🙂
you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make
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.
you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this
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.
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.
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.
can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are
Be open about mothers having
their breastfeeding babies at rehearsals. Allow babies in the rehearsal
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!).
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
Festival Opera were really good.
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.
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.
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,
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.
“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.
International opera singer Julia Kogan shares her experience of balancing motherhood and an operatic career in the 90s.
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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: