Why you should be promoting your career now – an agent advises.

2020 has not been a good year for those of us in the classical music business and, as we approach the end of our second lockdown, it is understandable that a lot of us are feeling weary and discouraged.

However, you may be surprised to hear that our advice is now is the perfect time to put yourself back out there and start seeking out those future performance opportunities that have been in such short supply.

At Polyphony Arts we are already seeing an uptick in bookings for our clients; music societies, festivals and other venues are starting to think about programming again as performances once again seem possible, and the news about successful vaccines for Covid-19 has done much to lift everyone’s spirits.

There is hope, but we want to see you turn any new-found optimism into actual bookings. And now is the best possible time to start working on precisely that.

So, even if we are still in lockdown, what can you be doing now to build your career as we leave 2020 and head for 2021 and beyond?

First of all, you need a good mindset. Although it may not feel like it, your career is still active and needs your attention more than ever!

We know that things will never go back to exactly how they were before, but that may be no bad thing. Right now promoters are more understanding than they have ever been of how difficult and frustrating it can be for musicians trying to promote themselves. The people who can give you work actively want to help you. That’s a really important message to hold onto.

But before you start sending out information about yourself, take stock of every aspect of how you go about promoting yourself:

  • Is your CV up-to-date?
  • Maybe you have done some interesting work during the pandemic performing online or working on a particular project at home – have you included that?
  • Do you have a full list of all your online recordings with the right links?
  • How good is your network?
  • Are there more connections you have made online over the past nine months that you can maybe leverage now?
  • How do you describe yourself now?
  • How do you think about yourself as a musician?

This last question is a really important one because unless you have a healthy and positive view of yourself, you are not going to be able to project a positive image to the promoters you hope will book you.

If you have an agent, then they will help you with a lot of that, but if you don’t, there are still resources out there to help you.

We have designed a number of packages which you can access to help you with all these aspects of managing and developing a successful career whether that is professional coaching, materials to help you become your own agent, or even a simple module on how to write the perfect pitch.

And, with Christmas on the horizon, any of these would make a terrific gift from your nearest and dearest  – after all, they’re the ones who have always been your biggest supporters.

Our message to you is: stay positive, be adaptable, take this time to review where you are, and reach towards a brighter future where you can and will perform again.

“Competitions are for horses, not artists”

Blog post by Sandy Clark – Composer

“We’ve really enjoyed looking through all the entries…”, “we’re thrilled by the popularity of the competition”, “…unfortunately your composition was not selected this time…”.

These phrases are all too commonly emailed to any emerging composer applying for commissions and competitions. Not seeing your name on a shortlist of successful applicants can be exhaustingly demoralising, particularly when your blood, sweat, tears, and all important time has gone into your work. You may want to just throw the towel in and think “why do I bother if nobody understands or appreciates my work?”. But fret not!

As an emerging composer myself, and in the final stages of completing my PhD at the University of Hull, I am beginning to realise the importance of self-promotion and determination. Throughout our education, whether at music college or university, opportunities are in abundance to work with peers, write music for visiting artists in workshops, or even compose for large ensembles.

Unfortunately, the ease of these opportunities doesn’t carry on into the real world and we have to look for opportunities ourselves. While competitions do provide a great platform for composers, it is difficult to gauge how a judging panel will receive your music, and therefore whether its worth you putting in the hours of work required to write a new piece.

One distinct advantage to competitions is that they force us to create. In November/December 2019, I unsuccessfully applied for five competitions. Yes, I was very bitter about the “unsuccessful” part at the time, but once I had surfaced from my momentary despair, I realised that I had four new pieces in my repertoire that I didn’t have before (one submission was a pre-existing piece). Now those pieces are ripe for sending off to other ensembles to consider for future concerts!

Bartók famously said that competitions are for horses, not artists. I disagree. The support that competitions provide emerging artists is multitudinous. Firstly, there’s the financial aspect. While some competitions don’t offer prize money, some offer a lot of money, which can help form the bread and butter of any freelance or self-employed artist. If I had won all five of the competitions I applied for in winter 2019, I would be around £4000 richer!

This brings me on to the E-word. Exposure. The topic of many a meme centred on artists being paid with exposure rather than actual money; competitions usually do both for composers. Exposure shouldn’t be overlooked, though. The ensembles and organisations offering competitions are often some of the wealthier and better-attended ensembles. Therefore your music has the potential to reach quite a lot of the right people, and you never know who might be in the audience.

Exposure (and competitions in general) also has the potential to lead to repeat performances, recordings, publication and further commissions. Of the five competitions I entered, all were offering at least one public performance, two were offering a professional-quality recording, and one was offering publication.

From the perspective of an ensemble, competitions can also bring people into contact with new music. Making Music’s Adopt a Composer scheme was instrumental in connecting dozens of composers with dozens of amateur music groups around the UK, most of which likely consider Stravinsky and Shostakovich the pinnacle of contemporary music. Schemes and competitions such as these are an excellent way to connect music creators with music makers, and in turn, music listeners.

Usually when applying for competitions, residencies or schemes, a composer is asked to provide a CV including a list of awards and prizes. Generally, the longer your list of awards, the more impressive your application looks against others. This brings me back to my first point, which was that your chances of actually winning competitions might be quite slim. This probably doesn’t have anything to do with your talents, but more to do with personal taste. Generally, I like to write music that people enjoy playing and listening to. That’s what gives me satisfaction as a composer.

Some people (a few of whom have been fairly vocal about it) consider this to be “selling out” and “inartistic”. But what is art for if not to be listened to, seen, observed, or appreciated? But you can’t please everyone, and this is something that hits home when you put your artistic heart and soul on the line in applying for competitions. 99 times out of 100 a rejection will not be because they didn’t like your music, it will be because they liked someone else’s better. But that’s the crux. They liked it. The music itself isn’t necessarily better – it just suited the judges’ tastes better. Chances are, if you send it to somebody else, they’ll love it and want to perform it!

So when applying for competitions, residencies and schemes when you don’t have a massive list of prizes or awards under your belt, how can you possibly make your application stand out?! I believe the answer is in commendations. Just as I will later this year when winter comes back around, befriend a musical director of a choir, orchestra, brass band, you name it. Get them to perform your pieces, and then get them to write a testimonial for you about your work.

On your CV you can then replace the awards and prizes section with real words from real people about how fantastic they think your music is, or how great it is to work with you. Show them that your music spreads joy and connects with people. That kind of feedback can be just as powerful as the credentials of any competition.

Sandy Clark

Visit Sandy’s Website

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!


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!


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.


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

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

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

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? 


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

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!

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