End of February…

Phantom finished last Saturday.  It was a really fun week and all the performances were completely sold out – and most got a standing ovation at the end!  I was particularly impressed with the lad playing Phantom, must only have been 16 or 17 but he improved so much as the week went on…

I feel like the most important part of the whole week was the post show trip to the pub down the road.  A lot of the players in the band asked for my number and mentioned that they knew someone who needs a harp for something or other.  So I made lots of new contacts, which is great!  All the internet-networking I do pales into insignificance compared with the work I get through word of mouth recommendations.

Phantom of the Opera is in fact coming to Manchester next month… I wonder who is sorting out the band for that… I’m pretty Phantomed out but I’d definitely get over that for a chance to play for a professional show!

Yesterday I was in Liverpool at the Liner Hotel for an audition for an agency that sends musicians on cruise ships, and to luxury hotels and corporate events etc.  As I do lots of background music anyway I thought I’d give it a go and see what comes of it.  Most of the acts auditioning were singers, songwriters, magicians or comedians.  I was the only harpist, and I have been invited to take part in the agency’s ‘Showcase’ in October – which is a brilliant chance to play for the people who book musicians for cruises, corporate work etc.  Personally I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there’s a luxury hotel in the Maldives that needs a harpist all Summer, that’s the dream anyway.

When I think about the place I was in a month ago, the difference between then and now is like night and day.  In January, I went home to my parents and cried my eyes out – I was worried about work, money, where to live, if music was really what would make me happy.  I had applied for a full-time job in arts administration and had two bar jobs.  I had hardly any gigs in the diary and had no idea what I was going to do and if I’d be able to succeed.  My parents have always had faith in me and are totally behind me, ready to fight my corner, they just told me to have faith and trust that things will pick up – no matter if it’s hard right now it will get better.

Now, my diary is filling up very nicely and there’s always something I’m working towards, something going in the diary.  I am so happy that I’m doing what I love, and so happy that my life cannot be pigeon-holed into an everyday 9-5.  I can sleep in when I want to, going to the pub can be justified as networking (brilliant!), I am my own boss and in charge of my own finances, I can never get fired!  I hardly ever have to battle through rush hour traffic or be up before 8am, plus I decide how much to pay myself.  I feel so free!  I have a career that is interesting to talk about and I have no idea where it might lead, or what I might be doing in a year, two, five, ten years time.  Sure, money is still tight, but I am getting by and I truly believe that if I keep doing what I love, the money will come.

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Trio

This lunchtime, my flute, viola and harp trio played in a lunchtime concert at Manchester University.  We performed Debussy’s Trio Sonata – a beautiful piece and definitely a classic for this ensemble.

Our trio is relatively newly formed, and it involves myself, Matthew Howells on flute and Joe Bronstein on viola.  We get together about once a week to rehearse.  Chamber music is something I didn’t do too much of at college, but I’m finding it can be a really refreshing way to make music and get to know other musicians… it’s almost like socialising!  Even though this was unpaid, it was definitely worth doing for the experience of playing this beautiful music.

A couple of things happened that are worth recording.  Getting the harp there was a little fiddly as Manchester Uni don’t let humble musicians park at all.  So my morning was spent doing the following:

  1. Pack up harp watch that velco!  Remember, you are wearing tights.
  2. Load harp into car
  3. Drive car to uni
  4. Unload harp and find someone to guard it
  5. Drive back home
  6. Contemplate the ridiculousness harpists have to go through sometimes
  7. Walk back to uni
  8. Unpack harp careful with the velcro covers near tights! – be ready to start rehearsing.

This process can be reversed to describe accurately what to do after the concert.

The playing actually went really well, the audience was enthusiastic but sadly quite few in number.  I guess you can’t have everything.  Better to have a small welcoming audience than a large, hostile one.

I did manage to put the piano stool on my dress as we were setting up during the concert, only to try and walk away and find myself rooted to the spot.  I finally freed myself and tried to push the wrong door to get off-stage.  Slightly embarrassing – but nothing compared to what happened after the concert.

So there I was, getting changed out of my dress, and I’m told that I need to move the harp now,  the hall is needed for another rehearsal.  Cue me, trying to get dressed allegro molto only to be told by Joe a minute later that I’d forgotten to fasten my skirt!

I think ‘mortified’ covers it pretty well.

The things we do for our art…

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Brit Idol

Today, I had an audition for ‘Brit Idol 2012’ – a nationwide talent show with a prize of £1000 plus performance opportunities.  I came across the competition through starnow.co.uk.

As I live in Manchester, which is quite a large city, I was expecting the audition to be packed.  I was also expecting to be sitting around for hours.  So I took a new book with me, Stephen King’s The Stand, I’ve only just started it but I can tell I’m going to enjoy it.

So anyway I turn up at the Zion Arts Centre and the place is … well … pretty much deserted.  Eventually a man comes out with a clipboard and calls a register.  His register is only about a dozen names but half of those hadn’t turned up – luckily there was a friend of mine from RNCM also auditioning so we could sit and chat while we waited for our 5 minute audition.

I had arrived at 11.45am, by the time they start taking people in for auditions it was already 1.15 and I’d had to sneak out to buy a sandwich.  They didn’t call me in until 3.55pm!  I went in and did my thing (will post a video as soon as I work out how to transfer it from my phone to the internet).  The judges were a singer, a cellist and a pianist, and the only piece of constructive advice they gave me?

Smile more.

I waited around for FOUR HOURS and you are telling me to ‘smile more’ ? ? !

I could not believe what I was hearing, the piece I chose was jazzy and light-hearted, but what do they want me to do – grin like the cheshire cat because I’m playing happy music?  So frustrating…

So I’m just going to chalk it up to a learning experience – still can’t believe I paid £10 and waited all afternoon to be told that I look too intense when I play.

Nevertheless, onwards and upwards as usual.  I’m going to a friend’s house for dinner tonight so I can forget about this waste of a day…

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Hi there,

So, this is my first post here.  Still working out how this site works.

The title of this blog is slightly tongue-in-cheek.  ‘Living The Dream’ is the name for what we recent graduates of music college do for a living.  But this living the dream is likely to be very different from anyone else’s living the dream.

For a musician at the start of his/her career, living the dream frequently means doing as many gigs as possible, trying desperately to pay the rent and to still have enough money left over for food, staying on the computer for hours emailing everyone and applying for a million different things related to gigs or potential gigs, chasing up fees that no one wants to pay, all the while trying to find the time to practice and have a life at the same time.

Dream or Nightmare?

With that in mind, the aim of this blog is to follow my personal experiences in this crazy world, trying to forge a career in a difficult but challenging field.  Where will I end up?  Who knows.

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