After exchanging a few emails, my first official meeting with Simon was on the 1st of December. We met in Staff House and I brought my questions about my career, the music industry, and my options after university. As a student conductor I was aware of how difficult it is to become a professional conductor and that there is no necessarily obvious career path to follow. Simon was extremely encouraging and recommended several options I hadn’t considered. We talked about various masters courses in postgraduate orchestral conducting (MMUs or MA) in conservatoires and universities predominantly in the UK, but also in the US – which I hadn’t considered yet. Simon personally knew some of the professors running some of the courses and could give in-depth information about their experience, specialities and the nature of the courses. An option I hadn’t thought of was attending a conducting summer course and he recommended some examples, and again knew some of the conductors running the courses. He explained that not only the tuition would be beneficial but that the networking I could do there could lead to professional contacts, and that, of course, is extremely important in the music industry.
As well as conducting, we also discussed other career options including PGCEs, starting casual work in my home town in Southend, applying for masters courses after one or more years, teaching privately and composing and orchestrating. Previously I was concerned about making the “right” choice before it was too late as it seemed but Simon was very encouraging and not only brought new suggestions but helped me realise the benefits of keeping options open and taking things one step at a time.
It was great to see that Simon wasn’t trying to push me in a particular direction but was always trying to open my eyes to new options, encourage me to keep several options open, and inform me (based on his career experience and contacts) so I could make confident and informed decisions.
The whole conversation was friendly, informal and motivated me to immediately start looking at further courses. I look forward to our next meeting.