Blog 1: Being a Small Fish in a Very Big Pond

What better way to plan out your post-graduate life than over dinner? Well perhaps a dinner sandwiched (pun not intended) between the final rehearsal and performance of the Verdi Requiem, under the direction of your personal mentor himself?

I have the very privileged position of being able to see my mentor on a regular basis as a member of the CBSO Chorus, of which Sir Simon Halsey happens to be the chorus master. And so there I was, sea bass before me, faced with that most foreboding of questions: ‘what do you want to do with your life?’. Much like the rather sizeable fish, I had to break the question down into bite-size chunks. Firstly, we discussed what I currently spend my time doing at University, and what I enjoy most among those, which from the extensive list of music ensembles, societies and bands I take part in, we narrowed down to jazz singing and arts management roles.

At that point I had already applied for the Royal Academy of Music for a jazz performance masters, lacking both the funds and emotional stamina to apply to any other colleges (an audition is around £100 a pop). Simon was of the somewhat brutal, yet regrettably accurate opinion that if performance is what I really want to do, unless I get into one of the top colleges of ­­music, I’m unlikely to make it any further. I find out the verdict from the academy in December, and depending on the result and my reaction to the news (if unfortunate) myself and Simon can plan an alternative route of attack. Simon made the very valid conclusion, that should I be rejected from the Academy, if I am utterly disappointed by the verdict then this is a good thing, and I can carry on my journey with even more determination.

By then we had moved on to dessert, and discussed courses abroad. Should I apply to Berklee? I asked. ‘Well Berklee is the best, isn’t it? Of course you should!’. Faced with this daunting challenge, Simon vowed to put me in touch with a past graduate of Berklee to give me an insider’s guide to the course.

With coffee, came the question of arts management. Jobs in this sector usually published until Easter time, but I’d like to find a really good internship for summer. Simon offered a few options, the most tempting being a runner for the BBC Proms. Simon has since put me in touch with a contact at the BBC, and I am currently waiting for a reply.

So as we walked, rather hastily, back to Symphony Hall for our concert, I felt a lot more organised in my thinking. I had to prepare for my audition as best I could, and when the result came through, whether positive or negative, I would be able to make a decision as to whether I wanted to fight as hard as I can to go into the jazz world, or look further into arts management with the contacts Simon had provided me with.

The Requiem was spectacular. I can only begin to hope a similar outcome for my career prospects!

Becca Wilkins


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