Following a 'gap year' (during which I continued to compose while doing various odd jobs) I completed a PhD in Composition at Kings College London (2008 - 12). Since then I have been a freelance composer living from a combination of commissions and part-time teaching work (currently at Cambridge University). In 2015 I was awarded an Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composer Prize and my music is now published by Breitkopf and Hartel.
A Dada Cabaret, the Practical Project in my first year was a memorable beginning... Many happy concerts with the Chimera Ensemble and University Symphony Orchestra... The Chamber Orchestra tour to Venice... Walking by the River Ouse... Free Improvisation group rehearsing in Jack Lyons Hall late on Sunday nights... And just sitting around in the foyer talking.
By allowing the time and freedom of thought necessary and inherent to any freelance life, and especially in allowing me - even as an undergraduate - to embark on the substantial/ambitious projects which enabled my career to get going in the first place. Also, by creating a environment in which composition and the surrounding discussions were simply a normal part of daily life. And great teaching from the full range of other musical specialisms too.
Get fully engrossed in as many opportunities as possible: Gamelan, orchestra, choir, Chimera, early music... Whatever attracts you - give it a go. And whatever doesn't attract you - give that a go too. You never know which things are going to turn out to be most important later... And if what you are looking for doesn't exist yet, create it!