|Choral Conductor / Bass-Baritone|
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A day in the life of a Choral Conductor / Bass-Baritone in the United Kingdom
What I do
I am currently Music Director of Shalford Choral Society, The News International Choir and Sonitus Chamber Choir. I sing professionally for the Philharmonia Professional Singers Scheme (London) and am a Bass Choral Scholar at St Martin in the Fields, London. I work part time as a Choral Animateur with the Rochester Cathedral Chorister Outreach Programme.
This job entails devising, organising and running ten-weekly singing workshops in primary schools across Kent and the Medway towns. I am an accompanist at St Michaels Steiner School, Wandsworth and am a deputy lay clerk at Southwark Cathedral, Rochester Cathedral, All Saint's Margaret Street and Chelsea Old Church.
I perform regularly with the Blossom Street Singers, a professional octet with agents in London. I teach singing and piano occasionally by try to keep my 'free time' available for oratorio and recording work in and around London. This kind of work tends to be arranged last minute and availability is very important in money as a freelancer, especially in London.
Skills I use and how I developed them
BA(Hons) Music Degree (Vocal Studies, Conducting, Composition) from the University of York. Choral Conducting Masterclasses with Patrick Russill and Vocal Training with Richard Jackson, Russell Smythe and most recently Roderick Earle (RCM).
The ability to be a flexible musician with a mix of interests in perfomance, direction and community music have all helped in the different work that I regularly undertake.
Primary & Secondary Teaching Experience, Animateur Training with Susie Vango (which subsequently resulted in a job as a Choral Animateur working on behalf of Rochester Cathedral and Sing Up). Basic knowledge in self publicity and business meant that I was able to market myself by developing a business website for potential music clients. Also improved my ability to organise and prepare for concerts and overseas choir tours etc.
What I like most
I really enjoy working with people and so to be constantly working and making music with a huge number of children and adults on a weekly basis is very rewarding. Self employment is tough finanically but great as you are you're own boss. I like being able to decide the content and structure of my singing workshops in Kent, although also enjoy sharing these experiences with other animateurs and participating school staff. Choral conducting seems to have been something I have finally decided is my main career passion and being able to work with a mixture of musician and non-trained musicians is immensely satisfying.
What I like least
I have to travel a lot and make sure that I keep in good health and keep fit. It's stressful sometimes working with children but the overall experience come a concert or recording is definately worth the effort!
What would I change? Having a driving licence would be very helpful given how much I have to travel at the moment! Please do this whilst you're at university as you'll find you never have time once to start to work full time!
Where I hope to be in 5 years
Obviously most people basing progress on salary would not understand my switch from Arts Administration to self-employment. However, I am now working across the country and overseas as a choral conductor, vocal coach and accompanist and enjoy every day I go to work - something much more valuable to me.
I aim to develop my skills and experience and to work with an ever increasingly high standard of choir whether it be based in London or elsewhere in the country. I would also like to get more regular solo oratorio and opera work and constantly audition and apply for work when I hear about it. This is difficult as this kind of work is contact based and not broadly advertised.
My advice to students considering work
You must believe in yourself and hold onto your true professional aims. It's very easy to be dragged into a corner of an industry you weren't expecting to be in. It's also very easy to find London daunting, given the number of musicians trying to make it.
I think focussing your efforts on your genuine skills and interests, and not spreading yourself too thinly over many areas will mean you'll find success to some degree. Whether it be regionally, nationally or internationally, your work with the general public will always be appreciated and will mean a lot to the people you work with and perform to.
If you like the look of Matthew’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Matthew a message to find out more about their career journey.