Emerging as a singer songwriter and working as a freelance holistic music teacher in a rural part of Scotland is a matter of learning to dance with uncertainty and finding the gaps of swirling potentiality from nothing very much!
These last few months has proved this to be a continuing case. Like any human being I want certainty, productivity and good things to come from my efforts. I want “something”- a degree of certitude, not “nothing” at all and I would like plenty of ” potential!”
So, what are the things that have produced “Something” on this meandering musical journey of mine? Thankfully there are a few “Somethings “that have manifested. Human connectivity being the nicest, best and possibly the most useful in the long run. My journey has largely been an individual one- cheered on by some members of my family, and by Mick Glossop ( a producer) who acts as a kind and lovely mentor. Lately I have acquired a few more lovely folks who are helping me on my journey and whose help I am also most grateful for. Alex Smith from Xponorth Kindly gave me some pointers for the grant I have applied for -which would be used to release my ep, collaborate with musicians and hopefully help with performing.
I have currently reached a ceiling of what I can do, as a songwriter , on my own, in this area. So, this grant is vital if I am to proceed at all. Otherwise, trying to become an artist in rural Scotland is equivalent to trying to become one in the steps of outer Mongolia! No one to work with and no one to sing to, and no one to help you do so! This grant that I have applied for – is the third one I have applied for in the space of a year. It is, I think, my last chance at acquiring the needed funds to develop as an artist. All the other grants want experiences I can not obtain in my current circumstances, so it is pointless to try for those. I will find out soon enough if this is the case and then I will know if I can continue in a professional fashion on this journey of songwriting. Mick Glossop was Kindly my referee again on this groundhog day experience of applying for grants. I am thankful and delighted that he continues to help me and believe in me.
The other people who have become part of my journey are Fay, Dougal and Eve. Dougal was assigned to help me grow digitally as an artist by Xponorth. However, I lack the funds to buy the necessary digital equipment that can be used to this effect. Dougal equated it to”trying to work with half a tea spoon!” So, Dougal being a thoughtful and lateral thinking kind of person ( as well as something to do with the Scottish Music Industry Association) has quietly been trying to think of other ways to develop me. He says most of his ideas would be useful a few rungs up the ladder of development, but he has suggested I make a Kodaly online Udemy teaching programme with him- both profile raising and financially useful. So, I am busy planning two taster series for people who want to learn to sing in tune and develop some basic understanding of music/musical skills. He has also connected me with his lovely mum Fay, who blogs- in a much more serious way than me. Between this kind and thoughtful pair some of these blogs will now appear, on occasion, in “Walking Heads”- a music blog site and “Sceptical Scot” a more serious socio/political media platform. Having some more folks who believe in me on this journey is truly lovely and also gives me a feeling that I might just develop after all. Psychologically it makes a big difference. Aloneness when one keeps trying and trying is very trying!
The other lovely “Something” is my continued performing experience- which is very humble. Every other week I go to the folk session in the pub. It is largely instrumental and deeply steeped in traditional music. These kind folks allow me the only local space/platform where I can go and get some performing experience. It is kind of them as it is indeed largely instrumental and I sing my funny genre -less songs unaccompanied. (Purely because I lack people to play with). I am cautious to not barge into their space and they have made me welcome. They listen very carefully and give me the most lovely feedback. The pub is generally pretty empty bar the odd few folks. Sunday night drinking out in the sticks is a sparse affair. I had hoped that the musicians might join in – but I think I am a bit unusual for their more traditional tastes. I am touched by their comments and by their welcoming of me into their circle.
Now, onto the “nothing” part of my journey! I decided this year to try and get my QTS ,once and for all (Qualified Teacher Status) for teaching primary music. I am almost a fully trained teacher. I have everything but the last teaching practice as a qualification for being a teacher. I only didn’t do this as a result of not getting support to teach maths. (I am dyscalculic and I simply can not teach maths). Unable to get the support I required on the course, meant that I had no option but to leave or fail, so I left with a certificate in Education Studies rather than a PGCE. I consequently did a specialist Kodaly Music in education training and set up- through necessity- on my own. I have operated as a freelance music educator for the last seven years, teaching in all sorts of educational settings, to all kinds of people and all ages. I have many years of experience.
I figured it would be worth trying to get the QTS just for music as it would allow me the opportunity to get properly paid specialist music teaching posts. I had the idea that now my boys are about to fly the nest, we could move to another part of Scotland where I could get a decently paid job using my skillset in an area where it would be easier to develop and collaborate as an emerging artist. This is a sound and sensible idea. I would need a job of this calibre because rents outside of this rural pocket of Scotland seem to start at £800 for family accommodation. I imagined living outside Edinburgh or Glasgow and commuting. (Having lived nearly all my life in the country, I could not quite envisage living in something as urban as a street!! I would feel like a wildflower trapped between two concrete slabs).
However….my application was unsuccessful. I was turned down on the grounds that I don’t have enough classroom experience- obviously untrue due to working in three schools/nurseries and that the rule is that a primary teacher must be able to teach all subjects. The irony is- that when I did my training ,music was given an afternoons consideration in the training. I am clearly far more experienced than the average class music teacher!
What a myopic rule. Perhaps maths teachers should show skills in teaching music! A crazy system that professes equality but does not really deliver it. Music teaching has also dried up here in and out of the mainstream system due to cuts and also because I now have no presence in a school. This means that my stream of private pupils is slowly by slowly, as they grow up, beginning to dry up.
So, what next? I try to hold it all lightly as I stand at a crossroads of uncertainty. In the meantime I have joined a temp agency for cleaning or temporary work. They have not got back to me- my unusual life experiences and work probably slightly leaves them scratching their heads! To help gain some clarity I went for a Careers Interview with Skills development Scotland. She told me my skills from running my own business and developing creative programmes and projects and working with so many different kinds of people meant that I would be a good supervisor or manager! When I told my husband he commented that she was not aware of the unusual life I have led with no experience of the “real” workplace. He is right….so, who knows. Perhaps life will show me the way.
The funniest bit of “nothing” is the tale of the music promotor and the football club…..As I have said there are no promotors here for emerging musicians. Imagine my delight just after Christmas when a friend pointed out a “new” promotor in the area who was touting for business. Now it is very hard to tell who people are by a logo on facebook, so I decided to see if they would be interested in my slightly unusual material. They said they would be and said their first concert for more “normal” material would be at the football working mens club in Lossiemouth.
So, all eager anticipation, I decided I would loyally go and support their first concert and meet this new promotor. My husband and I turned up to this most divey of venues- a working mans club that stank of football boots! We were met by a young man – not much older than our boys- who was the “promotor”. The more “normal “ singer was a young lass who was singing slightly out of tune covers …..we were also the only people who turned up! We were stuck for some excruciating time before it was polite to leave just the barmaid applauding their efforts! I realised that this “promotor” was not what he had made out to be on Facebook. I applaud the efforts, though, of this young lad and wish him all the best. A funny bit of nothing that speaks volumes of what it is like developing music in rural places.
And, as for the “Potential”. Well, the other person to show an interest in my journey is Eve Williams. She is a singer songwriter who has worked with Grammy songwriters and she also does Udemy courses on songwriting. Last year she gave me lovely feedback on some of my songs. Most recently she let me have one of her courses for a knocked down price. The first assignment was to write a song in a way that one is not accustomed to. Encouraged by Mick, I have recently taken up the guitar……it might eventually be very useful. It is a very humbling experience to go back to absolute basics as a musician . Slowly by slowly I am making progress- it will take a while. So, I decided to try writing a verse and chorus using the few chords I can slowly use! To my delight it flowed and I could create a song using chords- not just the Top line that I usually just do. Excited, I shared this with Eve and my guitar tutor ….both gave me great feedback. I told Mick, who has encouraged me to explore further and explore open tunings like Joni Mitchell uses…
A very lovely creative piece of potential to develop and play with. I look forward to getting more able so my fingers can express what floats in my head…..
These are my developments…..nothing exciting, nothing yet tangible but enough to keep me from throwing in the towel. In the meantime I need some practical work to manifest to keep us all ticking along. Perhaps I will have to don those marigold cleaning gloves after all.