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A day in the life of a musician

As part of a series of blogs and interviews about young musicians that NYAT supports alongside partner ABRSM, we asked Megan, 22, a talented flute player and conductor, what a typical day is like as a student musician

Megan plays the flute and is studying music at Trinity College London. Megan is one of NYAT’s music bursary recipients, supported by ABRSM. In her insightful blog, Megan talks to us about lectures, rehearsals, ensembles, part-time work, her dream of becoming a conductor and everything in between. Plus a few tips on staying organised and looking after your mental health.  

“Music started out as a hobby for me, and I didn’t take it seriously until I thought it was too late to apply for conservatoires and actually study it. Since then it’s become such a fundamental part of myself, a real anchor in my life and my passion for it has only grown.

Classical musicians tend to be freelance for at least part of their working lives, meaning our day to day life is always changing. Whether you’re studying, working partially contracted or fully freelance, musicians’ schedules change from day to day.

Some days my alarm will go off at 7am, so I’m up and ready for a 9am start, and some days allow me to sleep to my heart’s content, which is usually well past midday! At Trinity, we only have academic lectures in the autumn and spring terms, meaning after the Easter holidays we are free to focus on our coursework and exams. That being said I try to play every day. Notice I didn’t say ‘practice’, that’s because some days it’s just physically not possible to do my own private practice, but on those days, I tend to have lengthy rehearsals or performances.

On a typical day I will usually travel into Trinity with my housemates as we have lectures that often involve the whole year group. Otherwise it could be either for Flute Class, a 1:1 lesson with my principle study teacher, or one of my electives, which this year is Conducting and Composing for Media. We then have extra masterclasses, which could be on flute or piccolo. I try to get my practice done around my lectures, and factor in weekly rehearsals for my chamber ensembles. I have two chamber ensembles at the moment, a flute duet chamber and a flute/harp chamber. This way the evening is free. If I haven’t managed to get everything done then I will stay at Trinity until I do, sometimes until Trinity closes at 10pm. I work part-time at a local theatre, and have private students of my own, which can take up a lot of evenings, but often helps me make sure I schedule well and get everything done. On free evenings I spend my time relaxing with my housemates, and regularly go to opera, ballet or shows in Central London.

During my second year of study at Trinity Laban, I became very interested in conducting. To give myself opportunity to conduct I set up my own orchestra and conducted them in their inaugural concert earlier this year. I spend a lot of evenings researching for my orchestra. When we have orchestral projects at Trinity Laban, rehearsals can last all day and into the evening. When I actually get a day off, I often really relax and take the whole day off, just to recharge!

Being dyslexic, I work best with schedules and deadlines, often getting very little done without one. So, during Trinity I started using a specially produced very detailed paper diary to make it easier to keep track of everything I need to do. I use a bullet journal which I design monthly which has my deadlines and to do lists, making things easier to keep on top of. In my diary, I keep a track of:

  • Practice rooms at Trinity
  • Rehearsals
  • Lectures
  • 1:1 Lessons
  • Gigs/Performances
  • Extras/Fun stuff
  • Work (x5)

Being in the performance industry, one thing I keep very close eye on is my mental health. Careers which involve such highs and lows that come from performances, auditions, and a general lack of regular work hours (all things I love about this career) can lead to your mental health fluctuating. Trinity is a very open and supporting place of study, with them caring a lot about mental health. I’ve benefitted from counselling at various points in my degree and have learnt how to keep an eye on myself during “low” points (e.g. end of the year when everything is done!).

I really enjoyed my exams this year, and felt in my element at Trinity Laban! My final recital had a wonderful turn out and was such an amazing way to end my degree. I also got the wonderful opportunity to perform at Cadogan Hall alongside my duet partner and beloved friend Noelia Cotuna, accompanying her whilst she performed Renie’s Harp Concerto. To top it all off, my results were better than I could have dreamed, and I am so happy to tell you that I will be graduating with First Class Honours and received 84% for my final recital!

Thank you so much for all of your generous help over the last year, I wouldn’t be where I am, being able to take on such wonderful opportunities in my studies and career, if it wasn’t for NYAT.”

This news item was posted on 18 October 2019.

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