Prison recordings, Uni students, career pondering

It is one of those weeks where there seems to be so much going on, I can’t get my thoughts straight enough to write a new blog post. It is all good stuff though – I feel like I am about to emerge from the wilderness of Too Much Work, in Too Little Time, into a period of comparable calm.

This week marks the final week of the Prison Project. We are at the recording stage and the musicians, DF Sound Designer and I spend Monday in the studio. Tomorrow (Friday) we will be joined by Mr B, the guitarist and music teacher based in the prison. All the prisoners and children we have worked with are preserved in the project via the recordings we made in the workshops.

Monday’s in-studio time was great. We listened to some of the tracks that DF and I have put together, interweaving voices with music from our many improvisations, and added some further solos, riffs and  vocals. Altogether we will have about ten tracks. Tomorrow we will get the guitar tracks down, record another solo Bach piece, and when we’re all done go for celebratory lunch, as it has been quite a bonding journey for us all.

Also this week, my 9am class at the University performed their end-of-term compositions. These are first-year Bachelor of Education students, completing a Primary Classroom music unit over 9 weeks, and they have to create an original composition, inspired by a chosen stimulus, working in small groups. I was thoroughly impressed with their work. Their pieces had structure and clarity, were very well-rehearsed, took risks with the new music skills they have been learning, were bold and innovative…. it was fabulous to see the performances one after the other. I don’t think I have ever had all the groups in a class score so highly.

Today I met with SY, the drama and story artist I collaborated with for a Professional Development day for teachers earlier this year. We met up to talk through the various pitfalls of freelance work as an artist working in schools and with teachers, designing and teaching content. I wanted to pick her brains about conference work, and how she sets about generating new work. She had lots of useful things to share with me, but even more importantly, it was so valuable to be able to sit down together and talk through the work, and various issues that arise with different employers. We talked a lot about money – setting fees, negotiating and communicating these agreements without putting people’s noses out of joint who think you should be cheaper.

I have been doing a bit of reading about Teaching Artist issues lately (as I ponder my future existence and if I want to stay in this line of work for much longer) and want to share a couple of interesting articles. The first (here) is a very comprehensive set of ground rules for artist-school partnerships; the second (here) a ‘wish-list’ for Teaching Artists. Both come from the United States, where issues seem similar to here, but where perhaps dialogue is more established.

I am thinking a lot at the moment about a career change. I am good at what I do – really good – and dedicated, with a growing profile, but the money is so poor! As life gets more and more expensive I have to consider how sustainable the work I have chosen to pursue actually is. A few years doing something less artistic could be a good way to go. I don’t know though. I would miss it. And I have worked so hard to build what I have. No decisions yet – and no rush! My main priority in 2008 is to finish my Masters. But after that….who knows?  I am thinking about that time, at the moment.

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