Teaching, ensembles, finance and marketing: it's 'ProDev'

BEN INMAN

Friday 9 June. The Prince of Wales room, a location deceptively hard to find amidst the grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall. It’s five to eleven in the morning and I’ve just got to the two sugars at the bottom of my black Americano from Pret. I’m minutes away from arriving at the HC room for the latest engagement in our Fellowship schedule, except there’s a notable difference today, we’re not doing any singing whatsoever. The professional development day, dubbed ‘ProDev’, is to comprise of four sessions led by industry professionals on a variety of topics, with specific focus placed on the relationship between business and the development of young freelance musicians. One minute to eleven. I enter slowly and find myself met by several astounding portraits hung on each of the four walls, there sat around a conference-style square of desks are members of the Fellowship octet, a couple of NYCGB staff and the first of our speakers, Nicola-Jane Kemp.

Nicola, a hugely experienced practitioner, presents the room with an incredibly informative talk on getting started as a singing teacher. Many of the fellows already have some teaching experience, and Nicola’s hour is especially helpful for me because I am entirely unexperienced in teaching of any sort. Among other things, it is great to be told about the practicalities of joining a musicians’ union, and to learn about the importance of taking the initiative as a teacher through exploration of other genres or investigating extended singing techniques, which will enable you to cater for a larger variety of pupils.

Our next speaker is Richard Heason, Director at St John’s Smith Square. Richard hands an SJSS Young Artists Scheme brochure to each of the Fellows in turn, Hearing Richard talk about the scheme and its previous participants is fascinating and it re-affirms thoughts I’d had about the importance that modern-day panels place on connectivity in the social media market place and the applicants that stand before them. Further discussion between us helps to underline that there is much to be gained by presenting one’s already established online following to panels when applying to schemes because it shows a real commitment to maintaining audience relations.

Tax adviser Amanda Dean leads the session immediately after lunch. Amanda’s session is my personal highlight of 'ProDev’ day because it outlines the basics of dealing with HMRC and tax for the self employed which are vital me  in my first year of freelancing, and with a clarity that really helps me to engage.

Finally, we sit with NYCGB’s very own Marketing Manager, Julian Forbes. Throughout our year as Fellows we’ve been in close contact with Jules and it was he who had organised and compered our ‘ProDev’ day with such inspiring individuals. His presentation has at its core the idea of the marketplace, and he asks us to visualise ourselves as sellers within it as a way of understanding the competition we all experience, and to encourage us to think about how we can succeed.

The insights given by four such established professionals will continue to influence all of the Fellows for years to come. I know that my business brain developed on many fronts over the course of Friday 9 June and I will continue to be mindful of my professional development, both on and off social media, as I venture forwards with my freelance career.