60 Second Interview - Professional Musician

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Photo of a microphone, career in music

Claire Waterhouse is a full time professional musician from London, currently working and living in Germany. Claire talks us through how she followed her strongest suit, music, and made a living out of it.

Name: Claire Waterhouse 

Company: Freelance 

Industry: Music Education 

What is your job: Music Education Specialist 

How long have you been doing this job? Almost five years 

Education

University: University of London, Royal Holloway

Degree Subject: Music (BMus)

A-Levels: Music, History, Communication Studies

What was your very first job?

I got my first job when I was 16, as a waitress in a pub. I worked there for 2 years, and enjoyed meeting new people, and feeling my first taste of independence at making my own money! I saved all my tips in a box by my bed.

What did you want to do when you were at school?

For a while I wanted to be a vet, but the sciences weren't my strong point, so I realised that wasn't an option, and so wasn't sure for a while. I knew I wanted to work with music, as that was the thing I was best at.

What made you want to do your current job?

I lived in London for 4 years and worked as a musician, then this summer I had the opportunity to relocate to Germany. I knew I wanted to keep working with music, but obviously the language difference was going to be an issue. So I contacted several international schools, and one school wanted a woodwind specialist to work on a new elective programme, as well as delivering performing arts workshops with kindergarten - it felt like the perfect role!

How did you get there?

With the performing arts company I worked for in London, I built up a lot of experience of working with children in various primary schools. They also supported me through a two year Post Graduate Diploma in Performing Arts Leadership. Outside of that, I also worked as a performing and recording musician, as well as a private instrumental tutor.

Before moving to London, I wasn't sure exactly what area of music I wanted to get into after uni, so I spent lots of time gaining experience. I did an internship with a small operatic company, worked for a music publisher once a week, had work experience at a music college, as well as working for a children's charity to build up savings.

When I knew I was relocating to Frankfurt, I contacted international schools there with a brief introduction and explanation about myself, and asked if we could have a Skype meeting to discuss any opportunities. The first school I emailed replied the next day, and I visited the school for an interview 3 weeks later!

What is a typical day at work like?

My working week varies quite a lot. When I'm needed at one of the schools, I drive half an hour into the hills to its smaller campus. I teach the woodwind elective, then deliver the after school club for Kindergarten, and I now stay late to teach piano to the children of teachers at the school. I liaise closely with the school's 2 music teachers who deliver the strings and piano elective to check how progress is going, and discussing what targets we want to achieve by the end of the year. I also feedback to the pupils' homeroom teacher, who is like their form tutor, to let them know how they are progressing, and raise any issues with behaviour. I also often do some substitute music teaching.

When I'm working from home, I write my workshop and lesson plans. I also go to German lessons, and practice my clarinet, flute or saxophone. When it's time to teach instrumental lessons, I either drive or cycle to a pupil's house.

What’s the best thing about your job? 

The creative freedom I have, and the enjoyment that comes from helping children create and perform music. It's especially rewarding doing my performing arts club with the kindergarten children, as they grow in confidence and become more expressive and brave each week.

What is the most challenging thing about your job? 

With the woodwind elective, eight pupils are learning the saxophone or clarinet from scratch, so it's a constant challenge to divide my time equally between the group, ensuring they all make the same progress. Sometimes a pupil needs some extra support with a new technique or note, and others might be progressing much faster.

What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?

Try to build up as much experience as you can, and don't wait for job vacancies to appear on websites - be proactive and make contact. Offer to meet people to discuss opportunities, or if places say they might have work in the future make sure you follow that up. It takes time to build up work as a freelancer, as you're often relying on word of mouth, so be very patient. Talk to as many people as you can – you never know what opportunities will come from people you meet. If you get the opportunity to live and work abroad – take it! Timing will never be perfect but just embrace the opportunity. 

What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?

I wish I'd known sooner what I wanted to do with music. I fell into working with children and doing performing arts by accident! I wish I'd starting building up experience and relevant contacts whilst I was at university, and not waited until after.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I am currently planning and writing my own workshops which I hope to start delivering in the new year, so in five years I would like it to be my full time job and main source of income. I am planning on only spending a few years in Germany and then moving on somewhere else in the world, so I plan to be rolling out my workshop models across whichever city I end up in!

If Claire's career inspires you, read more about where studying music can take you.

Photo: Declan Fleming/Etch Photo/Down for the Count

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