Musical Life

The life of... a composer, performer and educator

Interview with Kerry Andrew
 
Kerry Andrew is a multi-award winning English composer, performer, writer and educator. Alongside her extensive catalogue of published instrumental and choral works, she performs as You Are Wolf, and is also a member of several successful groups including Juice Vocal Ensemble, Metamorphic and Dollyman. Kerry’s work is varied and eclectic and readily draws critical acclaim.
 
Briefly explain the areas of music you work in.
I am a composer and performer who chiefly works in classical choral/experimental vocal music, education and community music. I also work in folk, jazz, music theatre, improvisation, and a tiny bit of broadcasting and writing.
 
What steps would you recommend students take to try and become a paid musician?
Initially at least, say yes to everything and do some things for little money - but not too much for free! You have to give your work worth; enter competitions, do summer schools where you can, and make connections. More than anything, do it yourself - put on your own gigs (you probably won’t make any money in these ones), make your own ensembles, be as pro-active as you can. Absolutely do not expect opportunities to come to you, and don’t wait for the big break. You’re a thousand times more likely to have lots of little breaks.
 
Support other people - create a network of musicians and promote each other. A successful person celebrates the work of others as much as their own.
 
What five tips would you give to someone for working successfully in a professional environment?

  • Always be on time, or early.

  • Be clear on what your fees will be, and don’t take less.

  • Always be ready to recommend other people for jobs.

  • Create work/opportunities for other people.

  • Be open-hearted, cheerful, pragmatic, dependable.

 
How proficient/flexible do you need to be in composition or performing?
Very! Never assume that there is only one way to do something. A good musician thinks on their feet.
 
Is this something you can make a living from?
Yes! But don’t necessarily expect your money to come from one way of working - it’s very likely that you’ll play, teach, compose, teach some more, lead workshops, promote yourself until you are sick, write an article, conduct something, put on a series of concerts etc.
 
How important is networking?
Networking can feel cynical and I personally hate the whole ‘working the room’ thing, but nonetheless, thinking about networking in terms of sharing skills and experiences is good.
 
If you could look back and give yourself one piece of advice when you started out, what would it be?
Do more, and do it now! I wish I’d started things a bit earlier, but it’s easy to say that in hindsight. Make the most of free resources at college!
 
Is there anything else you would say to a musician at the start of their career which you think would be useful?
Don’t set your heart on one thing. You’re going to be a musician but roll with the punches and grab the opportunities, and you will be fabulous!

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