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  • Writer's pictureCarol Bowden

Three Years As A Freelancer

It's now been three years and four months since I accepted redundancy from Sage Gateshead (now named The Glasshouse International Centre for Music), the music organisation I had worked with for over 16 years. It was a terrifying prospect to step away from the safety of working for an organisation, with the benefits of sick and holiday pay and the support of a team of colleagues. I also, along with so many other people, was concerned about whether there would be any work for a community musician post-covid. However, I now view it as the best thing that could have happened to me.

I had just started a MA in Community Music at York St John University and had to put that on hold for a year so that I could find my freelancing feet. That year I had a number of rich conversations with fellow community musicians and the support that I got from them was amazing. They recommended me for projects, brought me on board with them, shared their knowledge and expertise, laughed and raged over numerous cups of coffee, and generally gave me the confidence to keep going. The conversations I had with them spurred me on. I returned to York St John to complete my MA and used this experience to research how other community musicians in the North East survived during and post-pandemic.

I am now so busy with a wonderful range of projects and have never been happier in my work. I work with a number of charities and small organisations using music with babies and young children with care experience, with families recovering from domestic abuse, with adults with learning and mental health issues, primary schools, teacher CPD and singing for wellbeing with adults. I deliver training in using music-making with babies and young children, children with autism, I am a Board Member at Sound Sense and also on the Board of Trustees at MERYC England.

Looking back, I can hardly believe that all of this has happened in just over three years. I feel incredibly lucky that I had the experience I gained from working at Sage Gateshead, and how transferrable my skills are for a range of projects. There's no other job I could think of doing that is better than getting to hang out with a range of groups of people, no matter their age, and sing and make music with them, empowering them and building their confidence and making so many connections with each other in their families and in their communities through music making together.

Making music has made me and has gotten me through so much. I can't wait to see what my next three years will look like!

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