Blog by Kate Blackstone, project manager for 21st Century Musician.

It’s now week three of my job here at YCAT, and I have found myself in a reflective mood. September is just around the corner. It’s a time where I would usually be thinking about a new academic year, as a teacher and a university student, but this year is slightly different. I am no longer a university student. In truth, I graduated from the university in February 2020, but time has moved differently over the last year and a half. I feel like I spent a lot of 2020 and 2021 in a state of suspended animation, so I still think of myself as a relatively new PhD graduate, which is why it’s still strange this September not to be going into a new academic year as a student. My role at YCAT now means that I have cut down on my teaching hours quite significantly, so unlike previous years where I have been shoehorning different schools onto different days and trying to plan my week out so that I don’t spend its entirety on the M62, this year I’ll only have one day to be thinking about. Sadly, I still envisage it being challenging timetable-wise but I do now have strategies in place to deal with that (watch this space for my tips on staying sane whilst organising your teaching timetable).

What I have mainly found myself reflecting on this week is the feeling of renewal that often comes with September. The academic year begins, arts organisations’ seasons start, UK parliament sits after their recess, even the Premier League starts in mid-August, so it’s almost September. Call me institutionalised, but the years I have spent in education, whether it be as a teacher or as a student, always tend to give September a fresh, excited feel: a feel of possibilities yet to explore and the thrill of the road yet to travel. It’s fitting, then, that I’m looking ahead to the season with YCAT with the same sort of anticipation and trepidation. What possibilities could I be exploring? And, perhaps more importantly, what are early career musicians thinking as they begin their Septembers and explore their own possibilities? September can be daunting, especially this year when it feels like so much of the arts industry is gearing up to restart after a quiet year and a half. I know all too well of the challenges that many music graduates experience when faced with their first September out on their own without their institution, but funnily enough my research never took into account how a global health event might affect those! If you’re a music graduate, has the pandemic changed your perspective on your career plans? Could YCAT be supporting you differently?

Please share your views via this questionnaire. I promise that it’s short, and unless you would like to give a lot of detail, you really don’t have to. It will help us to structure a whole year of 21st Century Musician resources and events. They’re not just for new graduates: resources are designed for anyone under the age of 35. In the meantime, we are really looking forward to kicking off this September with a programme of events to put the energy into this season, starting with a ‘virtual bootcamp’ of quick daily activities, and culminating in in a series of live events in the final week of September. 

Thanks so much in advance for your time. Enjoy the rest of your Summer - take some time to relax - and I'll see you soon, hopefully at an event of some description!


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