ANONYMOUS COMPOSER

We should all be talking about it more, to be honest. It’s completely normal to have children whilst continuing a creative freelance career but the situation can be made more difficult by keeping it quiet. Thank you, Dance Mama for creating a space to talk about these issues!

Father of one. Multi-award winning composer, creating scores with significant orchestras and companies for 15+ years working across classical music, dance and opera. 

What is the most challenging aspect of working in your art form and being a parent for you?

The most challenging aspect is probably managing my time – carving out time to work. I need lots of time in the day to develop ideas, but also my schedule can be really erratic with evening commitments and residencies requiring me to be away from home. 

 

My partner (who works in media) and I both took a year off working when we adopted our baby girl. I stopped most of my freelance work, and my partner was able to take adoption leave from his job. Now, my daughter goes to a childminder close to our home. It was really important to get that right and know that she is happy and safe during the day.

 

Sometimes I have to turn down work or events in the evenings as my partner and I decided that at least one of us will always be at home for our daughter in the evening.

 

I lead quite a lot of residential education courses. This can be a challenge! I have done four courses since we adopted our daughter at the start of 2017 and I usually manage them by hiring a nice place for us all to stay and taking my mum and dad along with me to help out with childcare.

 

What support did you feel you had from your work when you and your partner were adopting?

I was fortunate to be able to apply for a PRS grant called the Composers Fund. The grant supports mid-career composers who need financial support for any reason relating to their work. It might be for a project, for a recording, studio hire, or childcare costs, which is what I used it for. However, it’s not something everyone can rely on as it’s really competitive with many applications for just a small number of grants. For me and my family though it has been an absolute lifeline. 

 

As the adoption placement date grew closer, I was working at an established conservatoire on a long education project which took place mainly at the weekends and school holidays. I needed to take time off at quite short notice and they were very supportive. They allowed me to take the time I needed off the project, paid, at short notice and managed to replace me for the time I was going to be away.

 

Not all clients I’ve worked with have been as supportive; I’ve had to turn down work or simply end my involvement with projects due to some inflexible approaches I’ve experienced.

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Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?

I feel there should be a clause in freelancers’ contracts clearly outlining rights in relation to maternity/paternity/adoption and shared parental leave. This could vary depending on the size of the organisation but it is something that could really help to ease anxieties surrounding taking time off work to start a family. 

 

From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent working in music?

If you can afford to, don’t work for a bit. Make time to enjoy being a parent but also to understand what’s happened to you and adjust to it!

 

Look after yourself physically. I injured my back initially with all the lifting and carrying because I wasn’t looking after myself properly. Keeping physically fit will really help.

 

And sleep! Make yourself go to bed early, even if you want to stay up late watching a box set, and everything will feel much better!

What changed most for you on your return to work?

 

I’m much more focussed on my work because of the time restrictions. It’s amazing what you can get done in a short period of concentrated time.

 

Sadly, I have experienced some negative attitudes in the industry. Someone high up in my profession even suggested to me that being a parent makes a person less good as a composer! 

 

Composer parents who are primary caregivers certainly face challenges. I know that some people try to hide the fact they are parents when developing new contacts, anxious that it will affect them being offered work.

 

Does parenting help you in your work?

Definitely in my education work with young people. You don’t need to be a parent to be empathetic working with children, but it has certainly deepened my skills. 

 

Does music help you in your parenting?

Absolutely! Our house is full of musical instruments, and we sing and dance with our daughter often. 

 

Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in your industry? 

Musician's Union - Maternity, Adoption & Parental Rights

Musician's Union - Help in times of need

Any other thoughts?

We should all be talking about it more, to be honest. It’s completely normal to have children whilst continuing a creative freelance career but the situation can be made more difficult by keeping it quiet. Thank you, Dance Mama for creating a space to talk about these issues!

 

Images: Pari Naderi, Pierre Tappon, Ben Broomfield

Copyright Lucy McCrudden 2018