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  • Nina Perry

"How did you get to where you are now?" - a question from a composer at the start of their journey.

"How did you get to where you are now?" This was a question put to me recently by someone who is looking to carve a career in composing - they got in touch after hearing music I had written for the BBC radio 4 series 'Outsiders'. I thought I would share my response as a blog post to create further discussions around mentoring and career development in the creative arts.


How did you get where you are now?


This question immediately leads me to ask myself many further questions such as:


Where am I on a path as a composer and creative practitioner?


How is this being externally perceived by others and internally perceived by myself?


Perhaps the aspiring composer who got it touch sees where I am as somewhere they would like to be. Perhaps it looks like, I have arrived somewhere. So I would start by answering your question with asking you further questions:


What does this place of arrival look like to you?


As an example let's take what inspired you to get in touch - my composing the music for 'Outsiders"


Is it being commissioned by the BBC?


Being paid for creative work?


Being involved with creative work that speaks to your values as an artist?


Is it creating positive collaborative relationships?


Is it being immersed in the joys and pains of creating something?


Is if following a love for radio?


There are no right or wrong answers - but your answers will give you useful information about what is important to you, and the direction you wish to go in.


The journey to where I am now has not been linear, it's challenging to try and quantify this journey, even though I've spent a great deal of time reflecting on my practice doing a PhD.


But today, in this moment I've come up with 3 things that have helped me get where am I now as a composer and creative practitioner:


1 - BELIEF - There's been belief - just enough - from myself and others - that what I create is of value. There have been times when this has diminished, there's been times I've had to, or needed to step away, but ultimately I've believed that the arts are really important to society, that this is my vocation, and me being creative is my way of contributing to the world. Very importantly, others have believed that too - I've had support, encouragement and help along the way. There's also been many obstacles and what's felt like a lack of support at times - Navigating it all has developed the tenacity needed for the journey.

2. - CURIOSITY - My curiosity has kept me engaged in activities and ideas, giving me a willingness to explore and learn. I've been curious to venture into they unknown territory composing brings into being - I never know where I'm going when I'm composing, and I enjoy that. I have studied a great deal, and nearly all of my formal study has taken me somewhere, but not necessarily where I thought it might, but everything studied has been directly or indirectly valuable in some way.


3. - CONNECTION - There's been a need and desire to connect, with myself, my inner world, my emotions, ideas and visions, and with other people, and their emotions, ideas and visions. A need to connect with the material soulful natural world around me, and with audiences. I deeply value all of these connections, I've discovered that they provide me with a much needed support system and feed my curiosity.


Every creative practitioner will take their own unique path, they may learn from others - those seen as having more experience at that time, but ultimately the map is self-defined. The secret may be having the courage - to find and follow our own constantly evolving map amidst the noise, opinions of others and all the external demands and obstacles... That for me is an ongoing journey of discovery, a journey that I never stop feeling like I'm at the beginning of ... over and over.... and over again.


So what makes you curious? With whom and what do you want to connect? What are you believing about your creativity, and the value of the arts in society? Who is believing in you and your creative work? Do you need to foster more support for you to find and keep following your own map?


If you are interesting in joining me as a mentee then do get in touch. There is a charge for 1-2-1 session, but I am looking into facilitating a subsidised group programme alongside other creative practitioner development courses. Please do get in touch to register your interest.


If you're a music creator looking for free mentoring then you may be interested in the Ivors Academy & Help Musicians Music Mentoring scheme - I have been a mentor on this scheme recently and hopefully will be again.