Guest Post: The Secret Life of a… ‘MAASer’

Our Music Animateur Apprentice Scheme is a project very close to our hearts and one that we have been successfully running for several years. Each academic year, six participants, or ‘MAASers’ as they’re affectionately known, take part in a year-long professional development residency with us, designed to help these musicians at the start of their careers take their first steps in exploring work within learning and community settings.

We were delighted to have 2010-11 participant Penny Desbruslais share some thoughts on her experience…

To work as an animateur has been my dream for a very long time – I even started my application to Spitalfields saying ‘this is all I have ever wanted to do’. I have always wanted to make music accessible, and give participants a sense of ownership – doing this as a job is absolutely unimaginable. But now it has happened. I’m so grateful to Clare, Tamsin and James for taking a chance on me.

This year has completely changed my outlook on music. As a performer, the overwhelming proportion of my singing work is of the ‘hit and run’ variety, where I sight read and go, with very little rehearsal or creativity. The work I have done with Spitalfields Music has engaged my musical creativity and this has really benefited my performance. I really enjoy learning new skills and repertoire, and I look forward to keeping improving and learning for the rest of my career.

When I began in September, I thought that I had quite a lot of experience in assisting and leading projects, only some in music, but also teaching and in theatre. It became obvious very quickly, though, that the expertise of people like Sam, Issy, James, Zoe, Jack and Laka is honed over many years of practice and preparation, as well as great instincts and interaction. I resolved to rise to the challenge. My Spring term was very difficult – juggling a part-time job, baby and as much workshop work as I could fit in. I am proud both that I managed it for a few months, and that I have now made the choice to go full throttle in trying to find workshop work.

I have done lots of random bits of shadowing throughout the year – I have learned so much from each of the leaders and projects I have shadowed. Sometimes it has been really helpful to see people make small mistakes and recover from them with the group, just so I know that no session is perfect, it’s what you make of it that counts! Over the year I have learned that the more experience you have, the less you need to meticulously plan every second of a session, as it gets easier to react to the group’s needs. I have also learned what it means to be a leader, that a lot of the time it is enabling the group to reach a consensus and creating something together, rather than shoehorning their creativity into your own plan.

Thank you so much Spitalfields Music for helping me to find my career, and I hope to work with you all again in the future!

Penny Desbruslais

For more information on the Music Animateur Apprentice Scheme please visit our website.

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