Community Music graduate Sinead shares her journey into singing and community music practice
From original article Graduate Diaries by Gemma Hirst
Name: Sinéad Livingston
Subject Studied: Community Music
University: University of Sunderland
Year Graduated: 2013
What is your new/current role?
Singer and Community Choir Leader
What does that mean exactly?
I help people access singing without being too music theory based. I arrange songs, and teach them using call and response techniques. I record on my kindle fire, and teach it from there. My main duties also include allowing people to relax and have fun…. And a heck of a lot of driving and lugging a piano around!
How long did it take you to get a job ie Years/Months/Weeks from Graduating?
To get to where I am now took me four years, and in that four years I was a carer, and also worked at an arts organisation, but paperwork was definitely not my forte. I volunteered at Spark Fm on their arts and participation radio programme, Artyparti, which I loved and kept my foot in the community arts door in the North East.
When you applied for the job, what was the application/interview process like?
With my line of work, as self employed, sometimes there aren’t interviews. Some of my work has come from good recommendations which is slightly scary but lovely too. I lead choirs at arts centre Washington and also Sunderland empire. The interview for the arts centre was basically, I lead a session… And the group liked me so asked me back. There was an interview process for the Sunderland community Chorus, but the process was very friendly, and again, they asked me to have a go leading the session, and again, it was successful. Previously to the past year, I had done cover work for different singing groups and basically just kept on saying yes to opportunities!
How long have you been working in your new job?
On and off since I graduated
Did you think this is what you would be doing after you graduated?
I knew I needed to do something in music after graduation, and I also knew I had to keep working at it. I’m still learning every day, but I’ve built up a great network of other choir leaders who I know I can approach for support, and friends have approached me too. It’s all about helping each other out. Joining choir related Facebook groups has helped too. It can seem like a lonely world sometimes!
What have you learnt about yourself since working in your new role?
I have learnt that a diary is very important and I have learnt that persevering pays off. I have also learnt that I don’t fit into any particular boxes. I love working with people, and helping people and I would probably find it hard to do anything else. I would think about going back in to caring if I absolutely had to though. I really hope that doesn’t actually happen! I have started to realise the value of what I do, money wise. I find money so difficult and would do this job for free if I could, but I had to put my foot down with a firm hand recently when I realised that what I do, is important and should be looked at like a job, not just a hobby. Although it does feel like I’m getting paid for a hobby. Is it really so bad getting payed for something you enjoy?! I don’t know…. I suppose I still struggle with the idea…
Have you used your skills or learnt new ones during your time at your new job?
I lead singing groups at uni, and loves it so I draw on those experiences still, and also still reflect on sessions which is something I learned at uni. New skills would be working on my piano playing skills I think, as well as learning how to do invoices and learning about how to do tax returns….. I really wish we’d covered that at some point at uni.
Have there been any challenges/surprises ?
Challenges, I suppose, are trying to build up some form of momentum. Getting experience, and getting paid. Surprises are the amount of absolutely marvellous people I’ve met, and worked with along the way and who have helped me too.
And last of all, what advice can you give for Graduates who are looking for a job in their chosen industry?
Don’t become complacent after graduation. Get stuck in right away. Say yes to opportunities too, because you never know where they will lead.