This is something I posted recently, using Googledocs as a platform – it was fascinating to watch all the people reading it at the time (little anonymous avatars popped up in coloured boxes at the top – cute). The level of response and volume of heart-warming messages I received were also over-whelming – and I am so grateful to everyone who contacted me.
I will post it in full here, as I left it. It was fresh and felt raw when I wrote it, and I’m resisting the urge to edit it for quite a few reasons.
I have divided this into various section so that many different people who know me at different levels can skip to various paragraphs, in case they know the story to that point.
Between September 2011 and Summer 2012, I experienced something which nearly broke me. I had gained a place at The Royal Northern College of Music on their Masters programme. I was flying so high; I had even secured funding of sorts. Little did I know that this funding was not to be relied upon, and literally days before I was due to actually start studying, this funding fell through.
It was during this scrabbling, improvisatory time of my life that I met Phillip Taylor. Just… wow. I never knew respect and love like it. I was simply astonished that I was lucky enough to meet him, and to be a part of his life? Brilliant.
Meanwhile, I kept getting knockbacks and inevitably my attempts at eking out a living as a clarinettist within spitting distance of the college soon sent me packing, tail between my legs, back to Wales.
It was during this time that I was approached by the University of Bangor. I was met in Morrisons Coffee Shop in Caernarfon by a representative of the University who had heard I had hit a rough time.
He suggested that I study at Bangor under the ATM scheme. I was instantly dubious (RNCM and Bangor are not in the same league performance-wise – to pretend otherwise is to be foolish); at this point, he told me something that was erroneous, though this error was unbeknownst to him at the time: that there was nothing stopping me from studying another Masters at the Royal Northern later on.
This isn’t quite right.
Just to fast-forward a year to the present. I have discovered that, indeed the option is physically there. I am ‘allowed’ to study. However, due to having gained a Masters already at Bangor, to apply for a Masters at the Northern would be to apply for what is known as an ELQ – or to the layman, an Equal or Lower Qualification. (Don’t quote me on this – I think that this is what it stands for though it may not be exact in its wording).
At this point I would like to explain something, by the by. This is something that I did not know about but that makes a lot of sense.
The fees for a Masters course for a UK citizen are as ‘cheap’ (I know in real terms they’re not, but bear with me!) as they are due to subsidies from the Government. This is why International Students are liable to pay a hell of a lot more per year.
Back to my own predicament. Due to my application for an ELQ (i.e. the Masters at the Northern), I would be liable to pay international fees. The Government are simply not willing to help financially if, in their eyes, no educational progression is made.
It makes sense. Reason tells me so. Why should they help fund Masters after Masters if nothing is given back career-wise to the economy? What business sense does that make?
Just to backtrack even further for a minute, back at the time when I was trying (and kinda failing!) to get the funding for my 2011 entry (seems to long ago now!), I worked out that all in all I was looking at sourcing around £27k to go towards two years, broken down thusly:
Fees: £7,000 ish p.a. x 2 = £14,000
Maintenance: approx. £6,500 (approximations calculated by finance department, RNCM) p.a. x 2 = £13,000
That’s a lot.
This year, before I knew the information above, I thought that due to inflation that we could expect the fees to be around £9,000 p.a. If we just assume that living costs had not changed much over the past few years, that brings the figure above to just below £30,000, give or take.
That’s a very lot, and that’s with a lot of assumptions about inflation.
However, to add the approximate figures of the EQL situation to these figures brings it to an eye-watering >£40,000.
My feelings about the matter (WARNING – LOTS OF EMOTIONAL, MELODRAMATIC STUFF)
NB: If you find it uncomfortable/overdramatic to read, I won’t be offended if you exit this text… I just needed to write it down to help get things into perspective emotionally. I have had the same goal for a few years, and having things change so drastically within a space of a few hours has rather left me breathless.
Wanting to study at the Royal Northern has been pretty much at the centre of my universe for about 4 years now. Yet, looking at that figure I just feel that it’s too much, and I don’t just mean just financially.
Hitting walls and setbacks in raising funding are hard enough the first time round. To have the stakes even higher is just too upsetting.
I know some of you will say ‘it’s only a course’, but to me it isn’t. The opportunities there are stupendous (least of all their various orchestral schemes with the Halle and BBC Phil), as well as the contact with the many tutors and musicians from all walks of life. This is not including those moments where you are introduced to something completely new and un-thought-of in your career and life.
Yes there is competition. I know that there may be a chance that I wouldn’t be talented/technically good/competitive enough to benefit from various opportunities. It wouldn’t be perfect as an institution. No institution is. It would be hard, hard work.
I was willing to commit though. I was ready.
I am so heartbroken and a bit lost. I can’t help it.
I’m heartbroken for the thousands of hours of energy and emotion I have put into this. I’m heartbroken for all the support my friends and family have shown me over the years, mostly my parents who have poured literally thousands of pounds into my musical education (35-odd quid per week, every week for about 13 years? Think about it…). They, wonderfully, magnificently shelled out £4,000 for my beautiful Selmer Recital clarinets in my final year. I have yet to pay them back.
I’m heartbroken too for those two, my liquorice sticks, those inanimate objects sitting in my briefcase, for to me they are more than that. They have been my companions since I fell in love with them in that music shop in Leeds.
They’re not feeling beings, and yet I feel like I’ve let them down.
They mean so much to me. They need to be played. Their souls are there, waiting to be expressed by a technician. I hoped to be that technician; I hoped that studying at the RNCM would give me the ‘edge’ I needed to get the best out of them, to teach them my music so that in turn they could sing to the audience what I once taught them.
Maybe my music doesn’t need RNCM? I feel scared, thinking that. My self–esteem as it is doesn’t let me think about what I could achieve on my own. I don’t think I can achieve much more than silliness on my own.
Then again, maybe Silliness is what I need?
I don’t know what to do. For now, Phillip has put his foot down and said that I need to be happy. I think he’s right. I just don’t know what the future entails musically.
I’ll be ok. I just need to find the niches I guess.
UPDATE – click here for some news on the situation!