January. Time to take a look at the diary. And the accounts. Not too many surprises, except this: in November I spent £86 applying for three summer courses. What's worse is that they are all in the same few weeks of July/August.
Now, I understand that the people watching, reading and listening to applications need to be paid. And I understand that the arts are chronically underfunded - unlike many more traditional employers, most arts organisations don't seem to have a pot of money set aside for recruitment and HR. And, unlike standard recruitment, auditions are usually monitored by 'specialists' in the field, and specialists demand special fees. Hence, why even the conservatoires can get away with asking £100+ in application fees. At least when you apply to conservatoire (in this country, anyway) you are guaranteed an audition...
So there is a money problem. I accept that.
But why should the butt of it lie with us, the struggling, young (and not-so-young) musicians - so desperate for the opportunity to be heard that we will cough up 20, 50, 100 pounds for the privilege? Half the time our application is discarded before we reach the audition table, and even if we make it that far, what are our chances of making the final cut? And if we do - what's going to be the sting in the tail? Participation fees? No expenses? Buying our own costumes? Far too often we pay our application fee, only for the invitation to spend even more money.
There are so many wonderful schemes set up to nurture young artists. In many ways, we are lucky to have such a wealth of opportunities to garner experience from people who have 'been there and done it'. And these wonderful mentors deserve to be paid, and to be paid well. But does anybody behind the audition table ever think about how we are supposed to earn a penny? Let alone save one...
So, in future what should I do? I could put all my eggs in one basket, pay one fee and hope against all the odds that I get lucky. Chances are I would be spending the summer back with my parents, but at least I'd be earning (and saving) some money. I could just go and do what singing work I can get now. Summer courses, further education and Young Artist Programmes are all, essentially, a luxury. But that doesn't say a lot for classical music and equality of opportunity, does it?
Or I could accept that there is no better solution, swallow my pride, and keep paying the fees. That sounds about right.