Being a project musician

 7 September 2015

Ed teaches people of all ages to sing, describing himself as "wildly passionate" about music. He explains how he became interested in community work as a profession and how Nina Simone was the person who got him into music.

"My name’s Ed and I work at the Sage Gateshead. My role is project musician.

"So I work on a variety of projects, ranging from primary school kids up to people over the age of 50, and I run vocal workshops."

Working with the general public 

"When we go into a school, everyone watches the X Factor and so that gives us something to work with. Because they’re enthusiastic about it in one way, that’s all you need really – some kind of enthusiasm – and then you can take that on and develop it and find the best progress for people.

"The best thing about my job is working with the general public and doing workshops with people and seeing how people develop.

Whatever profession you choose, you need to be enjoying yourself.

"I love hearing people sing, but for me the most powerful thing, and the thing I enjoy the most, is seeing people change over the years that they’re in a particular group.

"Seeing how they grow in confidence and how it affects their lives in all the ways that aren’t musical. The social benefits of it are the best thing I think for me.

"My mum’s in one of the choirs I run and she, for years, said she couldn’t sing, and she only came to join this choir because I convinced her that she might enjoy it and I was leading it.

"And over the last year, since I’ve been doing it, her voice has come out of nowhere - and she is an example of someone who was told they couldn’t sing.

"It’s such a dangerous thing to say to someone and it still gets said. It’s so damaging because as soon as someone says you can’t sing, that’s kind of it for you in terms of confidence and in terms of how you feel about yourself."

Entering into music  

"I think when I was six, I wanted to be a firefighter, so that was my early career dream.

"But I was always, always, interested in music. When I was three, apparently my mum put me on her knee and I actually played something that related to a tune on a piano.

The social benefits of music are the best thing for me.

"So she always wanted me to carry on with music, but I didn’t really decide music was going to be my career until I got to the 14/15 year old stage where you have to start thinking about that kind of thing.

"Nina Simone was the person that really got me into music: full stop. When I was about six, my dad used to play it on the car radio and I heard a bit of piano coming through that I really liked. I sat down on the piano and tried to work it out.

'When I was making decisions about my career and weighing up different elements... when I sat down at the piano and was playing, I often used to play Nina Simone.

"That made me sure that, actually, this was something I was wildly passionate about."

Choosing a career path  

"I did a degree in music. My brother's a youth worker in London and I started to experience some of the work that he does, and that really got me interested in community work as a profession.

"So when I finished university, I came back up to the North East where I was raised. The Sage had arrived, which offered exactly what I wanted: community music training.

"So I started work there. I did an 18-month training programme, and then started work fully, doing this work, so that’s how I got here.

As soon as someone says you can’t sing, that’s it for you in terms of confidence.

"I do a bit of teaching on the side, so I teach piano and I teach singing as a separate thing to my main work, which is kind of more group-based and community-based. But I know that if all that fell through, I’d be able to go and teach individual pupils on the side and earn money that way.

"So I think it’s important to have a couple of choices, in terms of creative industries anyway. My parents were incredibly supportive of whatever I wanted to do and they knew that music was my thing.

"Whatever profession you choose, that’s what you’re gonna do for your job, so you need to be enjoying yourself while you’re doing it. I think that’s the key element for any job really.

"Whether it be banking or doing music, it’s the same thing. It’s about passion I think."

This video was originally published on See more videos to help give you career inspiration.

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