I hope you’re all having a good start to the week. I’m kicking the week off with a new Career Inspiration interview. For those of you who’re new to Career Inspiration, the aim is to help people looking for career ideas, a career change or simply an insight into what others do.
It’s very hard to know what you want to do in life and I’ve always loved finding out about what others do and the journey they took to get there. So, I hope you enjoy today’s inspirational interview with Laila, a freelance musician and business owner.
Please tell us a little about what you do.
I work in the field of music and performing arts. Like most people in this field I work freelance and so my work is very varied. I run my own business WOLF PACK and it’s sister project Quizcats, both of which are concerned with music events. I occasionally do other things like event planning and programming, writing articles and papers, teaching, photography and promoting.
When did you discover your passion for music?
When I was about 14.
What did you study at university and how has it benefited your career?
I studied Classical Music at Goldsmiths (BMus) and then Advanced Musical Studies at Royal Holloway (MMus). The obvious benefit is in my contacts and having such a huge network of friends, colleagues and peers – music is a hugely collaborative process.
Academically, I constantly use the skills I gained – especially from Goldsmiths where I took modules in things I was interested in without necessarily seeing a place for them in my future. Of course those are the skills I now use daily! Again, at Goldsmiths there was a very active student body and a very diverse set of music and practises; this led me to start my own ensemble at Holloway (during my Masters) inspired by my time at Goldsmiths. After winning a grant and receiving business support from that institution, the ensemble developed into my business.
How long have you been teaching for?
I started tutoring during sixth form. The head of music encouraged me as she thought I had natural teaching and leadership skills – I thought she was mad! I got my first paid teaching job just before starting university.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
With young kids I love seeing them get inspired and sharing the sense of satisfaction they get as they progress. With older students I really love being able to share the things they are passionate about; suggesting careers that might suit them or introducing them to things that may become very important parts of their lives. It sounds cheesy but it’s not really that long since I was doing A Levels and choosing university myself – it’s a strange and exciting time, and I see it as a privilege that we teachers get to share that and help our students. It’s a unique dynamic.
I never did! It just sort of happened! It was basically a hobby, we won a grant and then before I knew it we were being offered office space and I was on an entrepreneurship scheme. It was never planned.
Please tell us more about Quizcats.
Quizcats is a themed pub quiz hosted by a live 10-piece band. In between the quiz rounds the band play and the audience can choose to come and sing karaoke style with the band. After the quiz ends there’s a big disco! Our next concert is Disney-themed – so a Disney quiz, Disney costumes, Disney karaoke and a Disney disco. You can find out more at Quizcats. It’s had a great response so far and I’m so pleased – we had 150 people in Mickey ears jumping around to a storming rendition of ‘Zero To Hero’ last time. To watch that happening and know you’re responsible is crazy.
Have your friends and family been supportive of your career decisions?
I think my friends have; to be honest I only have a tiny amount of friends who aren’t in the industry themselves. It’s never been like “oh I support your choice to be a performer” because we’re all doing similar things.
My Dad was not at all supportive of me doing music – I actually got kicked out of the house during my A-Levels as they decided they couldn’t financially support my life decisions! I’m not sure they support me now, but all in all I’m doing alright for myself and I like to think they’re proud of that.
If it’s ok, I think I’d like to add here that anybody facing similar battles with their parents about going into the arts should be prepared for a long struggle – it’s not impossible but it’s hard and it gets cold and lonely without family around. Make sure you’ve got good friends around you and reach out to your teachers, your mentors, your peers. You can reach out to me if you like! There’s no point in devoting your life to something in order to make somebody else happy.
I wish there was a typical day! It’s so varied! I have to be super-scheduled to make sure I get everything done as I’m always juggling about 3-4 jobs. It’s rare that I have even a full day dedicated to one specific thing.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
Personally, I get really upset about people not coming to shows of my own music (my songs and WOLF PACK). I’m normally good at detaching myself from my work, but I just pour myself into my those performances and when people don’t come it makes me feel so depressed. It’s actually worse with friends; I find it very hard not to take it personally when friends repeatedly don’t come to the more personal gigs. You have to remember even though it feels like you are baring your soul, to everyone else it’s just another gig and you’re just another person – they’re under no obligation to care about your music just because they’re your friend. But it’s hard!
I even get this with my blog sometimes. You have to appreciate the 1 person who clicks through to the song and not take the 99 who didn’t personally. It’s strange because I’m unconcerned with the actual page views! I guess it’s just hard not to see my songs as an extension of myself. It’s definitely my biggest area of weakness and something I’m working on!
What keeps you motivated?
I’m not sure, I just am. I’m a bit of a workaholic – I get it from my Dad. I think I just have a brain that’s constantly firing out ideas and reminders and if I didn’t work hard I’d lose track of everything.
What direction do you hope to take your career over the next year?
I’d like Quizcats to grow a bit bigger and become more successful, and I’d like to have a bigger audience for my own music.
Finally, do you have any tips for others wanting to pursue a career as a freelance musician?
Stay in touch with everybody you ever meet!
I want to say a huge thank you to Laila for taking the time to share her story with us. I wish her the best of luck in 2015 and hopefully I’ll be able to make it to a gig when I’m next in London. I hope you all found the interview as interesting and inspiring as I did.