The Graduate Interviews: Graduating During a Pandemic
Graduation is a time for celebration. A chance for you to look back at all your hard work and see just how far you've come. As July sees the music world welcome its new intake of music graduates, I've been sadden (but not surprised) to hear from readers and friends that celebratory feelings have been overshadowed by anxiety and doubt. Graduates are terrified that the career they've trained so hard to prepare for simply won't exist in an industry that's been crippled by this pandemic.
So in true "Graduate Interview" spirit, we're here to remind you that you're not alone. That your fears and your struggles are shared by a huge community and are completely justified. You haven't failed. You haven't wasted your time. Life is just throwing us one hell of a curve ball right now so be kind to yourself.
To share with you her experiences of graduating in a pandemic and to lift the lid on how she's spent lockdown, I'm joined by Dasha Schenkman Scholar and Royal College of Music soon-to-be-graduate Geeta Nazareth.
In an “normal” academic year, this month, you would have been graduating from the Royal College of Music with a Bachelor of Music (Hons), how has the pandemic affected your final term?
Coronavirus happen at a crucial time for all final year students as your final term is not only where you perform your final recital but it’s also where you really focus on making the leap from student to professional. Our line of work is largely based on networking and interacting with people which lockdown has made virtually impossible. In terms of my course, I thought I’d been really smart by choosing only performance-based modules so obviously when everything started closing and you couldn’t have practical examinations anymore everything suddenly switched to written assessments or you were marked on the preparation you’d done before March. The final recital itself has been moved to August, so instead of preparing for upcoming auditions we’re all focusing on a delayed recital. It’s a shame because due to social distancing, our final recital will have no audience which was the part I was most looking forward to. These studies have been a long time in the making for all of us and your final recital is a chance to celebrate with the people you’re closest to.
As a freelance violist, how has Covid affected your work outside of your degree?
It’s created more of an unknown than there already was in the music industry. Being a freelance musician comes with a lot of uncertainty as to whether you’ll get a job but now it’s the added uncertainty of whether there even is a job. It can really cause the “what am I doing with my career” stress. For me personally, I was on trial and it was due to come to an end just as lockdown hit. Now, we don’t know if that job will even exist anymore. A lot of work and preparation went into the trial and now that’s almost evaporated - it’s created a lot of limbo and uncertainty.
How have you used your time in lockdown?
I’d love to say; “I came up with this huge practice schedule. I worked out every day. I’m eating really healthily” but… unfortunately it was very much the opposite! I tried at the start and had really good intentions but for me personally it’s been very demotivating. Musicians have this idea that we should always be practising because we love doing what we do (and of course I do too) but I need to have goals/deadlines to work towards and currently without those there it’s been very hard to pick up the viola and play.
What are your dreams for the future and has the uncertainty of the music industry affected that?
Well the aspiration is to obviously find my dream job in the music industry. I mean before Covid happened, my future was always going to involve music but obviously with this added unknown it has really opened up the question of “do I need to do something outside of music and if so, what would it be?” The idea that I’m going to work in music is now no longer a certainty.
What would be your one piece of advice, for people who are graduating like yourself, who are feeling really scared and uncertain about what their future will hold?
We are all in this together – as cheesy as it sounds. Every single one of us is dealing with the same problem, the same uncertainties so in that sense we do have a very large community. All we need to do is be brave enough to reach out and there will be someone there who can help you through it. I think everyone should be still finding ways to make music through virtual platforms so we’re keeping music alive.
Are you graduating from music college this summer or has Covid changed your plans completely? I'd love to hear from you! Comment or drop me a message and send me your story.