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Michael Whytock

I'm at my wits end... :/

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Hello all

 

 

I'm at my wits end as the title suggests and need help from anyone, particularly those to whom this may involve.

Let me tell you about myself...

 

I went to a secondary school. Didn't do well in my GCSE's so didn't do A levels and did some music college course instead. However, I went on to complete a BA (hons) in music at Chichester University and an Mmus degree at Southampton University, studying composition under the direction of renowned composer Professor Michael Finnissy.

 

I am an organist. I came into the organ through the piano route, not the route of a chorister. Until coming to university I had never worked with a choir and done any of that music. My experience was as a little village church organist.

During my undergraduate degree I accompanied the chamber choir (to some reasonable standard) and formed and run my own chapel choir (no formal conducting training).

 

During my MMus degree, I was the organ scholar at the parish church in Southampton working with the choir of choral scholars.

 

Now I've left, I have a piano diploma and WILL be taking my ARCO diploma next January.

 

Now the question....why can't I get a church music job? I understand that assistant jobs at cathedrals would probably require cathedral experience but I'm talking about not even getting organ scholarships!

 

I won't mention names but I've sent off 5 application forms for organ scholarships for next year. 2 didn't even invite me to interview. The other three haven't even acknowledged by application form.

 

Can anybody who is a scholar, anyone who works at a cathedral or anyone who has experience interviewing for such posts tell me what they are looking for in a candidate and why.

 

I get declines from churches and cathedrals but, despite me asking for feedback, I don't receive it so I've got idea what part of application form is letting me down? My dad is trained in CV writing and works in a place where he often interviews people so I know that when I send the CV off, it's been checked by my dad and s very much passable.

 

Thanks for a any help

 

Michael

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Michael,

 

I know well the irritations of getting no interviews or responses from applications. I don't work in the music field but during my last period of unemployment I sent off more than 100 applications out of which I didn't even get 5 interviews! I wish you the very best of luck with your jobseeking efforts: I hope you will get something nice and that you won't have to wait too long for it.

 

Dave

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Do you also have the CV checked for grammatical and spelling errors? This is even more important in the case of your covering letter.

 

As a interviewer and line manager in a previous employment (also not in the field of music) this was the first discriminator when receiving lots of applications. Any infelicitous grammar caused an application instantly to be consigned to a bin.

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Do you also have the CV checked for grammatical and spelling errors? This is even more important in the case of your covering letter.

 

As a interviewer and line manager in a previous employment (also not in the field of music) this was the first discriminator when receiving lots of applications. Any infelicitous grammar caused an application instantly to be consigned to a bin.

 

 

=======================

 

 

That would have meant an interview for the late Robert Maxwell, and probable rejection for a dyslexic Richard Branson.

 

My best friend is clumsy with words, cannot read very well and struggles to write. He's worth about £30m and has the sharpest business mind I've ever come across.

 

Best,

 

MM

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Ah yes. I'm not saying that is the best means of recruiting. Simply that, faced with a large number of applications, it is one technique I have seen employed to reduce the number to manageable proportions. Latterly, in that former employment, such reduction techniques were applied before the hiring manager saw any of the CVs and letters.

 

Whether or not such techniques are applied in specific instances, it is well to couch CVs and letters in grammatical terms, with correct spelling (not necessarily that applied by a computer spell checker).

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My best friend is clumsy with words, cannot read very well and struggles to write. He's worth about £30m and has the sharpest business mind I've ever come across.

 

Ah yes. Reminds me of a late colleague of mine, a not exactly unsuccessful businessman who was occasionally known to drive a Bentley when he wanted to give his Jaguar a rest. Thick as two short planks he was - utterly - even by the standards of your truly (and that's saying something), but he was extraordinarily talented at identifying intelligent people to do all the profit-earning things that were beyond his own abilities. I disparage not since of such things are successful businessmen made.* In this particular case, we in the organ world were beneficiaries since he used a proportion of his profits to sponsor an annual series of organ recitals by the greatest and best (which included at least one forum member). A sadly missed organ enthusiast.

 

* No irony or sarcasm intended. It is on exactly the same principle that a china clay pit in Cornwall has been filled with several giant greenhouses with a very significant benefit to the county's wider economy - though in no way could I ever describe Tim Smit as being as "thick as two short planks".

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Hello all I'm at my wits end as the title suggests and need help from anyone, particularly those to whom this may involve. Let me tell you about myself... I went to a secondary school. Didn't do well in my GCSE's so didn't do A levels and did some music college course instead. However, I went on to complete a BA (hons) in music at Chichester University and an Mmus degree at Southampton University, studying composition under the direction of renowned composer Professor Michael Finnissy. I am an organist. I came into the organ through the piano route, not the route of a chorister. Until coming to university I had never worked with a choir and done any of that music. My experience was as a little village church organist. During my undergraduate degree I accompanied the chamber choir (to some reasonable standard) and formed and run my own tchapel choir (no formal conducting training). During my MMus degree, I was the organ scholar at the parish church in Southampton working with the choir of choral scholars. Now I've left, I have a piano diploma and WILL be taking my ARCO diploma next January. Now the question....why can't I get a church music job? I understand that assistant jobs at cathedrals would probably require cathedral experience but I'm talking about not even getting organ scholarships! I won't mention names but I've sent off 5 application forms for organ scholarships for next year. 2 didn't even invite me to interview. The other three haven't even acknowledged by application form. Can anybody who is a scholar, anyone who works at a cathedral or anyone who has experience interviewing for such posts tell me what they are looking for in a candidate and why. I get declines from churches and cathedrals but, despite me asking for feedback, I don't receive it so I've got idea what part of application form is letting me down? My dad is trained in CV writing and works in a place where he often interviews people so I know that when I send the CV off, it's been checked by my dad and s very much passable. Thanks for a any help Michael

 

=================================

 

Having had time to look at the details of this plea for help, I just wonder if it isn' an example of someone being over-qualified?

 

I'm probably very out of touch with church-music generally, but I am old enough to recall the stable days when the institution of church-music was predictable and shared at varying degrees across a range of churches, from cathedrals downwards. Even university shcolarships were often attached tp specific places of worship...Hull/Beverley, the various University College Chapels at Oxbridge and so on. In other words, it tends to be an undergraduate learnig opportunity; perhaps based on the quite ancient principle of apprenticeships, which once dominated the professions, and where the principle reward was free tution and involvement with professionally led music.

 

Church music has changed SO much, and although the cathedrals stagger on in an uncertain and changing climate, most other churches have changed the style of music used in worship. In fact, we are probably nearer the American model nowadays, where the organist is either just a hired organist, or more likely, may be the musical director of choirs, praise bands, orchestras and whatever else they happen to have. What it means, is that with only 48 (?) anglican cathedrals in the UK, (some of which will have an educational/practical link with a place of higher education as the source of organ-scholar), a few of the more enlightened RC cathedrals, a few major collegiate and abbey foundations as well as the VERY important parish-churches. the actual availability of outsourced organ-scholarships is probably quite small or even close to non-existent.

 

The only organ-scholar I know at the moment is Elizabeth at Leeds RC Cathedral, and she has just started undergraduate studies at Huddersifled University....again, an example of someone mixing a music degree education with the specialism of church music as an additional area of study. I have absolutely no idea how many of the major parish churches have organ-scholars, but Halifax and Leeds certainly do or at least recently did....again I'm out of touch slightly. I'm not quite sure as to where organ-scholarships lead.

 

It seems to me that the most successful are those who don't go into the cathedral organ loft, but instead, diversify and find careers in other areas of music; perhaps even radio broadcasting, recording comanies or the musical press.. I know none of this helps very much, but the current state of change and the financial constraints imposed by a decline in formal religion need to be kept in mind, and were I to advise anyone to-day, I might be tempted to suggest that it is an increasingly lost cause in all but the few select places.

 

What we must never do is feel bad about it, because I can tell you that in Hungary for instance, there are some stupendous organists, but absolutely no jobs specifically for them. The very best maange to earn a living teaching, playing concerts and making recordings, but they don't survive purely as organists; that's for sure.

 

Best,

 

MM

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I just wonder if it isn' an example of someone being over-qualified?

 

I'm out of touch too, but I would be very surprised indeed if this were the case.

 

At least some cathedral organ scholarships go to those who have been brought up in the cathedral (or equivalent) tradition and are thus already acquainted with a lot of the choral repertoire (even if only as a singer), play to a high standard and understand how cathedral music ticks. If such players are seen to have the desire and potential to make a career in cathedral music I would think any cathedral would snap them up as a scholar - and having a few organ diplomas under your belt isn't going to harm your chances either. Here's one example of this, but there are others: http://www.simonhoga...k/pages/profile.

 

Against this level of previous experience and expertise Michael might have his work cut out to compete, but I also know for a fact that not all cathedral organ scholars are so experienced, so I am really at a loss to suggest why he has been so sidelined.

 

Another factor is that cathedral organists do talk to each other and are likely to be fairly aware (if only at second or third hand) of young talent on the scene. I would imagine that getting yourself seen and heard on courses like Oundle and the RCO days would be no bad thing.

 

But most of the above is just guesswork on my part. I hope Michael had some helpful advice from mgp.

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You may well be absolutely right 'Vox', and that brings us back to the "apprenticeship" route of the old school....a nod here, a wink there....knowing the right people etc.

 

Of course, the other factor may be the increased competition for the few available scholarships; no doubt as a result of a broadly din#minishing leve of church music as we would understand it.

 

How many higher education institutions now offer organ-scholarships, I wonder?

 

Clearly, I am very out of touch and probably have nothing to add of any great value, but best wishes to Michael all the same.

 

Best,

 

MM

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