As a jazz-lover, I had my sights set on the offer of a placement at Manchester Jazz Festival (mjf) as the perfect way to match my musical passions with opportunities for career development on the MA in Arts Management, Policy and Practice. I worked my preexisting love of jazz into a fascination during my time at Nottingham University studying Music, writing on topics such as Miles Davis’ film scoring, Joni Mitchell and Charles Mingus’ genre-bending collaborations, and rounding it all off with a Dissertation on the legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius (perfectly suited to me as a bass player myself).
Unknowingly, however, a related interest was burgeoning during the Masters programme. My first essay compared the practices of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1960s Chicago, with that of the Tomorrow’s Warriors collective in London, currently responsible for developing some of this country’s biggest names in jazz. I then went on to write a business plan and funding application for my very own jazz and visual arts festival, aimed at providing opportunities for Manchester’s young artists to engage in genuinely collaborative cross-media art-making and gain their first performance experiences. I was then able to put some of these theories into practice in the work that I have been doing at mjf.
After approaching the Artistic Director of MJF, Steve Mead, to discuss my ambitions I was immediately given all the access I required for my research, as well as the opportunity to genuinely participate in delivering the next round of its own talent development programme – Hothouse. Although these programmes are not uncommon in the UK or across the world, Hothouse struck me as unique. It is aimed at providing unsigned musicians at all stages of their career £2,300, 10 hours of 1:1 mentoring, two workshops, a 10-15 minutes performance slot at a showcase attended by industry professionals, as well as ongoing production and marketing support. It was clear that the programme was not just aimed at nurturing artistic talent, but also at developing the adjunct skills necessary for embarking on a career in the music industry.
My involvement began with organising meetings with past participants to gather feedback that could inform the way the programme is run in future rounds. After this, the call for applications was sent out and received a much greater response than in any of the previous rounds. 30 applications were received from artists that spanned the entire Northern region and from a variety of backgrounds. Of these 30 artists, 10 were to be shortlisted and called back for an interview and I was given the privilege of listening through the artists and sitting on the interview panel. The discussions at the interviews were not so much aimed at ticking boxes, but rather investigating the artists’ ideas further, urging them to question their ambitions and really highlight how the scheme could benefit them in realising them. The day was long and tiring, but perhaps the most fulfilling activity that I have been involved in, giving me a taste of what to look forward to in my research and, hopefully, in my future career.