ENTERTAINMENT

Rishi Sunak has been ridiculed for saying musicians can continue their education. These professionals have taken over the baton


When theaters and concert halls closed, thousands of musicians were stripped of their livelihoods without knowing when they could perform again.

Indeed, Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned this week that many will have to pursue new careers – which sparked outrage among the cast.

But as ANTONIA HOYLE reveals, some musicians have already made some very big job changes while waiting for the curtain to come up …

Lockdown made me make a living

Tony Robertson, 49, lives in Huddersfield with his wife and three sons. Tony is a conductor and trombonist and currently works as a Hermes delivery man.

Tony Robertson, 49, lives in Huddersfield with his wife and three sons. Tony is a conductor and trombonist and currently works as a Hermes delivery man

My musical life began with the trombone at the age of 11 after discovering the instrument in a band at our local village festival. I later learned to conduct while studying at the Royal Northern College of Music and worked as a conductor with brass and wind orchestras.

Managing more than 26 ego musicians is a double-edged sword. When someone is out of whack it can be stressful, but you can control performance.

Meanwhile, I toured my trombone with the American band Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and appeared in the 2019 movie Downton Abbey.

As soon as the lockdown was announced and my concerts canceled, I started looking for driving jobs.

They appealed for flexibility and I was offered a job at Hermes that day.

I lost around £ 2,500 in musician income in the first few months after the lockdown, but now I make between £ 1,000 and £ 1,500 a month working four hour shifts, five days a week.

The money is not as good as musicians' work, but the pay is more regular. Although I deliver up to 150 packages a day, it's up to me when I start and when I finish.

I've got to know my clients – people look at me differently when they realize that I'm a professional musician.

My baton hasn't gotten out of hand since the lockdown, but I hope the music industry gets back on track. It seems crazy that planes can be packed but the auditoriums are still empty.

I dream of music on Sainsbury's 2am shift

Rosanne Duckworth, 31, is a London trumpet player who now works for Sainsbury's online division

Rosanne Duckworth, 31, is a London trumpet player who now works for Sainsbury's online division

Rosanne Duckworth, 31, is a London trumpet player who now works for Sainsbury's online division. She is engaged to Trystan, 32, a chef.

None of my unsociable hours as a trumpeter could have prepared me for my new job as I was packing Sainsbury's groceries for online customers between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. That's why I invested £ 70,000 in six years of musical education.

Like most musicians, my mental health has suffered from the pandemic – not just because I am not playing, but because the camaraderie I have shared with other musicians has been taken away. When you work so closely together you form very strong bonds.

As well as playing for functional and soul bands, I've also played in various West End productions, including shows like Wicked and Little Shop Of Horrors. When the curtain goes up and the pit is pitch black, the atmosphere is electrifying and I came out full of adrenaline.

When the ban began, I was privately teaching the trumpet and had booked numerous engagements. Now I feel like a caged bird.

In April I applied to Sainsbury's online division in Sydenham, south east London. Times are so tough that I'm grateful to wake up at 1:15 a.m. for my start at 2 a.m.

In the West End, I made about five times what I was at Sainsbury. I had to cut everything from food to clothes. I started a macrame business, alterKNOT, which sells plant hangers and wall hangings, which helped unleash some creativity. But I will not give up my musician dreams. Music is in my veins.

I'm known as the violinist on the roof

Robin Martin, 41, is a violinist from south east London who now works as a builder

Robin Martin, 41, is a violinist from south east London who now works as a builder

Robin Martin, 41, is a violinist from south east London who now works as a builder. He is married to Emma Tring, 41, a singer. They have two sons; Sid, nine, and Arthur, six.

On my first day, my building colleagues called me "the violinist on the roof" when we were removing the tiles together. They jump around the scaffolding while I climb ladders like a grandma. But being part of a team again is great.

I've wanted to be a professional violinist since I played prom with the National Youth Orchestra when I was 17 – I started studying when I was five. Nothing beats the thrill of being on stage knowing as much has happened as you've rehearsed.

When concerts are broadcast on television, that's even more exciting. During one particularly deep moment in June listening to a concert I was playing on the radio, I actually cried over the memories it brought back.

Fortunately, the BBC paid me for the job I booked for that month and my wife was still on a salary. I was also eligible for the self-employment grant so we avoided immediate financial disaster.

But since I had no idea when the concerts might start again, I had to look elsewhere.

I applied to Royal Mail, Aldi and Tesco but was ignored or rejected. My confidence was weakened and I felt useless until last month a friend suggested I work for his construction company. I had no experience building but he knows that I am a hard worker.

I now make £ 100 a day – less than the £ 150 I'd get for a shift with a BBC Concert Orchestra – and my wife is scared of the power tools I use.

My fingers are used to picking out notes on a string and not preparing steel beams. But at least I'm only five minutes away from home, I'm improving my fitness and can be outside.

Emily Cockbill, 36, is an oboist and now works as a waitress

Emily Cockbill, 36, is an oboist and now works as a waitress

Waitress serves a purpose

Emily Cockbill, 36, is an oboist and now works as a waitress. She lives in London with her boyfriend George, 39, an aeronautical engineer.

Even after my work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Welsh National Opera was canceled this March, I still thought we could perform again by September. When it turned out we weren't going to do it, I was dismayed.

Not only did I need another job to pay the bills but also for the structure the work provides. It was difficult not to be incredibly busy anymore, but to wonder what my purpose was.

After applying for supermarket jobs for a few months and not receiving any offers, I found a waitress at a local coffee shop through a friend. The owners are very nice and I started next to a double bass player and clarinetist.

I like being around other people, but that's obviously not what I did with my top-tier degree from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and my graduate degree from the Royal College of Music in London.

I have a minimum wage – compared to £ 150 for a day working with an orchestra – and because the hospitality sector is also suffering, my shifts have been reduced to just one day a week. Fortunately, my boyfriend moved in June so we can split bills.

Playing the oboe has always made me happy and I miss my musician friends, even though we meet in parks to practice. I was eligible for the state scholarship, but I think more should be done to support freelancers and art institutions. The music industry is part of our culture. We have to fight for it.

Book Deal banished my work blues

Katy Cox, 40, is a cellist and has signed a book deal since the lockdown. She lives in Bridgend, South Wales with husband Jay, 49, a bass guitarist, and their children James, ten and George, eight.

Katy Cox, 40, is a cellist and has signed a book deal since the lockdown

Katy Cox, 40, is a cellist and has signed a book deal since the lockdown

Although I play with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Welsh National Opera, it is my work for celebrities like Sir Elton John and Take That that interests people most.

I also played with Michael Buble for ten years, whose UK tour I booked for that summer when Lockdown was announced. Since then my cello has been gathering dust.

Of course, I'm worried about money, but two years ago I started writing a novel about a musician who tries to get back into show business after having a second child.

I had locked it out but am a perfectionist and didn't think it was good enough for others to read. However, in April I thought, "Fuck it" and sent it to ten agents. Miraculously, one of them signed me within a week, and in July I landed a two-book deal.

My first novel – M Is For Mummy – will be out in the spring of 2022. I'm so excited about writing that I sometimes work on ideas until 2am. But I'm still a cellist at heart and I'm afraid I'll never play professionally again.

Spice work if you can get it

Shaun Thompson, 54, is a clarinetist and is currently making curries out of his Crystal Palace home

Shaun Thompson, 54, is a clarinetist and is currently making curries out of his Crystal Palace home

Shaun Thompson, 54, is a clarinetist and is currently making curries out of his Crystal Palace home. He is married to Fiona Griffith, 48, a violist / teacher, and has two children. Joseph, 15, and Ciara, 13.

If someone had told me last year that I was preparing curry to make a living after 35 years as a clarinetist, I would have laughed.

My work was constant until March, but I was a freelancer. When it came to a lockdown, it ended abruptly.

I think it's great that so many of us do different jobs, but I don't think musicians have to diversify – a world-famous skill will be lost.

I had studied music at Trinity College of Music in London and played for the London Symphony Orchestra when I was only 23.

As my contacts grew, so did my workload. I often worked seven days a week. Two weeks before the lockdown, I was in Paris with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Now I fear that social distancing will make either large orchestras or an audience unprofitable for the foreseeable future.

I don't understand why the state self-employment grant cannot be extended specifically for the arts.

I've always loved to cook. When the lockdown restrictions were relaxed in June of this year, we had four friends in our garden for a ten-course curry – after all, I had time.

Our impressed guests said I should start selling it. Weeks later, I met locals through a WhatsApp group I set up. I published my menu on a Sunday evening. Last orders are on a Tuesday.

I spend Wednesday buying food and Thursday cooking. We deliver, but deliver people to pick up their food on Thursdays and Fridays.

My favorite dish is cinnamon. I make a dahl, a rice, and a different vegetable every week. This week it's sprouts with ginger, chilli, garlic and tamarind – you probably wouldn't get that in any other curry house.

If I prepare about 20 orders a week for 40 people, I make roughly the same daily rate of £ 150 that I would get for a musician's shift.

Do i miss music? Certainly.

But at least I'm doing something else that I love.