Updated: Apr 9, 2022
We all have a dream project: something you've always dreamed of doing but self-doubt, worrying about what people will think, and a whole host of other self-sabotaging thought processes tell yourself you'll do it one day.
Luckily at the Graduate Interviews, we find those people who told their personal Krakens to pipe down, letting them get on with the job in hand, whilst giving you the inside track on how you can navigate this tricky transition from student to professional.
This week, I'm joined by Dutch-American violinist Maren Bosma. A creative and talented graduate who believes strongly in creating the musical opportunities you wish to see. Currently leader and associate artistic director of the Bath Festival Orchestra, Maren is a highly regarded performer of contemporary and undiscovered music and constantly creates new opportunities for this music to be performed. But it's not always been easy...
So join us as we wade through the joys of musical admin, that intimidating out the box thinking and how to start your dream project.
Throughout your career you've never shied away from making your own opportunities, with Maconchy Quartet, Cat's Cradle Collective or later with the Bath Festival Orchestra. What was it that drove you to become more than just the performer?
Honestly, I think that I've always been scared of putting all my eggs in one basket and choosing one thing.
At the beginning of my, (I want to say my career, but I was like 15!) I was doing so many other things. I didn't really want to commit to violin. I started off doing a double major in violin and music theory because I wanted to do something else as well. I think in hindsight it was because I was scared that I would fail and end up empty-handed.
Over the years, I've become a little bit better, just choosing one thing and really going for that but I've always had this desire to do other things and to make the things that I want to do happen.
So, in order to facilitate that, I had to develop skills like project management and managing budgets and organising things, doing grant applications, liaising with people, venues and organisations. Then the things that I wanted to do just ended up happening. Some of them worked out and some of them didn't, but there was always just something happening. At least the fact that I was practising and liked playing the violin so much was in service of things that I wanted to do artistically.
What I will say with the Bath Festival Orchestra is, it would be unfair to say that was my opportunity that I created, because that was actually Peter Manning who really created the orchestra and then I kind of joined later on as their leader but that's not to me, I didn't do that.
The admin side of being a musician can be really time consuming to even the most organised musician. As someone who has successfully navigated the added admin of a project, what is your advice for getting admin done without it taking over your life?
I don't really know if I can answer that question satisfactorily.
I think there's always a risk that there's going to be patches where it does just take over your life. It's just the reality is how it works. In our industry with being self-employed, musicians have to get everything done ourselves whilst creating the space to do the things that we artistically want to do. Unfortunately, part of creating that space is succumbing to the admin waterfall of stuff.
I think the only way that has really helped me stay on top of it is to be incredibly, I want to say organised but organised in a way that you're working with a small child breaking everything down into tiny tasks and then crossing things off your list when it's done.
Basically if you want to do a project, all the admin can be really, really daunting at first but it doesn't have to be. If you write down all the things that you need to take into consideration and all the things that you need to get done. Make steps for all of those things, then it becomes comprehensible.
It sounds so obvious but from experience, not everyone does this - I haven't always done it! The times when I haven't worked like that have been really overwhelming and those projects are actually ones that more often than not ended up not working out in the end. The projects where I was very clinical and organised with everything broken down into tiny steps made it much easier to get stuff done and created a successful project.
Your Radio 3 programme for "Inside Music" last year was utterly fascinating, introducing me to works I'd never heard of before. How do you personally find new music? What's your current ear worm?
Mmm, let me think. I don't really listen to a lot of classical music in my free time, to be honest, you need to get away from it. Sometimes I'll have one album that I just listened to on repeat and it's something else every year but usually, it's non-classical music.
The way I discover new music is honestly just through meeting new people who are not necessarily in classical music.
I meet a lot of people through sort of peripheral engagements in the musical activities that I do. For example, I know some people who are filmmakers but who also who did something for the Bath Festival Orchestra, who also have a band. I'll discover that band and then a genre that I didn't know before, that's how it works for me.
For me what I like about discovering new music through new people is that it always has context. So you listen to something and you're kind of connected to a nice time that you have with someone or a recommendation that they made you. Eventually, if you listen to it enough, that context is replaced by your own associations with that music. Actually it happens quite quickly with me because if I discover something new that I like, I'll like compulsively, listen to it on repeat non-stop. Then when you revisit it you're transported back to that phase in your life where you were listening to that music all the time, you know, it's like a very nostalgic day experience.
So previously, it was Radiohead, Brad Mehldau, then I discovered Chris Thile and his band the Punch Brothers. I've been obsessed with the Punch Brothers for like two or three years now that it's just, it's like a progressive Bluegrass band - perhaps a bit strange but I love it! It's so so good!
What's next for you? Have you got any big projects your particularly excited about?
I've got a Bath Festival Orchestra concert in May at the Bath Festival and June, in Kings Place. But then the next one after that is September 28th at Cadogan Hall where I'll be performing Beethoven Concerto so that's a very big thing for me! It's quite scary actually, because it's all in the diary now, they've started the marketing and suddenly it's like Oh My God! They can't go back now!
What would be your advice for graduates wanting to create their own opportunities and ensembles?
My advice would be to just do it! It's so hard not to get intimidated, especially at the moment where everyone is trying to find something new to do. Then when you find your thing, having to justify it to so many different parties to prove that you're unique or that you're doing something else that no one else is doing.
It's exhausting but it's absolutely worth taking your ideas to different people, getting them to ask you critical questions so that you can make the best of the ideas that you have.
Ultimately though if you have the idea and you want to do it, just sit down and do it! Do your research, figure out what it is that you need to do to get done, figure out how much money you need, what grant applications you can do to get that money. Whatever you do, just get started! Once you do you'll get into a rhythm.
It's like I said earlier about the admin thing, just break everything down into small tasks and just do something every day.
That's my biggest advice because honestly, it's not a question of an inability to do things, lack of potential, or lack of talent. It's just that things can be so intimidating that you put them off or that you just end up not doing them.
When I was in college, I was constantly having all these new ideas and things that I suddenly felt really passionate about. I'm still trying to find that again after Covid because it's so discouraging to have ideas and for them to be shot down or for them to just go nowhere.
So that's my main advice, just do it!
If you want to hear more from Maren, you can check out her website, twitter, or Instagram.
Maren's next performance will be with Bath Festival Orchestra on 16th May 2022 at the Bath Festival.
Until next time,