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Careers I


Fri 28. 8.  14:00 - 15:30
room FA 548

‘You’re on show and you can’t fail in this unforgiving profession’: the challenges for women working as freelance musicians


Armstrong, Victoria
St. Mary's University, United Kingdom

This paper aims to contribute to on-going debates about the gendered nature of creative work as it relates to classical music. Women’s involvement in professional music-making has a long and complex history. They currently occupy only around 32% of all music-industry related jobs in the UK and they earn less, have shorter careers and face more obstacles in their careers than men (Creative and Cultural Skills, 2010). Although the gendered nature of work in the cultural industries is receiving greater critical attention, the experiences of women in the classical musical profession are still an under-researched field. Data are presented from the first phase of this on-going research which included nine female classical musicians based in the UK, ranging in age from their mid-twenties to mid-50s, and working as composers, conductors and performers. The methodology drew together approaches from visual sociology and digital ethnography whereby each participant compiled a personal ‘digital diary’ comprising information about their musical and non-musical lives over a five week period. The content of the diaries was not analysed but, using a form of photo elicitation, the women wove narratives around their data which allowed for themes around the nature of work to emerge and be explored. The paper outlines some of the emerging themes regarding the gendered nature of this work as it relates to motherhood and family life, the challenge of maintaining a professional identity when work is largely unpaid, the construction of femininity and professional image, and the role of emotional labour in developing professional networks.