Saturday, 11 July 2009

Marion M. Scott: Music as a Profession

I came across this article in the Daily Express by Marion M. Scott. It was quoted in part in an essay written by Pamela Blevins for the 2006 edition of the Ivor Gurney Society Journal – Marion Scott and the Society of Women Musicians. A reading of this article surely explains much of the motivation that led Scott, Katherine Eggar and Gertrude Eaton to found the Society a couple of years later. This is a valuable text for the history of the place of women in British music.

Music as a Profession
The musical profession has become a very popular one nowadays, and, to be truthful, one must say: “Profession crammed full: scarcely standing room.”
Professional life is a really hard struggle, which has been made infinitely worse by the crowds of unsuitable or badly trained people who rush in, prove unfit, and end either by taking starvation fees or posts as lady-helps and nursery governesses.

Therefore much careful thought ought to be given to the subject before a girl adopts music as a profession: but if after all the pros and cons have been considered, she still seems to possess such real talent as to justify the choice, then the thing that is absolutely essential is that she should have a good training.
When a well-trained girl leaves the student stage, and actually enters on her profession, what openings is she likely to find?
There is no simple path to success for any one, but a singer of real ability can generally find work either in opera, concerts, “at homes,” teaching, or musical comedy.
A pleasing appearance and personality are, however, essential for the stage or platform, and good health is also a necessity, as long rehearsals and late hours are very trying.

Salaries for Teachers
A pianist will probably have to gain her main income by teaching or accompanying, as solo concert work is uncertain. A girl can either try for private teaching, or else take a post in a school.
Many of these are resident posts, and the mistress is expected to teach piano, class singing, theory, and perhaps the violin. The salaries vary from £50 to over £150 a year in good schools, and competition is keen.
String players will also find their safest openings in teaching, either in schools or privately, while to this they can add concert, ensemble and orchestral work. There is usually more scope in these latter directions for viola players and ‘cellists than violinists, and with orchestral work it must be remembered that all the best engagements are filled by men, with the exception of the harpists in some orchestras. As composers and organists there are few openings for girls; in the first case because composition pays very poorly, and in the latter because all important posts in churches are held by men.
Finally, there remain the less usual instruments, such as flute, oboe, etc. Several women have taken them up, and play well, but at present the opportunities for work are very restricted.
Training should be carried out with the utmost thoroughness and devoted patience, for it is precisely those artists who have the widest grasp of their art who succeed in specialising the best.
The ideal training is for a child to begin lessons young, under some trustworthy teacher, either privately, at school or in a junior department of some such place as the Royal College of Music; and when the time for more serious work comes, she should go for several years as a full course student to one of the big English musical institutions -this to be followed by foreign travel, to become acquainted with other ideas and methods.
Such as scheme would naturally be modified to suit individual cases, and the most essential part is the middle period, which covers the best years for training.
The tuition in England is now fully equal to what can be obtained abroad – in some cases it is better; and while it is always open to train privately, the advantages from joining one of the great music schools are so real that a girl will do well to avail herself of them.
These are the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music in London, also the Guildhall School of Music and Trinity College: while in the provinces there are the Royal Manchester College of Music, The Birmingham and Midland Institute, etc.
In several institutions the choice and the duration of the studies are left to the student: fees varying from £1 1s to £1 4s per subject per term, but at the R.C.M., the R.A.M., and the R.M.C.M no pupil is admitted for less than one year, while the full course is at least three years and the complete course is obligatory on each pupil.

This consists, roughly speaking, of two lessons in a first study and one in a second study each week; also weekly classes for theory, harmony, counterpoint, choral singing, orchestra, ensemble, etc. Additional classes can be taken for elocution, languages, dramatic deportment, etc. by payment of something extra. These latter subjects are most important for singers.
The ordinary fees for the full course are:-
R.A.M. – Total entrance fees, £5 5s, Fee per term, £11 11s
R.C.M. - Total entrance fees, £2 2s, Fee per term £12 12s
R.M.C.M – No entrance fee, Fee per term £10
There are also scholarships, exhibitions etc.
This training is the most thorough to be obtained, and in after life it is often a valuable asset to have either the R.A.M. or the R.C.M. as an alma mater.

N.B. £5 5s in 1909 would be the equivalent of about £470 at today’s (2009) value.
£1.0.0d is equivalent to about £88.

Marion M Scott The Daily Express Tuesday 23 March 1909 [with minor edits]


Karen said...

Thank you, John. This 100-year old article opens a window into the past and gives us an idea of what the struggle was like for women in music and how far women have come since. Women like Scott, Eggar, Eaton and so many others were willing to take risks and step outside the safe confines of a woman's traditional role in society. We owe them a lot.

John France said...

Thanks for that Pam. It is important that we rememeber some of the hard battles that have been fought on behalf of Euterpe and her sisters!