Covid-19 and young musicians: What you make of it

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The lockdowns of the pandemic were particularly challenging for young artists looking to make a name for themselves, but providing support along the way were a number of schemes that ramped up their efforts accordingly. And, as Charlotte Gardner finds, for those musicians willing to take the initiative, the opportunities ...

Well, good riddance to 2021, the year we had hoped might spell the swift end of Covid woes but instead gave us fresh lockdowns and headlines such as ‘Musicians Are Abandoning the Industry for a Stabler Career’. Arguably it was especially difficult for young artists, when lost incomes were fledgling ones, and at a career stage when every opportunity for visibility was already precious. However, the period has also been one that’s seen a few young careers rocket despite the difficulties – and one in which international young artist schemes have been busier than ever before. So, as we head into 2022, when Covid will surely be less formidable, it seems like a good moment to look at how various young artist schemes responded to the crisis, and to ask whether the pandemic has reinforced or lessened the value of being associated with one, and whether it’s even worth attempting to pursue a musical performance career right now; and if it is, which are the young artists most likely to get themselves noticed?

The speed with which the UK’s international young artist schemes responded to the pandemic in March 2020, often changing their remits in the process, was striking. Take the Young Classical Artists Trust (YCat), whose main work is as a not-for-profit management agency, building artists’ careers while training them in all aspects of career management. ‘Just before Covid, we’d increased both the national and international engagements for our artists by about 180 to 200 per cent,’ outlines YCat chief executive and artistic director Alasdair Tait. ‘The day we closed the office, we’d already seen in one week seventy thousand pounds’ worth of direct income for our artists disappearing. Normally, we don’t give our artists money – the funds we’re raising are for enabling us to do our work; but at that point, setting up a hardship fund was the one thing we could do to help.’ Within three weeks they’d raised £120,000, at which point they closed the campaign and gave each artist a substantial sum to get them through the first six months…

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