Catherine Thomson graduated with a BMus in 2008 and is currently Development Coordinator with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
I chose to study at Cardiff University for two main reasons. When I attended an open day everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming, from a kind man at the train station giving me directions to Cathays, to a student who showed me round the Students’ Union. I loved how bustling and cosmopolitan the city felt, which was helped by the fact that the University buildings are right in town, and with four local universities there are a lot of students around all the time!
The other reason Cardiff University was my top choice, was because the Bachelor of Music course offered me the freedom to pick and choose modules depending on what I found most interesting. I really enjoyed modules focussed on European music such as French, Polish and Czech music, and enjoyed the process of writing my dissertation with the support of a very helpful expert Professor.
Since graduating from Cardiff University in July 2008, it has been rather a long journey to get to where I am now, but well worth the wait. In September 2009 I embarked upon further studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Management. This course was so useful and illuminating, teaching me a wide range of skills that could be taken forward to utilise in a future career in the arts, encompassing fundraising, marketing, event planning, education in the arts and last but certainly not least, business planning and finance.
During my time at the College, I undertook a six week work experience placement at National Dance Company Wales, completing a lengthy and in-depth trusts and foundations research project and assisting all staff with general office administration. On graduating from RWCMD I then volunteered at Cheltenham Music Festival for two weeks (allowing me to watch dozens of brilliant concerts) and returned to NDCWales for a further six weeks as acting Projects and Administration Officer, continuing with fundraising research and trust applications.
On leaving NDCWales in September 2010, I moved back home to Surrey, spent a very enjoyable month temping as Receptionist at Steinway & Sons’ showrooms off Bond Street in London, then undertook a four month internship at the Association of British Orchestras, whose specialist managers’ meetings enlightened me as to what different orchestral admin roles would encompass on a day to day basis. This experience allowed me to decide what I really wanted to do – development. Assisting with the ABO members’ renewal procedures during my internship, as well as having shadowed the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Development Team for two days and a wonderful concert evening at Royal Festival Hall, I was then very fortunate to get the post of Friends Administrator at the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the rest is history!
I feel so so lucky to be part of a world class Orchestra that in turn works with world renowned conductors and soloists. I have wonderful dedicated colleagues, I get to see an amazing orchestra perform live on a very regular basis in one of the most famous concert venues in the UK (amongst others), and our office is situated on the south bank of the Thames, which is delightful. My current role as Development Coordinator involves the administration of one of our individual giving schemes, event organisation, mentoring the Development Department Trainee and more recently corporate members’ account management - I love it.
If I was to offer any advice to music graduates that wish to work in arts management, I would recommend getting as much work experience as possible (whether paid or unpaid!) before applying for full time work, as this will really strengthen your applications. Also work experience is a great way to find out what you truly enjoy, before plunging in at the deep end!