A day in the life of: laura hawley

June 28, 2019

The “A day in the life” community blog sheds light on the daily lives of professional musicians. Here, Canadian musicians contribute posts in the format of a daily journal, in a growing collection of professional work-day profiles that offer different blueprints of workflow, tasks, skill sets, schedules, and more. This blog is for anyone curious about what a work-day may look like for different musicians, and is especially for music students, recent music graduates, or those considering a career in music who can use this blog to research different career maps and develop ideas around the various skills, courses, and other resources they may wish to pursue in their educational path.

A day (or four) in the life of composer/conductor laura hawley: June 24-28, 2019

This journal style blog outlines the tasks I was tackling in this window of summer! This time of year often focuses on composing, checking in with colleagues about next year’s programming, and setting up commissions for the coming years. This year, 2019, is a special year because I’m building my new website, which was a big focus of this month! This first post feels very much like an experiment, and reading it back to myself, I wonder if it’s a little boring…I was at my computer a LOT in this window of time….but I hope this blog project can grow into a useful tool for those interested in musical entrepreneurship; whether those interested be supporters, advocate, colleagues, or students embarking on their musical career. With this intention and spirit in mind, I offer this first “A day in the life” post!

Monday June 24th

Wake, meditate, coffee + breakfast, play some piano – Bach

8:30-9:30 German Language practice

  • I typically have some kind of professional development on the go. Last month it was reading the books “Choral Intonation” and “Lessons from a streetwise professor” which I highly recommend to anyone considering going into music or embarking on establishing their musical career. This month (and ongoing) I’m focusing on German in order to:
    • improve my capacity as a choral leader,
    • improve my ability to engage with the congregation and teach the choir at a church where I’m currently working, where half the services are held in German (and half the choir’s repertoire is also German)
    • It’s also fun 🙂

9:30-9:45 Weekly workflow planning and day-planning

  • Throughout the year, in a career map like mine, workflow has a lot of variety and is a combo of routine (more so from September-June) and special projects that change from month to month.
    • For example, in my 12 years as a church musician, Mondays from Sept-June were almost always my main day dedicated to reading the lessons for the coming week or month, planning hymns, psalm, writing and engraving descants, arrangements, psalms as needed, etc.; whereas planning the motets and anthems for the church choir for the year and doing the big “programming work” of special services and musical offerings was a task I’d usually do in the summer months in a dedicated block of days or week.
  • Coming back to right now, the week ahead is very much lacking in routine, but is full of commitments, goals, and work that needs to be done. Planning out my weeks on Monday morning helps me figure out how to prioritize all the different tasks associated with my different conducting, composing, and teaching roles as well as my professional development goals. I use a bullet journal but have evolved my own style of using it
  • Outlining my work-flow for the day
  • Updating the schedule for tonight’s Da Camera auditions
  • Corresponding with potential audition candidates who haven’t signed up yet
  • Updating my spreadsheet and schedule for Wednesday’s ChandraTala auditions

9:45-11:00 Website research

  • I’ve been working with web developer Jen Gfeller of Jen Gfeller Web Development to build a new website. This morning’s research centered around:
    • Researching other websites to help me figure out clear flow of info and design, as I’ll be doing my own design work for laurahawley.ca
    • Brainstorming what kinds of offerings I’d like to have on my site and how it can be engaging, useful as a resource, and a platform for supporting others as well
    • Looking at font combinations
    • Bonus: Came across material that can inform audience development ideas for my choirs and saved those sites as bookmarked for later

11:00-12:15 Admin catch-up

  • General admin included
    • Sending perusal scores to conductors who have emailed requests
    • Responding to requests for resources (mp3, pronunciation guides)
    • Updating my commissions schedule, catching up on invoices/receipts/contracts
    • Setting up phone meetings for later this week

12:15-1:00 Exercise

  • helps me to stay energized, healthy, positive, and keep my body in good condition both for conducting and for long periods of sitting while working
  • For me, it also often provides an important space for creativity where I work out ideas for compositions (I’ve ‘written’ many things while skiing in the woods), programming, etc.
  • Bonus benefit: many of my conducting mentors over the years (David Currie, Wayne Toews, Michael Zaugg, Lone Larsen) have referred to the feeling of “resistance” in a gesture. Lone Larsen recently described the relationship between the core, the strength of the back, and sensing very specific kinds of muscular engagement that can either support or impair sound production in choirs. Resistance training with a mind to these things actually helps me stay connected to these ideas.
  • As much as exercise can be (and often is) a break from working my brain, I also often use this time to listen to recordings or a lecture series, podcast, or audiobook about things like music and leadership

1:00-1:40 LUNCH break + OUTREACH IDEA (came to me while exercising) – this blog.

  • Worked on writing this post, and brainstorming list of others who might like to share and the best platform for it for advocacy

[1:20 Phone meeting with commissioner]

  • Quick phone meeting with a commissioner on her lunch break

1:50 Review lesson plans (prepared last week)

2:00-4:25 private lesson teaching

  • 2:00 Skype lesson teaching RCM History 1 to a student in Ottawa
  • 3:10-4:25 lesson at home studio teaching CCM Theory 6

4:25-4:50 Admin

  • Confirmed lesson dates and times for next week, jot down notes for next lesson planning requirements and emails to send to RCM etc.
  • Bookkeeping for income tax purposes
  • Bookkeeping for commissions invoicing and instalment deposits purposes
  • Check in with choir email inboxes and other professional email and update my weekly “to do list” accordingly

4:50-5:00 ~ TEN MINUTE BREAK~ (dinner prep)

5:00-5:45 personal practice – conducting technique exercises

5:45 Research errand – library book sign out

  • Signed out “Bad Feminist” for research purposes – choral art and all music is increasingly concerned with many social things including intersectionality. This book was recommended by a colleague.

6:00-7:00 Dinner break

7:30-8:45 Da Camera Singers Auditions

  • Running evening auditions for Da Camera Singers, Edmonton

9:00-11:00 Free time 🙂

Tuesday June 25th

Wake, meditate, coffee, Bach

7:45-8:50 German language practice

8:50-10 Admin (emails, commission contracts, advocacy)

10:00-3:00 ~out of town health appointment~

3:00-4:30 admin

4:30-6:00 Website development

  • Working today on selecting photos and uploading scores and recordings for web developer Jen Gfeller

~dinner break~

6:30-8:00 Website development work continuing, plus admin catch up

8:30-9:30 meeting with commissioner and commissioning choir

  • Meeting the choir, discussing contract details with executive members and signing contracts
  • Included a surprise toast of Grappa and general celebration! Surprise!

No conducting practice today – shoulder injury.

Wednesday June 26th

Wake, meditate, breakfast, play some piano (Bach, of course)

7:30-8:30 German language practice

9:00-10:30 ~appointment at the vet for Walle the cat~

10:30-12:00 Admin and Website work

  • Again catching up on commissioning contracts
  • Working on website design – research, planning, corresponding with web developer Jen Gfeller continues

12:00-1:00 Phone meeting with commissioner

  • Discussed details of commission for next year as well as topics of choral advocacy and website design

1:00-2:20 Admin, marketing, recruiting, and meeting prep

  • Enter details of the new commission into spreadsheet and calendar
  • Send perusal scores and recordings of suggested works to a conductor/colleague
  • Check choir inboxes and catch up there
  • Update spreadsheet for tonight’s ChandraTala auditions
  • Check in with potential singers for both choirs
  • prep/reviewed for a 4:00 meeting with Da Camera’s business manager and a DCS board member

2:30-3:15 Exercise and realized I forgot to each lunch. Oops.

4:00-6:00 meeting with Da Camera business manager and board member

  • Re: marketing and timelines for summer workflow

7:00-9:00 Auditions for ChandraTala

9:30 Free time

No conducting practice today – shoulder injury.

Thursday June 27th

Wake, meditate, coffee, Bach, extra attention for Walle the cat

7:45-8:45 German language practice

9:00-10:00 History lesson prep

10:00-11:00 quick check-list catch up

  • Recorded a few voice memos – early ideas for a commission due this summer
  • Updated ChandraTala members list with successful candidates from last night’s auditions and touch base with the choir’s ED
  • Updated and emailed final contract to commissioner
  • Checked choir email inboxes

11:00-11:40 Da Camera stuff

  • Caught up on email
  • Drafted a new welcome letter for new singers who have had successful auditions

11:40-12:00 Score annotation (to give feedback on the recording of a premiere)

  • Listened through a recording again with score, annotated the score, and sent the annotated score to the performer who asked for feedback as this new piece will be recorded in the fall of 2019
    • Made a note in my “future log” to bring some of these annotations into the actual published version of the score (ongoing evolution of edits is a nice perk of self publishing!)

12:00-1:00 Teaching

  • Skype lesson RCM History 1

1:00 Suddenly urgent file-management issue. Need to make space on Google Drive!

1:30 Phone meeting with commissioner

  • re: premiere dates and status update on publication options I’ve been pursuing

1:45 Choir email catch-up

2:00-4:30 long term vision planning for LAH publications

4:30-5:30 Personal practice time – conducting

5:30-7:00 website catch up and admin catch up

What I learned writing this blog:

  1. I spent a LOT more time than I realized keeping on top of the administrative aspects of being a commissioned composer!
  2. Summer months need a lot of intention behind maintaining structure in the schedule.
  3. Building a website is hugely time consuming and is definitely a massive summer project goal to set a lot of time aside for! I kind of knew this going into it, but have now experienced it!
  4. It will be interesting to read other “day in the life” blogs from others, and to ask someone to contribute a few entries at different times in the year or during different projects. For example, I’ll do another one in a composition-dedicated week and kind of look forward to sharing about those days of “9am-9pm sat at the piano and composed and ended up with no more than 7 bars of usable material.”