Hello! I'm Anita Datta, a Yorkshire born Conductor with Dual British and Indian heritage. I'm a conductor, singer, organist and (wait for it) anthropologist making music across the UK. I'm asking you to buy me a coffee to support me at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD), where I've been offered a scholarship to study Orchestral Conducting (MMus) from September 2021. However, as the scholarship doesn't cover all of the tuition fees, I'm asking your help to raise £5000 to ensure I can take up my place.
P.S. If you'd like to buy me more than a few cuppas, please skip to the "What You Can Do to Help" section first, to make sure I can benefit fully from your generosity. Thanks!
About Me, and How I Got Here:
I've always loved conducting more than anything else I've done. It's a cliche perhaps, but it's true. What's unusual is that I didn't think of myself as a conductor until quite recently, which I attribute to the dearth of role models. I'd never seen a brown woman stand in front of an orchestra and I'd grown up in a household where music was appreciated, but not thought to be a 'stable' career choice. So, I continued with my studies (working with LGBT Activists in India and developing research on diversity and inclusion) whilst keeping my love of music active part time. I was an organ scholar at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge (not the usual destination for a Hull-born girl!), and had a job as a Director of Music in a local church whilst studying for my masters and teaching in schools before starting my PhD. In 2018 I founded a small early music ensemble called The Swan Consort, also affectionately known as "the love of my life". Named for the companion animal of the Goddess Saraswati (Hindu Goddess of music and learning), I've been making music with my talented crew of singers and players and thoroughly enjoying the experience. My work builds inclusion and educational goals into the core of its work, with projects facing minority ethnic communities and families amongst our more conventional concert offerings. Then lockdown happened.
I was locked down on my own at first. I had a piano at home, but when you're a conductor your instrument is other people, and we weren't allowed contact with any of those. Like many people I became withdrawn and depressed, and this was especially exacerbated by not being able to do the very thing I live and breathe for: to make music with others. I was invited to participate in some online masterclasses via the young artist's scheme at the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden). In that virtual room with my colleagues, I realised that the only reason I wasn't allowing myself to pursue conducting full time was that I'd internalised the notion that conducting wasn't a job for women, and especially not for brown women. Years of microaggressions in my music career from well-meaning or just simply ignorant peers and audience members had made me feel like I couldn't do it. My peers and my mentor disagreed - and when put on the spot, so do I. I can only conclude that it's time to 'put my backbone where my wishbone is' and commit to conducting full time. That's where RWCMD comes in.
After my realisation, I went for it and applied for a bunch of music colleges where the programme looked good. I avoided the London colleges because I've lived in London before, and it's not my favourite place in the world (Yorkshire Lass pov on that front!)... besides which, I'll be working part time as a supply teacher on days I'm not in college to pay the bills, and I know that it would be a struggle to survive in London on that kind of income.
Of the colleges I applied to across the country, Royal Welsh stood out as the most supportive and engaged. When I speculatively enquired about the structure of the course, their head of conducting set up a no strings attached zoom call to answer all of my questions. They've offered me a small annual scholarship to take off my tuition fees if i take up my place there, and check in regularly to make sure I'm doing ok and have all the information I need. They've also agreed to ensure that it's possible for me to graduate after 13 months with a qualification if I find that I'm unable to raise funds for a second year of study. On top of all that, they've also expressed encouragement and support for the projects and ensemble work I set up myself, including The Swan Consort and similar endeavours. I feel secure, supported, and it's the right place for me. As a lover of the human voice, I'm also delighted that the college has links with Welsh National Opera, a unique offering amongst the various British conservatoires. I have no doubt that this is the right place for me to develop, grow, and launch the next phase of my career.
What can you do to help?
There are several ways you can help me get to RWCMD. These include but are not limited to:
> Buying me a cuppa!
> Contributing to my planned crowdfunder (watch this space: due to go live in April 2021) * if you'd like to contribute more than a few cuppas, please use this option or write to me directly (so that your generous support isn't unnecessarily diminished by fees)
> Supporting a project by The Swan Consort. This could be in the form of a donation, buying a ticket, or sharing out work on your social media platforms
> Sharing this page and encouraging your friends and followers to donate in any of the ways above. I appreciate that disposable income is a luxury many don't have at the moment, and support of this kind will also be greatly appreciated!
Post Script: Why I'm Resorting to Crowdfunding/Buy Me a Coffee
I'm from a cultural background where the motto goes, if you can't pay for it outright you shouldn't pay for it at all. That way of thinking also held me back from this pursuit for many years, but of course this is why music conservatoires are so disproportionately attended by people from higher socio-economic backgrounds. I want to be very open about the fact that I have pursued all the other possible funding routes, to no avail. I am not eligible for a postgraduate government loan, because I already have equivalent qualifications in a different subject area. I am not eligible for a bank loan because my current income (a research stipend from the government's Economic and Social Research Council) is counted as a grant rather than income. The three private postgraduate loan providers in the UK either do not support RWCMD, or they are not providing loans of the kind/size I need due to the pandemic. There are a variety of charities that make small grants towards the postgraduate fees of music students, but the vast majority of these do not support conductors (I really don't understand why this is). Others only support certain colleges (with a disproportionate bias towards the London Conservatoires), only support people from particular places, or are not making grants because of the pandemic. I searched extensively, and of a list of over 55 charities returned me only 4 for which I am eligible. I am, of course, applying to all of them but I am not guaranteed to receive funds as there are many applications every year. For my part, I have saved around £2500 from my stipend (which is no mean feat, as the stipend is roughly the equivalent of minimum wage). I have applied to trusts to cover the cost of my ongoing organ and harmony lessons, and been awarded £500 to date (which has allowed me to save more than I would have been able to otherwise). I'm making little plant pots out of jute and selling them on etsy to try to raise more money. I'm doing absolutely everything I can, whilst still trying to meet my PhD deadline in July of this year, continuing to practise and develop, and being in the middle of a pandemic like all of us! I wouldn't ask if I didn't really need your help, and I really do. If you support me, I promise that I will do everything in my power to make music more accessible, more democratic, more inclusive, and to bring it back to the people to whom it belongs: everyone.