Welcome to the February 2019 edition of the Career Inspo Blog!
This is a monthly interview with someone who has followed their passion, dreamed big and now has a successful and exciting career. Whether you are searching for your passion or looking for guidance and insight from those in your chosen industry, the Career Inspo blog will have something for everyone. After the success of the 2018 blog, I am so excited to be continuing the interviews into 2019 and I am sure this year’s line up will provide plenty of motivation and inspiration!
This month I had the pleasure of interviewing the practically perfect in every way singer, actress, and singing teacher Rosie Williamson. Rosie has been teaching singing for over 10 years, having started her teaching business in 2008. More recently, in 2016, Rosie began writing, producing and hosting “What Would Julie Do?”, a regular cabaret show at the Pheasantry in London’s Chelsea, inspired by the wonderful Julie Andrews.
Sarah Ellis: Thank you for being February’s Career Inspiration. Please can you start by letting the readers know a little more about what you do?
Rosie Williamson: I am a singer-actress-singing teacher-theatre creative-cabaret producer-writer… a performing ‘jack of all trades’ or as the cool kids (who’ve read Emma Gannon’s book) are calling it… a multi-hyphenate! I teach singing at Arts Ed (a theatre school in West London), The Sing Space and at my own private studio. I write, produce and host “What Would Julie Do?”: cabarets and a blog which combines self-help and show tunes; taking inspiration from Julie Andrews and a few of my favourite things! I also do as many singing, acting, musical directing, theatre directing and writing jobs as I can fit in!
SE:Why did you choose to pursue this career?
RW: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a performer. I’ve always loved storytelling, words and music. All of the different aspects of my career feed this love!
SE: What route did you take into this career?
RW: Once upon a time, I was a ballerina who fell in love with musicals and then opera and classical song…I trained as a classical singer, did a Music degree at the University of Sheffield and an M.A. in Vocal Performance at the University of York (specialising in solo voice ensemble singing…and a lot of self-deprecation on my part… niche!) and then I decided after all of those years of attempting to get good at singing opera and singing in choirs…I really wanted to sing show tunes. I did a year of musical theatre training at Associated Studios and have slowly been carving out a career in the Musical Theatre industry since! I started teaching singing in my final year of undergraduate study in Sheffield and have been building and developing this part of my career for the last decade.
I started writing my blog (www.whatwouldjuliedo.co.uk) in April 2016…shortly after my 29th birthday in an attempt to ‘sort my life out’ by the time I turned 30… I’d long been obsessed with musical theatre, loved Julie Andrews and, more recently, developed a taste for self-help books…so I thought it would be interesting to let these worlds collide and create a space online for me to empty my thoughts… and maybe some other people might like reading them. In October 2016, I produced the first “What Would Julie Do?” cabaret at the Pheasantry in Chelsea (one of London’s top cabaret venues) and they’ve been going from strength to strength ever since. My spin off solo show “Eliza von Poppins presents…A Practically Perfect Guide to Living” had it’s first “work in progress” showing at the Tristan Bates Studio Theatre as part of the John Thaw Initiative Mental Health Season last June. The full production of the show is premiering at Brighton Fringe Festival this May.
SE: What are your favourite things about what you do?
RW: Usually the people I get to work with, whether it’s students or collaborators or other performers and creatives. I love that I have variety in my career and you learn something new every day. I love ‘light bulb moments’ and ‘light bulb people’! When I’m writing or working on my own, it’s the buzz of creating something that might help or entertain others or simply making progress.
SE: What have been your biggest challenges? And what reignites your passion on the tough days?
RW: Rejection is fairly constant in the Arts. For every success or ‘yes’ I’ve had; there have been many, many more failures and ‘no’s’. Sometimes the ‘no’s’ really hurt… so you just have to have a cry, then put on some music and dance around a bit and then move on! I don’t think the passion often needs reigniting in me… it’s more the frustration of being rejected for jobs and opportunities that I would love to do. Creating my own performing work and building a community of performers, students and collaborators has helped me feel like there is always somewhere that I can channel my passion. I’m also really lucky to have amazing friends, family and colleagues who will pick me up and give me a boost when I need it… they usually shout back at me: “Come on Rosie, What Would Julie Do?!”
RW: This sounds really cheesy but I do try and look for the ‘lightbulb moments’ and joy in every day at work. I performed in the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s concert performance of “Camelot” at the London Palladium last October: A standing ovation from an audience in a huge West End Theatre; performing a show that Julie Andrews premiered = a big bucket list tick for me! Another amazing thing is that “What Would Julie Do?” is starting to grow and, I hope, become a staple of the London Cabaret scene. People seem to like what we’re making and that definitely helps spur me on!
SE: What key strengths do you have that make you great at what you do?
RW: I’m not afraid to ‘learn by doing’ and I’m honest, perceptive and good with people. I also accept that I will always be ‘work in progress’ and, ironically, never ‘practically perfect in every way’.
SE: Do you have a role model or mentor? If so, what have you learnt from them that has helped you in your business/overall career?
RW: Well my hypothetical guru is Julie Andrews, obviously! She is such an amazing example of someone who has been resilient and adaptable throughout her career, and is still going strong at 83 years old! The fact that she lost her singing voice, which pretty much defined her, and then diversified to write children’s books, act in more films, directed musicals and has even created and starred in her own Netflix series in recent years is very inspiring.
I’ve been very fortunate to have many amazing mentors over the years. My dad was a singer and singing teacher so obviously he was a huge influence. My singing teacher at University, Vivien Pike, gave me so much help and encouragement when starting out as a singing teacher and I’ve learnt so much from all the different coaches and teachers I’ve worked with so far. I do honestly believe that you can learn something from every person you get to work with, student or teacher, and I try to find that gold!
SE: What advice would you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
RW: Don’t be afraid to take action and work with people who bring out the best in you… oh and “Climb every mountain, til you find your dream” but remember the climbing is the dream!
SE: What are the top 3 things to consider when choosing and pursuing a meaningful and exciting career?
RW: – Find a way to pay the bills that you don’t hate.
– If you have an idea, take action and see what comes of it.
– Always give yourself permission to change direction.
You can take a sneaky peek at the “What Would Julie Do?” Cabaret here: https://youtu.be/gR5b6diygPw