When lockdown began my wife and I were in Sydney, two days from the start of rehearsals with Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO). Our jobs with SSO, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, The Grange Festival and Opera Holland Park were all cancelled within a few days. We lost a year's salary of work.
As soon as the singing work was cancelled, I revamped my muggle (non-musician) CV and started applying for jobs. After being rejected by all my local supermarkets, Southern Rail, Sony PlayStation, and many, many others, I got a bite from a hospital recruitment agency, who offered me the placement at St Thomas' Hospital.
l'm now an Inventory Operative in the NHS Supply Chain at St Thomas' where I do manual ordering, regulate the automatic ordering systems, and stock cabinets and storerooms with medical equipment, food stuffs and hygiene products. I started with just one covid ward back in April, but now as departments have opened up across the hospital I'm responsible for stocking 5 wards. I also deliver PPE orders from across the hospital, from the ICUs to offices. I'm often seen lugging cages with boxes full of gowns, various masks, aprons and gloves.
I think my opera sass comes in handy, especially when I'm stuck in a lift with a colleague who refuses to put on their mask.
The job is keeping my bills paid and I'm very lucky that my immediate colleagues and managers are wonderful people. I never told them I was an opera singer but by about week 2 someone had started circulating my recordings online and now everyone knows Sam the Opera singer.
The most challenging aspect of the job is learning how to integrate into a whole new industry. I do my best on new products and processes but I'm still learning. It's been an eye opener to go from hustling a middling, freelance opera career to now earning below London living wage.
As a non-EEA (European Economic Area) resident and freelance musician, the bureaucratic grey area that is my life wasn't well represented by government schemes. I got some little assistance but given the metrics to calculate the grants, it wasn't enough to survive.