I wonder if this sounds familiar to anyone: we start an instrument and fall in love with it, we want to share this music on stage, as a teenager performance becomes a big part of our life and a serious commitment.  We have big dreams, we enter music college, inspired and excited as we continue honing our skills under a trusted mentor.  Alongside this joy of expression, a cloud of uncertainty and doubt starts to set in as the ‘what next?’ questions come up.  After a happy few years in music college, the next step can feel daunting as we ‘enter the real world’ and challenge to earn a living, function as an ‘adult’, and continue striving to improve ourselves and pursue a performing career.

This stage in life has been for me an inner journey of pushing through doubts, continuing even on those dark days when everything sounds and feels terrible, and believing in myself no matter what the outcome of an audition or competition.  Many things have helped me keep hope and continue, one of which is the support of Young Musician platforms.  These are many and varied in London and the UK under this general bracket, and the support offered can range from invaluable financial support from organisations such as the Hattori Foundation, amazing concert opportunities such as the St John’s Smith Square Young Artists Scheme, and amazing mentoring and coaching which my wind quintet Atéa could receive through the Tunnell Trust.

It has been five years now since I left the Royal Academy of Music, and those four years studying under Michael Collins was truly revolutionary and helped me develop as a musician.  However the journey continues and it is really through experiencing concert after concert that I can really learn about myself on stage.  The last five years is a wonderful cycle of experimenting, pursuing ideas, trying them out, followed by self-reflection together with advice from my peers and colleagues to take me to the next experiment.

I would like to highlight two examples of the concrete benefits of Young Musician platforms, firstly with my wind quintet and New:Dots.  In 2013 we were fortunate to be selected as the chamber music group for which young composers wrote for, culminating in a performance at The Forge, Camden.  Working closely with composers gave us lots of inspiration and a deeper understanding about each piece, and we hope the composers could gain more insight about writing for our instruments through this close contact.  After this event we continued a great relationship with some of the composers, and performed one of the pieces on tour in Scotland in February as part of the Tunnell Trust Scheme, where we were able to bring new music to concert societies all over Scotland.  Despite a feeling of general mistrust of ‘new’ music, the audience often commented on how much they enjoyed that piece particularly!

The second example is my recent year as a St John’s Smith Square Young Artist, where I had complete freedom in programming three recitals and received funding to commission a new work by the wonderful young composer Richard Bullen, entitled ‘Hikinuki’, which was part of my programme entitled ‘Roots: exploring UK and Japan’.  Again, we could spend in-depth time together fine-tuning some corners, understanding exactly what sounds we were trying to achieve, and generally sharing our lives and ideas as two human beings trying to say something. This will be performed again at the Harrogate International Festival in July, as part of their Young Musician series, which I very much look forward to!

Through these two small examples, what I find the most encouraging is the opportunity for creativity to flow, between performers, composers, and audience. As musicians I believe we continuously transform, like crustaceans changing shells, and in those moments that we moult and feel vulnerable to attack, the support of these organisations is absolutely crucial to keep us going.

Finally, A little reflection on the beginning: when I was about four years old, I encountered a 27-year old clarinettist and became fascinated by this instrument. Thanks to this I could take up the clarinet aged nine and pursue a career in music. At that time, this 27-year-old seemed like a hero, winning in life as an adult. Reaching that age now, I realise that the journey has only just begun!

Anna Hashimoto was selected to perform in Harrogate International Festivals’ Young Musician Series by former Young Musician and Festival favourite, Michael Collins, as part of Harrogate International Festivals’ Pay It Forward scheme. She’ll be performing on Friday 29 July at Wesley Chapel, Harrogate, 12pm.

For the full Young Musician programme visit www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com Box Office: 01423 562 303