No Free Lunches

Dale Truscott looks into grant and scholarship opportunities for overseas study and professional development.


No doubt some of our articles describing exciting musical travels to exotic international destinations have you hot under the collar and developing itchy feet, so it might be time to face the reality that you will have to pay for your trip somehow. Between flights, hotels, trains, lessons, course fees, insurance and day-to-day living expenses even a short trip of a few weeks can cost many thousands of dollars. It’s important not to let the high cost stop you though, as overseas travel can be particularly eye-opening for musicians who can hear many new orchestras and bands, experience new ways of playing and teaching, as well as meet and share experiences with colleagues from all over the world.

I spent many years in the early 2000s traversing Europe as a trombonist myself, surviving for years on the alms of various provincial opera houses and orchestras, Aldi food and cheap doner kebabs whilst studying and auditioning, before finding permanent work with an orchestra in Germany. Without the generous financial support for my studies and travels in the form of grants from the Ian Potter Cultural Trust, the Big Brother Foundation, the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust and the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) I might still have been packing fruit in my home town of Bathurst today.

There are a plethora of options on offer to support your professional development or trombone studies overseas. Most are highly competitive and require a number of supporting documents with your application, often including a recording or DVD of you performing, professional references, a budget, invitations from teachers, music schools or festivals and much more. The organisations I have listed below want to support you, however they also want to see that you have put a lot of thought and effort into your grant application before they write you a blank cheque for thousands of dollars.

There are four golden rules I like to follow when applying for a grant or scholarship:

  • Have a clearly defined project in mind and be able to describe the benefits to both you and your community in your application – this might seem obvious but I’m amazed at how many students I meet who have a line that goes something like this: “I think I’ll head overseas somewhere, sometime after I finish uni, do some more studies and get some grants from somewhere to pay for it”. Not surprisingly they find it difficult to convince grantors that they really mean it and that the community will benefit in some way from their travels.
  • Tailor each application to meet the exact requirements for each grant – your application should reflect the exact requirements for each individual grant you apply for. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Apply for a grant only if your goals align fully with the funding objectives of the grantor – without a good match between your plans and goals and the grantor’s funding objectives you will be wasting both their time and yours by applying. Make sure you read the fine print on each grantor’s website carefully to ensure you are eligible and that your project will be of interest to the grantor. Funding priorities are usually listed clearly on each grantor’s website. A brief email or phone call to the grantor’s office or representative can often help clear up any issues before you apply.
  • Always be prepared to give back to the grantor or community that supports you in the future – what goes around comes around so try to make sure you create some good karma for yourself. It’s always nice to give back after extending a hand for support and receiving it from a grantor. This might mean offering to perform a free recital for the grantor or promote their activities for them. Or you might consider giving some masterclasses or doing some teaching or performing in disadvantaged areas to give back to the community which has supported you.

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