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  • Ben Lewis-Smith

Is goal setting necessary? Being a musician: day by day.

'Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?'. For many years I have dreaded this question. The question itself implies that we are somehow inadequate at present and must constantly be striving for something more. Being content with our current situation makes our experience of live ever more fruitful.


Let me give you a real example. I graduated from Oxford with a BA in Music and a 2.i (just!) back in 2010. I immediately panicked and hunted for a job. I was a host at The Barbican Centre - one of London's concert halls - selling ice creams, programmes, pointing customers to the nearest facilities etc. I had a great time there, made some good friends, but I had always considered it my goal to become a school Director of Music. This soon took me to a delightful prep-school in SW London, and then subsequently to be Director of Music at a rather prestigious choir school a few miles out of London. All in all, my school teaching career lasted about 4 years. The children were, on the whole, delightful. My colleagues were generally a pleasant and supportive lot. Furthermore, I was clearly following my long term goal to become a school Director of Music. Perfect - I thought - I'm finally on the path. But, the truth is I was miserable. I was following a path that was not my own. I was setting goals based on what was expected of me, my education, my upbringing, rather than finding out for myself how, where and in what way I wanted to live my life.


Setting goals, especially work related ones, makes us feel inadequate. Aspiring to dreams, however, that's where I'd much rather be. I gain satisfaction from not knowing exactly what is around the corner. My current freelance work: teaching, performing, recording brings me a varied schedule and this is what I really crave.


I'm involved with various projects now:

VoiceWork - starting choirs in the workplace. We recently ran a choir competition for Marriott Hotels and now work with Fidelity International and News UK to run their choirs.

Oxbridge Organ Duo - Latest CD: 'Firebird' received numerous 5* reviews and critical acclaim including BBC Music Magazine and BBC Radio 3.

Virtual Music Teaching - offering one-to-one piano, singing and music theory to students around the world. Mainly developed to provide music lessons during the Covid-19 self-isolation requirements, but also relevant in an increasingly tech-savvy world.

St Columba's Church, Knightsbridge - I am Director of Music here, conducting the professional choir Sunday by Sunday and sharing the organ playing with an excellent Assistant Organist.


For now I think that is enough! My goal (which I will not set) is to no longer set goals - especially work related ones. Please don't mistake this for a lack of ambition - rather, I am happy where I am now and will continue to enjoy my work day by day as I start to cultivate new projects and interests as and when they come along.


Very best wishes to you all.


Benedict Lewis-Smith, London, 17 May 2020




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