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Student musician Joseph Carter reveals how he landed his first job on P&O cruiseliner

Musician Joseph Carter

STUDENT Joseph Carter has taken to the music industry like a duck to water – the famed P&O cruise ship Ventura, in fact, where he landed his first professional contract across the Christmas period.

Here the final year student, who is about the complete his BMus Performance degree, reveals how the University of Chichester’s Conservatoire helped set him up for his future career.

 

Words by Joseph Carter

In October last year, as a result of William Allenby’s partnership with Jon Perry and Sonic Artists for the University’s new Cabaret Performance Courses, I was offered the opportunity to audition for a sight-reading role on board one of the ships Sonic Artists provides musicians for. The audition involved sight reading a number of pieces of music to click tracks, and a short conversation with Jon about my experience and training.

Despite verbal and written confirmation from Sonic Artists, an ENG1 medical examination and packing every item of clothing I’ve ever owned into several large suitcases, it didn’t really sink in that I was actually going to have to do the job until about 9AM on 29th November when I was dropped off on P&O’s 3,080 passenger vessel Ventura, which was to be my home for the next five weeks.

P&O cruiseliner Ventura

Across the first week, we spent a lot of time rehearsing new material - as everyone in the band was completely new and had never met before, we had to create a repertoire that would last with minimal repetition. This usually involved rehearsing new songs in the afternoon and performing them that evening.

While this was definitely a challenge, it quickly evolved into an absolute dream job. For starters, the four other band members (vocals, guitar, bass, and drums, pictured above with Joseph) were some of the best musicians and people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I am still in regular contact with all of them.

There were also just two occasions in the 35 days during which we played in the daytime. For the rest of the contract we would begin working at 5PM for a soundcheck (if needed), potentially a 7:45PM pre-dinner set, but usually we would start at 9:15PM and be finished before midnight.

In other words: we got off at every port, spent all day exploring different cities in Europe and the Canary Islands, then played fun party music when we got back.

Our repertoire included somewhere between 250 and 300 songs, ranging from Hit Me Baby One More Time to The Winner Takes it All; from Lady Marmalade to The Wizard and I.

I found myself challenged by much of the repertoire; unlike Musical Theatre keyboard parts, party band music relies far more heavily on ‘jamming’ and improvisation than playing prescribed written notes, and so I feel I have genuinely expanded my repertoire and that my musicianship has improved as a result.

University musician Joseph Carter opens up about his first professional gig

On some occasions we played in more chilled-out venues such as black-tie cocktail bars, and as background music in the three-storey Atrium with its winding staircases. For these we would play through ballroom dance charts we had been provided with such as ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me - Foxtrot Version’, or my personal favourite ‘Eye of the Tiger - Waltz’.

But the absolute best part of the job was when we had guest entertainers. These would often take the form of music tribute acts such as Paloma Faith or Bruno Mars, though they sometimes had their own cabaret-style shows. For these we would accompany the guests using charts they would give to us on the day. Despite this being the element of the job I was the most  anxious about, I can safely say it was the most enjoyable part, and Jon’s faith in me was not misplaced.

I am incredibly grateful for the experience, and am excited to be doing the same again once I have graduated, touring Italy, Greece and Croatia on P&O's ship, Oceana, from June of this year!

Finally, I am extremely grateful to Jon Perry of Sonic Artists, for trusting me and giving me the opportunity, as well as all of my teachers who allowed me to take my assessments early and move my lessons around to accommodate. Thanks must also be given to William Allenby for putting me in touch with Jon, without which I resolutely would not have had this opportunity.

Joseph Carter