A View From Melbourne: Adam Simmons, Thinking Bigger.

I had no idea at the time, but I seem to have joined The Great Resignation or The Great Reshuffle, as it is said to be playing out in Australia. After close to two years of next to no work as a musician, I am transitioning to data analytics with assistance from the Victorian Digital Jobs Program.

Why have I made this shift after three decades of musical performance? Well, many reasons, but perhaps a key factor is a disconnect between my sense of purpose and the lack of certainty during the past two years. Ironically, I also understand more deeply my value and capacity after participating in two positive learning experiences in recent years: Australia Council Arts Leader Program in 2017-18 and CLOCK in 2020-21.

The Arts Leader Program was a revelatory journey with a stellar group of humans that helped me identify the capacity within myself and others with much greater clarity. Undertaking CLOCK in a Bootcamp in Melbourne in early 2020 provided a clear framework to demonstrate my competencies, understanding and contribution across four skillsets: creative practice, creative entrepreneurship, sharing knowledge and skills, and developing social potential. Looking back at prior activities and achievements, combined with the required reflections, sparked several insights that have informed my subsequent activities.

Each program helped develop a keener sense of what I bring to the table and my capacity to contribute. In particular, the CLOCK experience showed me how to name and value the transferable skills I have acquired through my creative endeavours. My journey may be moving me away from performing, but it is still intrinsically connected to my mindset and experience as an artist. I am thinking bigger, not smaller.

A career in the arts demands that we develop creativity, resourcefulness, resilience, and adaptability. We become communicators and storytellers. We develop skills across sales, marketing, digital, media, budgeting, networking and more. Not to mention leadership, project management, teamwork, stakeholder engagement, counselling, research, mentoring, and so on.

Unfortunately, despite having some or all these skills, musicians are often dismissed as “you’re just an artist you wouldn’t understand”.

That has happened to me more than once. Yet, it is precisely because an artist must promote their work, and connect with audiences, along with all the other aspects of being a freelance worker, that they develop these kinds of skills.

By recognising and naming skills, it becomes easier to develop them. Imagine if we didn’t need to transfer skills to other domains to make ends meet and if we applied them within the creative industries to build things up instead. Or we created a range of career pathways like the sport or health sectors and made the most of the incredible knowledge base within the creative sectors.

Approaches such as CLOCK that formally recognise prior learning will help people acknowledge and apply existing skills. If we as a sector can appreciate what we have and offer opportunities within our community to exercise and grow these skills, what might we achieve?

We may lack resources, but we don’t lack skills or capacity. Let us encourage each other to think bigger.


Adapted from an article in Dingo Australian Jazz Journal (Issue 03 – Spring/April 2022) – www.dingojazz.com

Adam Simmons is a Melbourne-based data analyst informed by practical experience in arts, education and non-profit/community sectors as a musician and arts worker. Adam is the Editor and co-founder of Dingo Australian Jazz Journal.

Author Liz Appleby


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