NYMAZ: An Insight into Working in a Music Charity

By Sarah McWatt, Director of NYMAZ (North Yorkshire Music Action Zone)


An interview with Sarah McWatt, Director of NYMAZ (North Yorkshire Music Action Zone).

Briefly explain the area(s) of music you work in.

I am the Director of NYMAZ, a music charity focussing on increasing musical activity amongst young people in North Yorkshire. We specialise in engaging young people in rural areas and work in partnership with many organisations to deliver a broad programme encompassing many different genres of music. We have also developed an online digital programme so location is no barrier to making music. Prior to this, I worked in education departments at Music and the Deaf, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Opera North and Liverpool Philharmonic. I have worked in events at festivals too, including TUSK Festival and Leeds Lieder Festival. I perform as a musician and have put on my own events for the best part of 20 years. Before working in these organisations, I was a peripatetic woodwind teacher and taught at schools and universities across Yorkshire and Merseyside.


What steps would you recommend students take to try to become a paid musician working in the community?

Contacts are key – people need to know who you are and what you do. It can be daunting getting out there and knowing where to start.

Sign up to bulletins/mailing lists that are relevant to you and the music you are interested in and find out what events they may run or endorse. Turn up to them, get talking to people to make links and get yourself known.

NYMAZ run a number of network groups that could help you get started (you do not have to be working in North Yorkshire to attend). We have an Early Years Network, SEND Network, Remote Learning Network and Music Partner Network. These networks are geared towards their particular specialism and have members who range from community musicians that are just starting out to seasoned professionals. The networks offer regular opportunities for training and to meet like-minded musicians, make connections, share ideas and forge new partnerships.



What five tips would you give to someone for working successfully in a professional environment?

  1. To be successful in a professional environment you must be professional yourself. The basics do matter – being punctual, reliable and engaging is essential. It does not matter how great you are in any other area of your job – if these key factors are missing you may find you get offered less and less work.
  2. Speak up if you need help or guidance. Professionals understand that people starting a career will need some help at times – this is OK.
  3. Be open-minded and always try to keep things fresh – do not get stuck in a rut. Working with others and watching others work can offer new perspectives in a familiar area and strengthen your skill set.
  4. Embrace change and do not be afraid to diversify your skills. We are all lifelong learners.
  5. Value yourself as a unique individual – no one can offer the exact same skill set as you. Believe in this and others will recognise your worth.


Is this something you can make a living from?

Absolutely! You may have to balance a few things on the side whilst you build your links and portfolio, but dedication will pay off in time.


If you could look back and give yourself one piece of advice when you started out, what would it be?

Do not get disheartened by bumps in the road. They do not mean it is over. Be prepared to be flexible on route, and flexible in how long you might take to get there, and you will reach your destination eventually.


What have been the highlights so far?

  • I have never grown weary of the feeling you get from working so hard on a project or event from beginning to end and  seeing  it  become  a  success.  There  is a brilliant sense of achievement when you get to  the end and see how much participants/audience/ performers have enjoyed it.
  • Travelling! I have been to places all over the world that I had never been to before through working in music.
  • Meeting people – from meeting great friends who share similar interests to meeting musicians from all over the world that you admire.
  • Seeing the transformative effect that music has on people of all ages is really special and I’m so glad to be a part of that.
  • Playing at festivals I loved and went to myself as an audience member prior to playing at them, such as TUSK and Colour Out of Space.


Sarah McWatt

Director, NYMAZ

01904 543382




By Sarah McWatt, Director of NYMAZ (North Yorkshire Music Action Zone)

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